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Railway helps Eurasia resume trade flows

Updated: August 17, 2021 Source: China Daily
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A China-Europe Railway Express freight train departs from Dongguan, Guangdong province, for Moscow in January. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Last year, system saw 12,406 trips made, up 50% year-on-year

The rapid development of the China-Europe Railway Express freight train service has been playing an increasingly important role in promoting China's new dual-circulation development pattern, while also contributing to stabilizing international logistics and supply chains, according to industry insiders.

China's pursuit of the new dual-circulation development pattern, which takes the domestic market as the mainstay and lets domestic and foreign markets reinforce each other, is in turn also boosting the development of freight train services that connect Asia and Europe, they said.

Data from China State Railway Group Co Ltd showed that as of July 10, the freight trains served 168 cities in 23 European countries and recorded more than 41,000 trips since the service was launched in 2011.

In 2020, the freight trains made 12,406 trips, up 50 percent year-on-year. During the first half, the service handled 7,377 trips, up 43 percent year-on-year, and carried about 707,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers of goods during the January-June period.

Moreover, around 94,000 metric tons of anti-COVID-19 supplies were sent via the route as of late June.

"The China-Europe freight train service offers a reliable transportation and logistics alternative on the Eurasian continent with advantages such as high efficiency," said Li Guanpeng, chairman of Sinotrans Ltd, one of the largest logistics companies in China, which owns more than 1,100 subsidiaries in China covering 32 provincial-level regions and 77 overseas operations in 39 foreign countries and regions as at the end of 2020.

"The service secures and strengthens industrial and supply chain operations, delivers crucial medical, daily and industrial supplies to related economies, and potentially enhances international trade facilitation and efficiency, while boosting China's international economic and trade operations with foreign countries," Li said, adding that with the nation's pursuit of the new dual-circulation development pattern and domestic market expansion, the freight train service will also play a growing role in high-quality imports to meet Chinese people's increasing demand for a better life.

Based on the China-Europe freight train service, Sinotrans has established an integrated water-rail multimodal transportation service network, which combines sea and railway freight, and not only runs across China to Europe in different directions, but also connects with China's neighboring markets such as Japan, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20), thanks to the freight train service on the Eurasian continent, the company operated an accumulated 4,300 trips, carrying 420,000 TEU containers of goods, with the compound annual growth rate reaching 49 percent.

The company has launched about 50 freight train routes, and 11 are operated weekly, covering major logistics corridors and hubs around the nation.

Among the 1,580 China-Europe or China-Asia freight train trips the company operated last year, 1,388 were made by China-Europe freight trains, which carried 134,500 TEU containers of goods, up 23 percent year-on-year.

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts sea and air freight channels and takes a toll on international logistics and supply chains, reliable and efficient transportation of various resources via China-Europe freight trains has become even more important to support resumption of business and production in several economies, thus contributing to the international fight against the pandemic and stabilizing global industry and supply chains, Li said.

During the pandemic, Sinotrans launched special freight train routes connecting Shenyang, Liaoning province, with Moscow and Madrid to transport anti-pandemic supplies and ambulances, while providing tailored logistics services for major domestic manufacturing enterprises such as SANY Heavy Industry Co Ltd, Midea Group and Geely, to help them secure supply chains and timely fulfilment of overseas orders.

"With its rapid development over the years, the China-Europe freight train service has been extending to an increasing number of economies, benefiting more people around the world," said Feng Xubin, chairman of YXE Trading Service Group, a major China-Europe Railway Express operating platform.

"The freight service also facilitates the entry of products made by small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe and neighboring economies into China's huge market, demonstrating China's firm stance on opening-up," Feng said.

An aerial view of a railway depot in Dongguan, Guangdong province, in July. The depot is the point of origin for freight trains bound for Europe. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Data from the General Administration of Customs showed imports and exports moved by the company's China-Europe freight train service were worth 16.63 billion yuan ($2.57 billion) in the first five months, surging 193 percent year-on-year. Imports reached 2.87 billion yuan, with a year-on-year increase of 56 times.

Moreover, anti-pandemic supplies such as masks, protective gear and thermometers carried by the company's freight trains to countries such as Spain, Germany, Poland and Russia, totaled 101 TEU containers last year, with a combined weight of 753.95 tons.

Feng said the China-Europe Railway Express freight train service, which experienced rapid growth in both quantity and quality, was seen as opening up a "cargo lifeline" during the pandemic.

By early this year, YXE had developed 14 international freight train routes from Yiwu, Zhejiang province, with service to and from Asia and Europe.

The China-Europe freight train service operated by YXE made 2,000 trips as at the end of 2020, carrying more than 170,000 TEU containers of goods, with an average annual growth rate exceeding 100 percent.

The company has operated 775 China-Europe freight train trips this year as of July 11, among which 197 were China-bound carrying 16,264 TEU containers, up almost 37 times year-on-year.

COSCO Shipping Logistics Co Ltd also saw robust increases in demand for its freight services related to China-Europe freight trains in the past few years.

The company's China-Europe freight train operations delivered 19,451 TEU containers of goods in 2019, up 37.1 percent year-on-year. And in 2020, the volume surged by 59.7 percent from a year earlier to hit 31,054 TEU containers of goods.

China-Europe Railway Express freight train services are a marked achievement of Belt and Road Initiative cooperation, and China's new dual-circulation development strategy has also propelled its rapid growth, especially in the China-Europe freight train-based integrated freight sector, COSCO Shipping Logistics said.

The target customers of the freight train service are mainly concentrated in the mid-to-high-end manufacturing sector that see high demand for stable supply chains, and are becoming diversified over time, according to the company.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the surge in sea freight charges and reduction in capacity have especially highlighted the importance of the China-Europe freight train service, and COSCO Shipping has established a special team to develop integrated freight solutions that combine the China-Europe freight train with other types of freight services.

COSCO Shipping also plans to further integrate resources in warehousing, shipping, inland water transport, air transport, railway transport, trailers and road transport to extend its business footprint in integrated door-to-door freight solutions.

Through deepening cooperation with platform enterprises in the freight train service sector, while leveraging on its own extensive transportation network and multiple logistics centers at home and abroad, the company hopes to create an effective rail-and-sea freight service model running across the Eurasian continent to make greater contributions to stabilizing global industry and supply chains and the global economic recovery, while also facilitating China's establishment of its dual-circulation development pattern, the company said.

Editor: 杨倩