The number of UK long-distance rail passengers will continue to lag behind rivals France and Germany despite numbers forecast to grow by 70 million by 2020.

The forecast in a report by Amadeus Rail today (Monday) suggests that the UK will account for the greatest proportion of growth in long-distance passenger rail in Europe over the next seven years.

But the UK will rank behind France and Germany in terms of high-speed, long-distance passenger volumes with 93 million passengers in 2020, compared with France and Germany’s 163 million and 118 million respectively.

The UK will contribute 70 million passengers to the total European long-distance market growth of 238 million passengers in the period 2011-2020 – 29% of total growth.

This will see UK numbers rise from 169 million in 2011 to 239 million in 2020 or average annual growth of 3.9%.

If growth in rail continues as currently anticipated, European long-distance passenger traffic – over 100km – will increase by 21% to more than 1.35 billion by 2020, up by 238 million from 2011 figures, according to the study.

Taken together, the four biggest contributing markets – the UK, Switzerland, France and Germany – account for more than 70% of total growth in Europe.

Six key trends that will shape the evolution of the passenger rail industry are predicted to be :

•       Liberalisation
•       New market entrants
•       Completion of new high-speed lines
•       New hubs
•       Air-sail and rail-rail cooperation
•       Railways’ costs

Amadeus Rail director Thomas Drexler said The ‘Rail Journey to 2020’ report aims to inform the debate on how seamless cross-border rail services across Europe can become a reality.

He said: “Building standards for data exchange, booking and ticketing services will fundamentally change the way the traveller will view rail travel, and move even closer towards the EC’s proposals for rail in its Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area.

“It will make rail travel more accessible, and improve the perception that rail is the way to travel across Europe. This will in turn encourage the idea that through-ticketing is a must for this to be successful.”

He added that Amadeus is investing the first “truly global” rail sales platform that already has SNCF, Eurostar, Thalys, Lyria, Trenitalia and SJ on board with more key European railways to come.