Railway Ticket Prices per Kilometer in the Eurozone

This study is intended to analyze and expose the real cost of railway transport per passenger per kilometer in the Eurozone member countries

Here in Value Nomad, we are always searching for the best real prices (and nominal too when suitable), and the cost of railway transport in Europe can have more discrepancies than what one could imagine.

Before starting to research for this study, I honestly didn’t have a clear idea on where could passengers be paying the most hefty prices for train tickets in the continent. I could expect that it would be somewhere in Eastern Europe, considering salaries, taxes and the price of services, but this question remained opened until I concluded this study.

Parameters for determining the real price of train tickets per kilometer

It wouldn’t be fair to compare the price of TGV ride crossing tunnels in the Alps with the price of a regional train in countryside Slovakia, so I decided that some parameters should be followed to guarantee the accuracy of this research:

  • Only Regional Trains: ss regional trains have a similar profile when it comes to number of stops, type of passengers (frequent, tourists), it would be fair to check prices only for regional trains in all of countries analyzed, so, no high speed trains, no international trains, no sleepers.
  • Distance and terrain: I tried to select train rides with similar distances, which would preferably travel through flat terrains, or terrains without a lot of elevation, so the cost of the construction would be more or less equal in all the train ride samples.
  • Type of fare and dates: all train fares on this study were evaluated for the same day, being those for 1 adult, without any promo fares considered (with the exception of promotions that are year round and widely available to the point that they could be considered as the normal, full fare).
  • Countries included and excluded: all Eurozone countries are included in this list, with the exception of Luxembourg, for having a very small rail network, while Cyprus and Malta for having no railway networks. Ireland is in the Eurozone but out of this study since it’s railway network is not connected to those of the rest of Europe.

First table: data collection

On this first table, we have the data collected from each countries railway service providers: Deutsche Bahn for germany, Trenitalia for Italy, and so on.

The data shows the fares in Euros for each one of the cities they connect, being one train ride data collected per country.

Country –  From – To – Distance Ticket Price in €
LV – Riga – Valmiera – 108km 4.2
SK – Bratislava – Trencin – 134km 6.3
LT – Vilnius – Kaunas – 103km 5.04
EE – Tallinn – Rakvere – 100km 5.5
IT – Rimini – Bologna – 118km 9.5
SI – Ljubljana – Koper – 106km 9.56
GR – Thessaloniki – Larissa – 154km 14
ES – Barcelona – Girona – 117km 11.25
AT – Linz – St Pölten – 125km 12.9
PT – Caldas da rainha – Figueira da Foz – 110km 11.8
FI – Helsinki – Karjaa – 77km 9.1
BE – Brussels – Ostend – 111km 16.8
NL – Amsterdam – Nijmegen – 117km 18.8
DE – Dresden – Leipzig  – 112km 19
FR – Lyon – Grenoble – 114km 22.5

Calculating the price per kilometre

Now that we have the actual data for 2016 in all of the Eurozone countries included in this study, we can move on, to calculate the price per kilometer in each one of them. The formula used for getting this result is a very simple one, dividing the ticket fare by the number of kilometers the train travels on the given route.

After calculating the price per kilometer in each one of the Eurozone countries, we have the following results:


Analysis of the railway tickets price per kilometer in the Eurozone

Cheapest countries to ride a train in the Eurozone

modern train slovakia
A Modern Train in Slovakia by Phil Richards / flickr

Slovakia and the Baltic States have the cheapest train tickets per kilometer in the Eurozone. Latvia is among these, the cheapest one. This can be explained by the fact that these countries(the baltic ones, not Slovaki), which were a part of the Soviet Union, inherited the network built by the soviets and have not made much infrastructure changes on it ever since. Estonia border Latvia, and Latvia borders Lithuania, but they still don’t have train connections among them. The railway system in Lithuania is the most developed in the Baltic States.

These 4 countries have also the lowest salaries in the Eurozone, which can be seen as a parameter for prices of services in the region. Latvia has the cheapest train ticket per kilometer, and its salaries are also the lowest in the Eurozone.

The most expensive: France

tgv train trance
TGV train in France by Germán Saavedra Rojas / flickr

France has a very big and complex network but its days of glory when it launched the TGV service in the 1980’s are long gone. Constant strikes are the normality in the train system network, apart from other disturbances of all sorts. One could argue that France has much higher average salaries than Lithuania or Estonia, therefore it should be not compared to these countries. But, unfortunately for France, Finland has the exact same amount for average salaries in 2014 according to Wikipedia (€2180) and the train ticket price per kilometer in Finland is 40% lower.

Update: a lot of readers have claimed that one route is not enough to give an idea of how things actually are in France, therefore I am adding here more 3 routes in France that suit the parameters of this study, let’s take a look at them:

Orleans – Tours – 117 km – €20,70 = € 0.17 per Km
Limoges – Angouleme – 104 km €20,80 = € 0.20 per Km
Dijon – Chaumont – 111 km €21.50 = € 0.19 per Km

It only serves to confirm that France has one of the most expensive train fares per kilometers in Europe.

If calculating the average salaries, France still has a considerably more expensive price per kilometer than Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria and others.

If you have any other idea why prices for railway transport are so high in France, leave your comment below.

17 thoughts on “Railway Ticket Prices per Kilometer in the Eurozone”

  1. 0.2 Euros per km is about right for France – if you pay the full ticket price. But nobody except business people does that. I travel at least once per month from Lyon to Marseille and back – about 700 km in total- for 40 Euros return. You just have to book a month in advance and / or be willing to travel off peak.

    • The point of the analysis was to evaluate the full ticket price is all the countries analyzed. Just like in France, in other countries there are also cheaper prices, promotions and discounts. If you consider promotions in other locations, you can get also much cheaper prices. The discounts in France are still relatively more expensive than in other countries, if you consider the discounts in other locations.

      • Regarding “all countries have discounts….” Thats not true.
        Some European countries have a easyjet-like system like huge discount if you book early,
        some countries don’t.

  2. It’s also untrue to say that the French railways are plagued by strikes. The vast majority of tgv journeys are dead on time and very efficient. In general I find French trains to be very good.

    • I agree that TGVs are often on time. However, the efficiency rate of TER trains is well below the average of other EU countries.

  3. Thanks for your article !
    I am French and I believe that most people on the Ter network are using discount cards for their trips.
    I would be interested to know if other countries have the same discounts on train.
    France has a well-developped train network, thus pushing frequents to buy discount cards.

    • Hi, thank you for your comment! As far as I am concerned, all the countries analyzed have discount cards for frequent travelers. Even if France has a well-developed network of trains, it is still one of the priciest in the world.

  4. Well I live in Sweden which is not in the Eurozone but still the EU.

    From my town to Sölvesborg to the city of Malmö in southern Sweden it is 152 km and the train (which goes every hour) costs 137 Swedish kronor. That is roughly 13 €. And we have the same salaries as Finland which means the same as France. This is NOT a discount ticket price, its the price you pay at the station as a tourist without the discount card that most locals have. With discount card it costs 120 Swedish kronor.

    So, train traveling in Sweden without discount, roughly 0.8 € per km. Same as in Italy, who has much higher salaries.

  5. Could France possibly have the most expensive trains in all of Europe including countries outside the Eurozone? Here in Sweden it’s 0.08 € per km (WITHOUT discount) and we have similar salaries to France.

    • I believe Sweden is a good contender if we count countries outside the Eurozone. But, Sweden is relatively flat. For that reason, I believe Norway and Switzerland have a higher price per KM if we include countries outside the Eurozone.

      • I am familiar with train fares in Norway. Oslo to Lillehammer by train is 299 NOK which is roughly 31 € without discount. That is 177 km. That would be 0.17 € per km which is stll lower than what you would pay in France, and that in a country that is much more mountainous and has way higher salaries than France. Train fares in Poland and Hungary I found similar to Sweden and Italy, when I was there last time.


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