China-Europe freight train service bolsters good start of Chinese economy in 2024

Updated: January 25, 2024 Source: Belt and Road Portal
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A crane loads containers at the Manzhouli Railway Station in Manzhouli, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, March 15, 2023. (Xinhua/Bei He)

Many China-Europe freight trains have departed from Chinese cities such as Hefei, Xi'an, Chifeng and Lianyungang to destinations in the Europe since the beginning of 2024, injecting new vitality into the Chinese economy.

The China-Europe freight train service has been enchanting more and more goods owners due to better safety and higher efficiency, noted Bai Ming, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC).

The China-Europe freight train routes have been denser and denser since the Belt and Road Initiative was put forward, and the service is developing fast now, added Bai.

-- Market demand on the rise

Logistics service providers have obviously felt the increase in the market demand for the China-Europe freight train service.

Since the beginning of the year, a number of goods owners have come for information about the China-Europe freight train service, and many of them choose such service for the first time, according to a staff from a logistics company.

Through the China-Europe freight train service, it only needs about 17 days from Guangzhou to Hamburg, which is far shorter than by sea and greatly saves logistics time, said the staff.

Chinese listed logistics company Jiangsu Feiliks International Logistics Inc. (Feiliks, 300240.SZ) recently said that the company's China-Europe freight train business has shown a growing trend to some extent.

Another Chinese listed logistics company Bondex Supply Chain Management Co., Ltd. (Bondex, 603836.SH) also said that the demand for China-Europe freight trains is on the rise.

With less available space on ships, tight shipping schedules, and continuous increase in sea freight costs, the China-Europe freight train service has become the preferred route to the Europe, said Wang Jian, a secretary with Chinese equipment manufacturer SUNWARD.

Especially as the European region is about to enter the peak spring ordering period, timely completion of delivery tasks is crucial, added Wang.

Since its inception in 2011, the China-Europe freight train service has achieved remarkable development, and is playing an increasingly important role in international economic and trade cooperation, said Hong Yong, an associate researcher with CAITEC, noting that such service is predicted to usher in faster development in the future.

-- Innovative modes explored continuously

According to the national railway supervision and management working conference convened on January 10, 2024, more than 82,000 China-Europe freight train trips have been handled cumulatively, carrying 7.9 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of goods, and China-Europe freight trains have become the "lifeline" boosting trade between Asia and Europe.

In the process of development, the China-Europe freight train service has realized increase in the number of routes and frequency, improvement in transport efficiency, expansion in service scope and improvement in customs clearance efficiency, and while the routes are becoming denser, the categories of goods carried are becoming more and more diverse, constantly optimizing the structure of the imported and exported goods, noted Zhang Xinyuan, head of think tank research with domestic consultancy Co-Found.

To promote high-quality China-Europe freight train service development, multiple customs in China have taken steps to optimize the customs clearance process.

For example, Guangzhou Customs provides specialized policy and customs clearance process guidance to different enterprises and China-Europe freight trains, opening multiple featured routes, including customized train service for exports of complete sets of domestic new energy vehicle (NEV) components, train service for local high-quality home appliances, and special train service for communication equipment, to constantly expand exports of high value-added goods such as white goods, communication equipment, electronic products and NEVs.

In east China's Jiangsu Province, the China-Europe (Asia) freight trains have fully adopted the railway "fast customs clearance" mode, and the customs transfer transportation efficiency and convenience level of railway import and export goods has been improved, with the one-way running time of a train shortened by two to three days, and the cost of enterprise declaration reduced by about 20 percent.

Export companies are also actively exploring innovative modes tofully utilizethe container transportation resources of China-Europe freight trains.

For instance, Hunan Hualian China Industry Co., Ltd. (001216.SZ) engaging in exporting daily ceramics has adopted the "Less than Container Load (LCL)" mode, cooperating with many small- and medium-sized enterprises to transport goods.

Small goods shipped to Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and other regions via China-Europe freight trains have varying shapes, quantities, and destinations, making it difficult to effectively utilize the transportation resources of such trains with separate shipping, said Peng Long, a secretary with the company, adding that the LCL mode not only boosts flexible utilization of the transportation resources of such trains, but also effectively saves the waiting time for overseas customers.

-- Enhanced Layouts by upstream and downstream enterprises

The upstream and downstream equipment manufacturing companies of the industrial chain are increasing layouts in each link of the industrial chain by seizing the development opportunities of China-Europe freight trains.

SANY Ocean Heavy Industry Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of SANY Group that specializes in port logistics equipment, has received a large number of orders in the railway container loading and unloading equipment market, with thriving demands and supplies seen in electric stackers, electric forklifts, and front cranes.

According to the company's general manager Chen Jing, thanks to the incremental market brought by China-Europe freight trains, the sales revenue of the company's railway container logistics equipment has achieved rapid development, reaching a new level every year.

Chengdu Shine-Link International Logistics Co., Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shanghai Shine-Link International Logistics Co., Ltd. (603648.SH), has been in contact with the Chengdu International Railway Port since 2016 to establish the Chengdu-Europe freight train project team and provide more logistics supply chain solutions to foreign trade companies.

Currently, the company can ship goods to Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain and many other European countries and transport products from multiple European countries back to China. The company has established close cooperation with the Chengdu-Europe Express Railway, and will establish cooperation with the Yuxinou (Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe) railway and the China-Europe freight train (Xi'an) to realize multimodal transportation by rail, sea, river and road.

With convenient, fast, safe, stable, and green cross-border logistics services, China-Europe freight trains have made important contributions to smoothing international industrial and supply chains.

Enterprises in various links of the China-Europe freight train industry chain should seize development opportunities to strengthen coordination and cooperation, improve services, and promote digital construction, said railway economist Xie Xiaowen. (Edited by Gu Shanshan,

Editor: Yang Yifan