Passenger-kilometers by rail

What you should know about this indicator

Passengers carried by railway are the number of passengers transported by rail multiplied by kilometers traveled.

Limitations and exceptions: Unlike the road sector, where numerous qualified motor vehicle operators can operate anywhere on the road network, railways are a restricted transport system with vehicles confined to a fixed guideway. Considering the cost and service characteristics, railways generally are best suited to carry - and can effectively compete for - bulk commodities and containerized freight for distances of 500-5,000 kilometers, and passengers for distances of 50-1,000 kilometers. Below these limits road transport tends to be more competitive, while above these limits air transport for passengers and freight and sea transport for freight tend to be more competitive.

Data for transport sectors are not always internationally comparable. Unlike for demographic statistics, national income accounts, and international trade data, the collection of infrastructure data has not been "internationalized."

Statistical concept and methodology: Passenger-kilometers are usually measured on the basis of the rail travel distance between origin and destination multiplied by the number of passengers traveling between each origin and destination.

Notes from original source: Internation Union of Railways (UIC Railisa Database): Var 5113 Passenger.kilometers on the national territory of the railway undertaking. This variable relates to passengers, irrespective of the fare paid and also including free travelling passengers, but excluding members of the train crew. The number of passengers should be calculated as number of passenger journeys. A journey is the act of moving from one place (origin) to another (destination) using a given transport mode (e.g. railway). A journey may consist of one or several stages depending on whether one has to change transport means (e.g. using more than one train) in order to get from the origin to the destination. In other words, a journey consists either of a single stage or a sequence of stages using the same transport mode (e.g. railway), following each other in such a way that the destination of one stage coincides with the origin of the next. Journeys should be considered finished when an overnight stay occurs. For practical purposes, journeys can be considered finished when a change in transport mode or transport company occurs. Passenger-kilometres is the total distance travelled by all the passengers. For instance, one person travelling for 20km contributes for 20 passenger-kilometres; four people, travelling for 20km each, contribute for 80 passenger- kilometres. OECD Statistics: Rail passenger transport: any movement of passengers using a rail vehicle on a given rail network. National rail passenger transport: rail passenger transport between two places (a place of loading/embarkation and a place of unloading/disembarkation) located in the same country. It may involve transit through a second country. International rail passenger transport: rail passenger transport between a place (of loading/embarkation or unloading/disembarkation) in one country and a place (of loading/embarkation or unloading/disembarkation) in another country. It may involve transit through one or more additional countries. Rail passenger: any person, excluding members of the train crew, who makes a journey by rail. Passenger-kilometre by rail: unit of measurement representing the transport of one rail passenger by rail over a distance of one kilometre.

Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data
Last updated
May 20, 2024
Next expected update
May 2025
Date range
million passenger-km

Sources and processing

This data is based on the following sources

The World Development Indicators (WDI) is the primary World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially-recognized international sources. It presents the most current and accurate global development data available, and includes national, regional and global estimates.

Retrieved on
May 20, 2024
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World Bank's World Development Indicators (WDI).

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“Data Page: Passenger-kilometers by rail”. Our World in Data (2024). Data adapted from International Union of Railways. Retrieved from [online resource]
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Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data

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Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data. “Passenger-kilometers by rail” [dataset]. International Union of Railways, “World Development Indicators” [original data]. Retrieved July 14, 2024 from