China Focus: China-Europe freight trains enhance global supply chains

Updated: April 10, 2024 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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BEIJING, April 10 (Xinhua) -- It took about 12 days for a batch of China-made TV modules, onboard a China-Europe freight train, to arrive in Poland, where they would be assembled into complete televisions.

TCL Photoelectric Technology (Chengdu) Co., Ltd., a producer of TV modules located in southwest China's Sichuan Province, is satisfied with the speed of the rail delivery in March, which allowed two factories nearly 10,000 kilometers apart to coordinate production.

"The transportation time of China-Europe freight trains is about half that of sea transport, which gives the factory plenty of time to finish orders placed by our European clients," said the company's logistics manager Shu Yongjun, adding that the company has increased deliveries through the rail route since the start of this year.

The company is among a growing number of manufacturers and traders that have opted for the land-based rail route, which connects China and more than 200 European cities, after regional turmoils disrupted the vital shipping lane on the Red Sea.

In late January, Sinoboom, a Changsha-based producer of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), sent off two China-Europe freight trains carrying over 500 MEWPs to the Netherlands. The equipment was to be used in the construction and maintenance of stadiums, factories and business complexes.

"We used to rely on sea transport to deliver our products (to Europe). After the Red Sea crisis, we switched to China-Europe freight trains," said Zhang Liyong, head of the logistics department of Sinoboom.

Data from China's railway operator showed that the number of China-Europe freight train trips reached 2,928 in the first two months of 2024, up 9 percent year on year. The volume of goods transported via the route during this period increased by 10 percent from a year earlier.

Several local operators have reported a surge in services. The volume of goods carried by China-Europe freight trains departing from Chongqing, a transportational hub in southwest China, jumped two times month on month in January and remained on that high level in February, according to Yuxinou (Chongqing) Logistics Co., Ltd.

Despite its longer journey, Asia-Europe sea freight traditionally costs less than rail freight. However, this advantage has been minimized by the Red Sea crisis, which prompted many shipping companies to redirect to longer and more expensive routes through South Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

"Train trips departing from Chongqing to Europe can now arrive 7-10 days earlier than through Red Sea shipping, and cost 30 percent less," said Zhou Shulin, chief supervisor of Yuxinou (Chongqing) Logistics.

It is not the first time that China-Europe freight trains have played the role of stabilizer for global supply chains. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the route helped cushion the intercontinental flow of goods against constant disruptions in maritime and air traffic.

Economist Pan Helin said China-Europe freight trains not only offer an efficient logistic option, but also drive infrastructure construction and industrial upgrading in countries along the route.

"Many countries in Central Europe and Central Asia are landlocked, so the rail route plays an important role in their economic development and foreign trade," Pan said. "It will facilitate the emergence of a trade belt and promote industrial integration along the route." 

Editor: Li Shimeng