The article discusses the main trends of changes in the volume of rail freight transport in the European Union between 1990–2013 in the context of the entire EU freight market. Furthermore, rail freight transport was analysed breaking it down to the “old Fifteen” countries and the new member states of the European Union – EU 11. In the EU 15 group, the demand for rail freight transport differed from the corresponding demand in the EU 11 countries. The aim of this article is a preliminary verification of the hypothesis, according to which reforms of the railway sector undertaken by means of its demonopolization and general liberalization were to lead to a significant increase in the share of rail transport in the EU freight market. In the final part, the main factors shaping the demand for rail freight were indicated.