Administrative building near Khorgos. Photo: Alexandru Panoiu

Broken cranes in the Altynkol terminal create Silk Road mayhem

Administrative building near Khorgos. Photo: © Alexandru Panoiu

Early in the morning of Tuesday, 11 October, two of the three cranes operating in the Altynkol terminal on the Kazakh-Chinese border broke down, making the processing of Silk Road trains impossible. The incident has caused immense congestion on the Altynkol-Khorgos axis, with 33 trains stuck on the border. The same applies to other Chinese border crossings, with trains redirecting and pilling up on the borders.

According to industry insights, apart from the Khorgos terminal, Alashankou is also experiencing congestion, with 23 trains unable to move. Additionally, thirteen more trains are congested in Erenhot, sixteen in Manzhouli and one in Suifenhe. The fact that Altynkol-Khorgos are unable to process trains leads companies to redirect their trains to other gateways, resulting in more unexpected delays.

Moreover, industry information highlighted that the cranes in Altynkol have been experiencing some technical issues since late September. A few weeks later, these issues resulted in two of the station’s cranes breaking down.

Traffic shrinking and daily impact

Until the broken cranes are fixed, the central axis of the China-Kazakhstan rail will not be able to serve as many trains as before. Industry experts expect a traffic impact of two-three fewer daily trains.

Ironically, a few days ago, the Khorgos gateway terminal inaugurated a new set of rail tracks that targeted its capacity doubling with more processed daily trains. Unfortunately, a few days later, more problems occurred that put Silk Road traffic on edge in terms of congestion. will keep monitoring the situation and contacting industry experts to update the latest news on the matter.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

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

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