Duisport. Photo: Amelie Erxleben

Duisburg-China traffic quadrupled since regular Silk Road train

Duisport. Photo: Amelie Erxleben

In April 2015, the first regular cargo train departed from the southwestern city of Chongqing in China to arrive in Duisburg, Germany. It did so crossing the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe international line, which was established in 2011. What used to be a weekly service, had now become a service running three times a week. Since the start of this service, the number of trains going back and forth have quadrupled. 

The Yuxinou train, as it was named, meant an enormous boost for Duisburg and its inland port: Duisport. “Eurasian freight traffic has not changed the position of Duisport on the rail freight market, but it has made it stronger”, described Peter Plewa, member of the Executive Board at Duisport. At the Silk Road Gateway Poland Summit, he will elaborate on the opportunities the Silk Road offers the port.

Enormous growth

What started as a single railway connection to one Chinese city, is now an array of connections between the countries. “Duisburg is the only European port to offer multiple transcontinental train connections to China”, said Plewa. “It now facilitates connections to numerous destinations in China, including Chongqing, Wuhan, Yiwu,Suzhou and Shengyang.”

The number of trains departing in both directions is inceasing every year. Whereas the port facilitated 17 journeys on the China Railway express in 2011, this number jumped to 815 in 2015 and accumulated to 3271 in 2017, indicating a growth of over 400 per cent since the start of the regular service.

Transit time

The service has not only grown in quantity. Also the quality of the journey has improved considerably, pointed Plewa out. The first train had a transit time of more than 25 days, now we make the journey in 12-16 days, depending on the destination in China.”

As Plewa will outline during his presentation, a train departing from Duisburg reaches the western Chinese border of Khoros in 11 days. To enter through the border town of Erenhot, three days should be added to the journey, while the east coast is reached through to gateway of Manzhouli in 16 days.

Duisburg as a hub

The revived interest in the China Railway Express has given Duisport the opportunity to develop the city as a hub, Plewa explains. “Duisburg is the largest inland port worldwide. Our strength is location and our connection to other European countries.”

Apart from a large combined transport network overland, it has many shortsea connections to the rest of Europe. Within a radius of 150 kilometer it connects to the Netherlands and Belgium. Within a 600-radius, it can add Denmark, Chzech Republic, Austria, France and the UK. The Port of Duisburg handles 130 million tonnes of goods per year, equaling 4 million TEU. In total, it facilitates the arrival and departure of 25,000 trains per year, Plewa outlined.

Future market

During his presentation, Plewa will be talking about the future market, which he believes lies in intermodal transport when continental cargo is concerned. “We must learn from integrators like UPS, DHL, FedEx, etc. Containers or swap bodies are ‘parcels’, only bigger.” Furthermore, digitalisation of the market is both an opportunity as a challenge, he added. “With the right approach, rail will be more competitive than road transportation in Europe.”

Author: Majorie van Leijen

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

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