Train on the New Silk Road

New rail freight services between Europe-China

October witnessed the addition of two new rail freight services on the New Silk Road. Trains are now transiting between the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun and Hamburg, in Germany. Meanwhile, a service between Łódź in Poland and Chengdu in China, transiting via the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad was launched.

The number of railway connections between Europe and China have increased enormously in the past twelve months, with new services being launched every month. Eurasian rail connections are encouraged by the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, a major project with the aim to boost the transport of goods along the old Silk Road trading routes.

Changchun-Hamburg

In the Jilin province of China, Changchun International Port was opened last week, witnessing the departure of the first freight train in the direction of Europe. It took off on a journey of 12 to 15 days, passing through Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, as well as Russia, Belarus and Poland before arriving at Hamburg. The train, operated by China Railway Container Transport Corp., carries 42 containers with products including auto parts and textiles.

Changchun is expected to become an important rail freight hub for traffic between China and Europe, as it links important railway lines in northeastern China. The province of Jilin is one of China’s oldest industrial bases, with a great potential for international trade.

Łódź-Chengdu

Although the connection between the Polish city of Łódź and the Chinese rail freight hub of Chengdu is not new, the transit through the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad is. This route, jointly established by Kaliningrad Railways and United Transport and Logistics Company (UTLC) avoids the busy border crossing between Poland and Belarus at Brest. Kaliningrad lies between Poland and Lithuania, and re-routes the freight train through Lithuania to continue on the Trans-Siberian railway through Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

The first train, carrying 41 containers with products such as water filters, paint, machine components, textiles and light industrial products has already arrived, after having made a journey of 9,559 kilometer. Once the service becomes fully operative, a daily service will be started. It is expected, that at the first stage of the project, up to 365 container trains per year will pass through the terminals of Kaliningrad Railways, suitable for subsequent increase in the frequency of shipments, UTLC president Aleksey Grom explained. To realise the full potential of the line, Lithuanian Railways was offered discounts to the rates for transportation of goods in container trains.

By the end of the year, transshipment between the 1,435 and 1,520 millimeter gauge networks will be possible in Kaliningrad. Now, transshipment is undertaken at Chernyakhovsk, also in the Russian enclave.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

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

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