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Decade of rapid expansion in China-Europe rail service attests to achievement of BRI

By July 4, 202221 Comments

Growing rail service

With a decade-long experience in providing the one-stop service for multimodal transport of China-Europe trains, Tommy Tan, president of Shanghai EPU Supply Chain Management Co, an agent for China-EU freight trains, is an eyewitness of how the freight train service has become the bedrock for enlarging China-Europe trade.

Tan’s business involves a wide variety of trade categories, such as timber trade between China and Russia, grain and fertilizer trade between China and Kazakhstan, and auto parts trade between China and Europe.

Starting in 2018, they have imported about 40 containers from Nuremberg to Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province on a weekly basis, involving all accessories except batteries and air bags for BMW’s factories in China.

The company’s trade service has been successfully operating for four years, with a total of 200 trains being launched, and a total import value surpassing 10 billion yuan, significantly supporting BMW’s local production, according to Tan.

Impacted by the breakout of the Ukraine crisis, the train service has been suspended for more than two months, Tan said, adding they are negotiating to prepare for the rail service’s resumption.

Rise to challenge

Despite the military conflict in Europe and the COVID resurgence in China , which have thrown an element of uncertainty into cross border trade, the China-Europe freight train service has remained resilient, being an effective supplement to sea freight.

Sources told the Global Times that since the first China-Europe train carrying Audi cars arrived in Xi’an from Bremerhaven in October 2020, the epidemic situation has been constantly changing. But the train service has always been well managed.

When Western sanctions against Moscow over the Russia-Ukraine conflict created unprecedented challenges for cross-border trade, many European companies are chipping away at the potential risks of disruption for logistic services.

The China-Europe freight train remains a leading option for many international traders, given its competitive advantage, especially as the sea transport experienced a severe bottleneck last year – as port backlog has lingered in many European ports.

A trader connected to the China-Europe freight train based in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, who has always been a big supporter of the cargo train service, told the Global Times on Thursday that from Hamburg Port in Germany to Ningbo Port, import transportation takes 55-65 days, while the train service takes only 18 days, and the price has remained stable at around $1,000, similar to ocean freight.

While there are multiple factors that contribute to low cost, the high efficiency of Chinese ports certainly plays a part. For example, at Manzhouli port, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, a major border port for the rail service, the customs has ensured that the train is available for inspection 24 hours a day, which greatly reduces the time cost of each link in the customs clearance, the Global Times learned.

Now, there are 57 China-Europe trains entering and leaving the country through the Manzhouli railway station, reaching 13 countries and 28 cities in Europe. The goods include auto parts and other varieties.

Given the competitive edge, there has been hardly any disruption to the train service even with the geopolitical tensions in Europe, industry analysts say.


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