China Railway Express services drive logistics enterprises during pandemic: entrepreneur
The China Railway Express (CR Express) services under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have brought survival and growth opportunities to companies in the logistics sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a company representative said.
“Despite the global economic downturn amid the pandemic, trips made by CR Express continued to increase, which brought a steady stream of business for our company,” Zhu Ruichen, deputy general manager of Central European Trade and Logistics Cooperation Zone, told the Belt and Road Portal in a recent interview.
Zhu Ruichen, deputy general manager of Central European Trade and Logistics Cooperation Zone
“One part of our business is operating CR Express services. Since March 2020, demand has seen explosive growth and we have added new routes,” Zhu said. “In 2020, we mainly operated the route from Jinan, East China’s Shandong Province, to Budapest, capital of Hungary. Not long ago, we launched a new route from Jinan to the Netherlands.”
CR Express has played a significant role in transporting materials for epidemic prevention and work and production resumption from China to Europe, as rail freight was cheaper than air freight and faster than sea freight, according to Zhu.
“Although the operation of CR Express services is an entrepreneurial act, it would be impossible without the support of governments and partners,” Zhu said.
“For example, if a company wants to operate rail services from Changsha, [Central China’s Hunan Province], to Budapest, it needs support and coordination from local governments and partners both in China and Hungary and railway authorities in countries along the route,” he said.
“We are one of the beneficiaries of the BRI. Our business is closely related to BRI construction, which offers opportunities for survival and development for our company, especially during the pandemic period,” Zhu said.
In 2011, Zhu’s company began construction on the Central European Trade and Logistics Cooperation Zone, the first of its kind in Europe. In July 2020, Zhu’s company won the bid for the Záhony industrial park project, initiated by the Hungarian government.
“The cooperation zone would not be a national-level one without the BRI, and the Záhony industrial park project would not exist without the CR Express,” Zhu said, noting that his company had the ability and opportunity to bid for the Záhony project because BRI cooperation had boosted the development of their cooperation zone.
A logistics subsidiary of Zhu’s company and the China-Europe Railway Express service in Hunan Province jointly launched the first freight train from Changsha to Budapest via Russia and Ukraine in May 2017.
As a hub for track changes on this new train route, the function of Záhony, a Hungarian town close to the border of Ukraine, has become more prominent with each passing day. To meet the growing needs of rail freight, the Hungarian government decided to upgrade transport facilities in Záhony and establish a logistics industrial park.
“This decision is consistent with Hungary’s policy of opening to the East,” Zhu said. “Hungary is the first European country that joined BRI construction. I think the BRI has been highly recognized by both the government and the people in Hungary.”
If the Záhony project is implemented, it will not only meet the expectations of Hungary and other central and eastern European countries for greater cooperation under the framework of BRI, but also help many Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises to expand their presence in central and eastern Europe, Zhu said.