Kazakhstan stops trucks to free up space for China-Europe trains

Kazakhstan has announced a freeze on truck traffic at the border with China, in order to free up capacity for China-Europe trains. The ban started on Monday 1 March and will remain in place for a whole month. It applies to the Alashankou-Dostyk border point, which is the most used border crossing for New Silk Road traffic. The news was announced by the Kazakhstan State Cargo Company, and reported by RailFreight.cn. 
Since the pandemic, there has been a severe backlog of cargo at the Kazakhstan-China border. Beginning from late 2020, China Railway released several bans concnerning traffic via Kazakhstan-China borders. However, those bans did not effectively ease congestion. A large number of trains is currently stranded at the port yards, resulting in spoil of cargo and losses for shippers.

Causes of congestion

“The number of abandoned trains at the ports is increasing and impacts the throughput of Kazakhstan’s mainline network negatively. Currently, 12,000 loaded wagons are abandoned. The railway administration has taken several unsuccessful measures. Due to the prolonged suspension, both wagon owners and exporters are suffering many losses as they are unable to fulfill their export contracts”, KTZ told RailFreight.cn.

It is worth noting that a considerable part of the stranded goods is grains. Since no one can transport these grains to granaries in time for proper storage, many of them have become mouldy while waiting for transit. At present, about 250 trucks loaded with grain have diverted back to their departure station, while other exporters have  applied for a diversion route. It is within this context that a ban was issued on further truck traffic was issued.

Earlier bans

The authorities in China and Kazakhstan regularly issue bans on traffic to ease congestion. Mostly, the priority is for trains to and from Europe. For example, in December last year train traffic from China to the border with Kazakhstan and Mongolia was suspended, with the exception of scheduled journeys.

The Kazakhstan National Freight Company had then just reached a cooperation agreement with Urumqi Railway. Under this agreement, 18 trains could be received and passed freely every day at Alashankou Port. This is still in place. But in addition to the limited number of trains, it is truck traffic that is now curtailed too.

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Author: Steven Don

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