Suez disturbance surges Eurasian rail freight

Better times on the Barking line - the first New Silk Road train arrives just over three years ago in 2017

In the month after the Suez incident, there has been an increase in China-Europe rail freight services. This was observed by U-Freight Group, a freight forwarder and logistics provider.  According to the company, the Suez disturbance led many shippers to reconsider their options and include rail-and specifically intermodal services- in their transport solutions.

It would be unrealistic to think that rail could possibly substitute large container ships in transcontinental transportation, U-freight underlined. However, just like during the pandemic, rail proved during the Suez crisis that it is a viable and reliable mode of transport. Furthermore, other factors like the high costs in air freight, and container shortages in maritime transport, make rail look even more enticing. Together with the short transit times, Eurasian rail freight seems to become a crucial part of the supply chain equation.

Especially when it comes to shipping specific goods like electronic devices, time-sensitive products or when there is a sudden demand increase, rail freight is there to provide dedicated and tailor-made solutions. Given that it remains substantially consistent and flexible even under difficult or particular conditions, it is no surprise that U-freight notices a shift in shippers’ preferences.

Rail sector grasped the opportunity

Interest spiked in overland logistics from the moment the Ever Given hit the banks of the Suez Canal on 23 March. Rather than sending consignments to east coast ports in China, forwarders immediately looked in the other direction, seeking to put boxes on trains heading west. The industry was not slow to respond. “There was much interest right away”, says Bremen based Ziwei Liu of the New Silk Road Network (NSRN), a commercial representation of freight forwarders and independent logistics companies in Europe and Asia.

“Trade partners right across Europe, the Middle East and Asia were quick to realise how disruptive the blockage could be. There was a sharp rise in enquiries and promotions as soon as the extent of the problem was identified. For goods with any sort of time-critical delivery and price sensitivity, rail by any of the New Silk Road routes became the most feasible solution and alternative, ahead of air and road freight.”

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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