Russia and China saw record rail freight volumes in 2023

Image: Wikimedia. Jack no1

Russia and China have reached a new record rail freight volume between the two countries. The total freight volume going through Russia’s Far East border crossings grew by 26 per cent from 2022, amounting to nearly 44 million tonnes. This number includes traffic to and from Mongolia.

The total freight volume among all transport modalities between Russia and China reached 161 million tonnes, up by 36 per cent from the previous year. The countries were expecting a growth of 10 per cent. Russian Railways imported and exported 13,2 million tonnes from and to China between January and November 2023, up by 22,8 per cent.

According to Russian publication RZD Partner, the vast majority of the 44 million tonnes in freight traffic on its Far East border crossings are export goods. It states that 38 million tonnes of goods were exported, including coal, lumber, iron ore, paper, grain and fertilizers. This number is an increase of 25 per cent from 2022.

Infrastructure limitations

As Western sanctions have prompted Russia to reorient its exports towards China, eastbound rail freight volumes are growing quickly. The main challenge of export reorientation is the limited throughput capacity of existing infrastructure. In order to solve this issue, Russia is speeding up the development of rail infrastructure in its Far East region.

To that end, Russia and China need more rolling stock that can transfer goods from the Chinese to the Russian gauge and vice versa in order to accelerate border crossing traffic. Additionally, Russia seeks to modernize and expand its rail infrastructure along the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur railway line, as well as using new technology to improve rail efficiency.

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Author: Dennis van der Laan

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Russia and China saw record rail freight volumes in 2023 |