Surge in China’s train departures mostly fueled by Russia, not Europe

The number of freight trains that departed China Russia and Europe increased by 50 per cent in 2020. However, this increase was mostly due to the significant growth in volumes to Russia; traffic to Europe remained largely the same. This was one of the conclusions pointed out in RailFreight Live last Friday, which looked back at a extraordinary year on the New Silk Road.

Jett Young, who is the Counsellor for International Affairs at Eurasia Railway Commission of China Communication and Transportation Association, pointed out the difference in growth rates. “In total, China dispatched 12,406 trains to both destinations. But if you take into account the figures presented by UTLC ERA, which mostly operates trains to Europe, you see that these volumes account for 5649 trains. This is almost the same level as we had last year.”

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Aggravated imbalance

Comparing figures on the New Silk Road remains a daunting task, as there are several sources, measuring different traffic volumes. For example, the Chinese operator BTE concluded in early 2020 that a total of 4,025 blocktrains travelled from China to Europe, and a total of 8000 trains if you counted the ones ending in Russia.

Nevertheless, the number of trains to Europe has increased considerably less than traffic to Russia, and, what is more, train traffic from Europe to China has had a hard hit too. “The pandemic has caused an aggravated imbalance of eastbound and westbound trains, because of factory closures in Europe”, said Young. “This will probably remain the case, as long as there is no end to the corona spread.”

More interesting highlights

The discussion at RailFreight Live was joined by Dorry Chen from the Europe China E-commerce Association, Tony from NorthStar Exhibition and Huilin, editor of More highlights:

  • the top 5 cities in China account for 79% of all train departures
  • 200 trains were dispatched via the Eastern Russian border city Suifenhe
  • COVID-19 has led to an increased development of e-commerce both in China and Europe
  • Provinces that cannot rely on e-commerce rely more and more on export of semi-finished goods
  • Consolidation of train traffic in hubs is one of the main aims of 2021

Have a look at the show on our Youtube Channel RailFreight Live and follow us for more updates. 

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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