Latvia eyes strategic position on Eurasian rail freight corridor
Latvia wants to strengthen its presence on the Eurasian rail freight market. High volumes of traffic on the Trans-Siberian route via Poland and Belarus form an opportunity for Latvia to provide an alternative transit to and from the Asian continent, according to the national railway company Latvijas dzelzceļš (LDz).
“The route that goes through Brest, travelled by 5,000 trains annually, has in fact reached its maximum capacity. It means that clients have to look for other ways to ship their freight to the recipients, for the same price and within the same time limits. That is an opportunity for Latvia”, LDz’s CEO Edvins Berzins was quoted as saying in the Baltic Course.
Latvia is currently working on setting up a regular railway service between Riga Freeport and Urumqi in China, via Altynkol in Kazakhstan. The first train on this route left Urumqi on the 29th of September. From Riga, it will be delivered to Rotterdam by sea. It is however not clear when the service will officially become operative. “That is hard work as there are many variables to consider, so I cannot give you the exact day when regular freight transport could begin. But I am convinced that we will announce starting regular train traffic one day”, the CEO was cited in the same media report.
Kazakhstan has said to look positively at future cooperation with Latvia, eying container volumes of 200,000 units being shipped to the country by 2020. It said to consider Latvia as its main logistics and cargo distribution hub in the Baltics.
At the same time, Latvia aims to increase cooperation with neighbouring country Belarus. Earlier this month, it signed an agreement with Belarusian Railway to launch a cargo express train “Minsk-Riga”. The service connecting the capitals of the neighbouring countries will provide a journey time of less than 28 hours, upon customer’s request.
The agreement is a step forward in strengthening the position of LDz in the Belarusian transit and logistics market. Earlier this year, an LDz office was opened in Minsk to foster development of business relations with Belarusian companies and organisations, gather information on the Belarusian market segments in which LDz is interested and attract cargo to the Latvian transit industry, the railway company explained.
Rail freight decrease
The Latvian rail freight sector witnessed a slight decline in volumes shipped on its railway network in the first nine months of this year. A total of 33.314 million tonnes of freight was moved by rail, down 2.8 per cent from the same period in 2016. International cargo shipments by rail witnessed an ever steeper decline in the same period. Volumes accounted for 32.081 million tonnes, down 3.1 per cent from the same period last year, while domestic shipments increased with 7.5 per cent to 1.233 million tonnes.