Multinational agreement strengthens Europe-China link
A new joint working group involving seven countries aims to pave the way for improved rail freight services between Europe and the Far East. The multilateral agreement by China, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Germany and Poland is a further indication that the fast-growing West-East preference for rail over air and sea is only likely to increase.
National operators Belarusian Railway, China Railway Corporation, Deutsche Bahn, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, Poland’s PKP, Russian Railways and Ulaanbaatar Railway (Mongolia) have all given their support, as they seek to strengthen cooperation and increase freight rail’s market share.
Under the agreement, all countries will be encouraged to coordinate their logistics infrastructures, and introduce technologies to support the electronic exchange of freight data. Reducing transit times and customs clearance times, and simplifying border procedures are further key aims of the new alliance. At its heart is a clear focus on supporting the development of competitive through-rate for freight transport on cargo services between Europe and China, specifically within the framework of each country’s legislature.
Poland is one of those countries keen to expand its China operations, with PKP Cargo aiming to become a global logistics operator by 2020. Representatives of PKP were in Shanghai to meet counterparts from Worldwide Logistics Group (WWL), one of China’s largest multimodal logistics firms, with the aim of strengthening foundations for a PKP presence in the country.
Maciej Libiszewski, President of PKP Cargo, said: “For years we have been paying close attention to the Chinese market, and we came to the conclusion that only through presence in this market can we gain a competitive advantage that will allow PKP Cargo to become a global operator. Nonetheless, it was important that PKP’s expansion in such a large logistics market was thoroughly considered and economically justified. Hence the decision to cooperate with WWL, a recognised company.
“To be valued in the international logistics market, we should take part in creation and development of global multimodal door-to-door supply chains from China to Europe, not only through our central Europe logistics but also through active engagement in the Chinese market, which is one of the world’s largest global trade exchanges. In this context, the presence of PKP Cargo in China strengthen’s the company’s position on the Eurasian railway transport market,” he added.
China is pushing the growth of rail freight to and from Europe as part of its ‘One Belt One Road’ economic strategy, and this drive is being supported by countries operating on the various routes in and out of Europe. The United Kingdom, for example, is keen to develop its new rail freight links with the Far East, as the unfolding Brexit process means it is entering an uncertain time of EU trade agreements and so initiatives like the first UK-China freight service are highly significant.
Since starting in 2011, China-Europe freight services have grown rapidly, becoming a vital part of the One Belt One Road project. More than 3,500 freight trains have operated so far, with services reaching 27 Chinese cities and 28 cities in 11 countries in Europe, says the China Railway Corporation.