Malaszewicze border crossing. Photo: Grzegorz W. Tężycki
Interview

Rail freight traffic in Małaszewicze significantly drops

Malaszewicze border crossing. Photo: Grzegorz W. Tężycki

The border crossing at Małaszewicze, the most important for the New Silk Road, experienced a significant decrease in traffic in the first half of 2022. In total, 2,876 trains were handled in Małaszewicze, while in the first half of 2021 it was 3,512 trains. This equals a 19,2 per cent drop in volumes, according to the Polish Office of Rail Transport (UTK).

One of the main causes for the slower growth of the New Silk Road lies in the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Marcin Trela, vice president of the UTK.

“In Shanghai, China’s “zero covid” policy has reduced the number of employees handling sea shipments, which not only resulted in delays in loading and unloading container ships but also slowed down the so-called container-related work”, Trela told RailFreight.com.

Russian invasion

Moreover, the Russian invasion of Ukraine further complicated the situation. Trela pointed out that “some logistic companies transporting goods between China and Europe, fearing possible sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus, as well as the reluctance of insurance companies to insure cargo on the NJS route, which runs through Russia and Belarus, decided to use the traditional sea route or an alternative transit route through the Caspian Sea”.

Trela added that “rail transport through the Middle Corridor may now be an alternative solution. The transit time from China to Europe using rail and sea transport is approximately 40 days and is available weekly”.

UTK’s numbers

In the first quarter of 2022, compared to the corresponding period of 2021, UTK observed an
increase of intermodal transport in Poland overall. TEUs increased by 9,2 per cent and the tonnes of cargo transported grew by 5,4 per cent. Moreover, the billion tonnes/km ratio rose by 10,8 per cent. “The exact results for the second quarter of 2022 will be known in September,” said Trela.

When it comes to intermodal terminal operations, data is collected annually. Therefore, as Trela stated, “data to compare how the terminals fared in the current situation, will be available only in 2023.” UTK does not have data for the first half of 2022 for all trains on the China-Poland route. Nevertheless, data of cargo through border crossings is available for H1, and with Malaszewice being a main border crossing, these figures are indicative of the development of the New Silk Road.

Future perspective

Regarding the near future, Trela commented that “the second half of this year still bears a lot of uncertainty. We are dealing with turmoil in international markets, which may result in a global economic slowdown”.

Trela also highlights the vital importance of an overland route to transport goods between China and Europe. Rail freight transport can offer cheaper fees as well as shorter transit time. “However, it should be remembered that the further development of the New Silk Road
depends on many external factors: this route is based on the economic cooperation of many
countries.”

“In the current situation, some goods will certainly be transported by a different route, but it will be associated with a significant increase in costs. The corridor leading along the current route through the border crossing with Poland and terminals in Małaszewicze is the most efficient land route”.

RailFreight Summit Poland

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Author: Marco Raimondi

Marco Raimondi is an editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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