Your package from China on the train to your mailbox

Transmashholding postal wagon

Postal items on a train; it is somewhat of a novelty but one with high potential. This is especially true for postal deliveries from China to Western Europe. E-commerce has brought about a rising volume of packages on the move between the continents, and they are not solely transported by ship or plane. But which paperwork is required for this form of transportation?

Postal items transported by rail from China to Western Europe are seen as a tremendous business opportunity for the member railways of the CIT, the organisation responsible for the legal framework of freight transport. However, there are also challenges on the road between east and west.

For example, there is no office of exchange for rail postal carriage at the Brest-Malaszewicze border crossing, which is the most frequented gateway to and from Europe. It is here that the goods enter a different legal regime. However, there is no authority handling the procedures involved with this kind of freight transport.

Common consignment note

In light of the growing interest in alternatives to carriage of postal items by air and by sea, the CIT initiated a pilot project on carriage of postal items from China to Europe by rail. The organisation teamed up with the Coordinating Council on Trans-Siberian Transportation (CCTT) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Together they introduced the use of the common consignment note for the transcontinental carriage of postal items.

The common CIM/SMGS consignment note is the first step towards a uniform body of law for Eurasian freight traffic by rail between Europe and Asia. Where Europe applies the CIM Uniform Rules, Russia, China and other Asian countries apply the SMGS Convention. With the CIM/SMGS consignment note these systems are standardised, resulting in less interruption of movement, entailing delays, additional costs and administrative burdens.

Postal items

The use of the CIM/SMGS consignment note is regarded as an agreement, the CIT explains. The different parties involved may use the standard transport documents, provided such an arrangement has been agreed on between the customer and the carrier, and between the participating carriers themselves.

“In this way the common consignment note can be used as a perfect tool for seamless handling of the transcontinental carriage of postal items both in the pilot project and on a regular basis. The use of the CIM/SMGS consignment note plays also an important practical role for compliance with the customs formalities.”


The common consignment note is still in its infant shoes, also for general cargo. But it is only now that the same concept is applied to postal carriage, explained Eric Evtimov, Deputy Secretary General of CIT. “The use of the CIM/SMGS consignment note for the transcontinental carriage of postal items was at the forefront of successful implementation of the pilot projects and its use shall be continued for such transport on regular basis.”

However, to ensure that the business model of carriage of postal items by rail succeeds, close cooperation between the states, postal offices and the railway undertakings involved will be required as well, he adds.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

1 comment op “Your package from China on the train to your mailbox”

Heinz Kastner|12.06.19|10:36

So just a copy of the service already existing in Europe and US …

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