B&R by the Numbers: China-Europe freight train an intercontinental ‘bridge’

Editor’s Note: This is the nineteenth installment of Belt and Road Portal's special series on the Belt and Road Big Data Report 2017.

The X9006 freight train, loaded with automobile parts, medicine, glasses and various other goods, pulled out of the Jiaozhou Railway Station of Qingdao, a port city in east China’s Shandong province, and headed towards Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, on Sept. 7.

This marks the 5,000th China-Europe freight train since the regular freight transport service was launched in March 2011.

Railway transportation is faster than sea transportation, and cheaper than air transportation. It takes about 12 days to reach Europe from China, one-third of the time needed for sea transportation, and the cost is only 20 percent of air transportation, according to the Belt and Road Big Data Report 2017 issued by the State Information Center.

It took over four and a half years for the number of the China-Europe freight trains to increase from zero to 1,000, and another less than two years to reach 5,000. The goods transported are also more diversified than before.

China Railway Corporation announced last month that currently there are train services connecting 34 Chinese cities with 34 cities in European countries.

Since Chongqing launched a freight train service to Europe in 2011, about two thirds of China’s provincial regions have started running a service. The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has become a transport hub connecting China with Central Asia and Europe.

According to a survey in the report, the main goods transported to China are fossil fuels, machinery and aircraft from Germany, Russia, France, Iran and the Netherlands. China mainly exports boilers, machinery, mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and electrical equipment to the countries along the China-Europe railways.

The first China-Europe freight train to London arrived in January. It started off from Yiwu, east China’s Zhejiang province.

The report points out that 16.31 percent of sampled foreign media and netizens hold positive views on the intercontinental freight train services, believing it can deepen friendly cooperation between China and Europe. The surveyed media and netizens in Central and Eastern Europe called the train the “European bridge”, as it boosts their countries’ connections with the rest of Europe, Central Asia and China as transport hubs. 

Editor: liuyue