Austria-China line to be re-routed through Khorgos Gateway
The new freight link between Austria and China per rail will re-routed to the border crossing of Altynkol-Khorgos, an upcoming gateway between Kazakhstan and China. This was agreed by Rail Cargo Group (RCG), the freight arm of ÖBB and Kazakh rail subsidiary KTZ Express, both operating on this route.
A new railway service from the Chinese freight hub Chengdu to the Austrian capital of Vienna was launched mid-April. It was the first direct railway service connecting Austria to the New Silk Road via Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. This summer, a service in the opposite direction will be launched, with the goal of establishing a frequent connection. The journey currently takes fifteen days, but RCG wants to shorten transit times to ten days in 2020. Re-routing the journey to cross the Chinese-Kazakh border at Khorgos-Altynkol will save time, the company stated.
Khorgos-Altynkol is a railway border crossing within the broader Khorgos Eastern Gate SEZ in Kazakhstan, near the Chinese town of Khorgas. This border crossing has been in development since long, as it was originally constructed for the crossing of long distance trucks. According to the South China Morning Post, Khorgos Gateway is expected to handle up to fifteen million tonnes of freight a year once the facility is fully complete. Today, more than fifty trains already cross through Khorgos Gateway every month.
RCG refers to the route as a sustainable link, as volumes on the New SIlk Road are increasing and traditional border crossing are becoming major bottlenecks. “The new route not only delivers qualitative transport services, but also a shortened transport route and time savings for our customers”, the operator commented. KTZ Express operates the services from the Chinese-Kazakh borderl to the Ukrainian-Slovak border crossing of Chop-Dobra. From Dobra, the RCG takes over and handles the traffic from and to the European destinations.
RCG has also announced to look into the Middle Corridor as an alternative route to and from China. The Middle Corridor runs from China to Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, where it crosses the Caspian See, In Georgia, it continues on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway to Turkey, onto Central Europe. This alternative route has enormous potential. Not only containers are being transported, but trailer traffic is also in high demand. The goal is to offer these services on this route in the future”, said RCG.
Austria, Hungary and Slovakia are becoming increasingly important countries on the New Silk Road. While Poland has proven to be the main gateway to eastern Europe, Hungary and Slovakia are competing to gain similar importance and share in the large westbound volumes transported from China by rail. Last week, Austrian minister of traffic Norbert Hofer told Nieuwsblad Transport that Austria wants to extend the broad gauge of CIS states to Austria, a measure that would enable a transit time of ten days.