China-Europe freight trains see increasing transport capacity on economic recovery

07.31.2023

In recent years, the China-Europe freight trains have maintained stable operation, with their resilience and advantages becoming increasingly prominent. Especially this year, as the economy has been recovering well, multiple China-Europe freight train routes have achieved new highs in performance, with transportation capacity and efficiency continuing to improve.

Data shows that from January to April this year, China-Europe freight trains ran a total of 5,611 trips, delivering 609,000 TEUs of cargo, up 17 percent and 32 percent year on year, respectively. By the end of April, the domestic departure cities of China-Europe freight trains reached 109, connecting with 211 cities in 25 European countries and regions globally.

Freight train operation conveys market rebound signal

Abdulla Imov Parkhat from Kyrgyzstan, who has been engaged in the import and export trade of sewing machines in Yiwu, China’s small commodity hub in east China’s Zhejiang Province since 2010, said, «In the first four months of this year, our trade volume increased by about 5 percent compared to that in the same period last year. I am confident that this year will be very good.»

At that time, there was no China-Europe freight train, and the purchased sewing machines and accessories had to be shipped to Kyrgyzstan by sea. Customs clearance required short-haul transportation of goods to the port, and the procedures for booking a sea container were cumbersome, with long transportation times.

«Since the opening of the Yiwu China-Europe freight train in November 2014, transportation time and costs for goods have been reduced at least by half. I have gained more customers in Kyrgyzstan,» said Abdulla Imov Parkhat.

Since the launch of Yiwu China-Europe freight train service, it has been accumulating and enriching the experience in operating international freight trains, expanding the international railroad freight service network serving Asia and Europe. It now has reached 101 overseas stations, radiating more than 50 countries and regions and connecting to more than 160 cities.

Meanwhile, cities around China have also ushered in the peak of launching their China-Europe freight trains. On May 19, the China-Europe freight train (Wuhan) loaded with automobiles, garments, sporting products and other goods left Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei Province, marking the 101st China-Europe freight train from Hubei this year. Since this year, there have been 425 China-Europe freight trains departing and arriving in Wuhan.

Data shows that in the first four months of this year, China’s total import and export value of trade in goods amounted to 13.32 trillion yuan, an increase of 5.8 percent year on year, with the growth rate accelerating by 1 percentage point compared with the 4.8 percent in the first quarter. The import and export value was 3.43 trillion yuan in April, an increase of 8.9 percent year on year. In the complex and severe external environment, the resilience of China’s foreign trade has been highlighted.

The Belt and Road countries along the routes of the China-Europe freight trains have also seen a thriving development in trade with China. In the first four months, China’s combined import and export volume with the Belt and Road (B&R) countries reached 4.61 trillion yuan, an year-on-year increase of 16 percent. Among them, the import and export volume with the five Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan, and countries in West Asia and North Africa including Saudi Arabia, have increased by 37.4 percent and 9.6 percent respectively, partially offsetting the impact of the sluggish traditional market demand.

China-Europe freight train service helps new energy vehicles (NEVs) go global

In the first quarter of this year, the production and sales of Chinese automobiles declined slightly compared with the same period last year, but the exports of complete vehicles increased by 70.6 percent year on year, and the exports of new energy vehicles (NEVs) increased by 110 percent year on year. And China-Europe freight train played an indispensable role in the growths of NEV exports.

«I have been busy for several days, but I am pleased with that. The NEV export special freight trains have achieved regular operation, which is a new breakthrough,» said Bai Kuanfeng, the person in charge of Xi’an Guojigang Station, the China-Europe freight train operator.

On May 16 this year, a China-Europe freight train, loaded with 261 NEVs produced by local enterprises in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, departed from Xi’an Guojigang Station, heading for Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. The operation of China-Europe freight train has realized regular operation this year, opening up a safe, efficient and convenient international logistics channel to help domestic automobiles go global.

In January this year, Chinese authorities including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), issued the Opinions on Supporting New Energy Commodity Vehicle Railway Transport Services for the Development of New Energy Vehicle Industry, actively encouraging railroad transport enterprises to carry out railroad transport business for new energy commodity vehicles, which are no longer regulated as dangerous goods.

Meanwhile, the transport of domestic NEVs by China-Europe freight trains in Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan Province has become a new pillar of growth in traffic volume.

According to the China Railway Zhengzhou Bureau Group Co., Ltd, the Zhengzhou railway department has strengthened the safety management of China-Europe freight trains to ensure smooth and reliable operation of the train. At present, a total of 622 twenty-feet equivalent units (TEU) of NEVs have been delivered by China-Europe freight trains (Zhengzhou).

«Sometimes we have to send out two or three special trains for NEVs per week, originating from Chongqing, Sichuan, Hubei and other places. We strengthen cooperation with customs, leverage the advantages of China-Europe freight trains, actively serve key products such as NEVs for exports, and help Chinese manufacturing go global,» said Yan Huapeng, chief of the operation management section of China Railway Urumqi Bureau Group Co., Ltd., Alataw Pass Station.

The operation of the China-Europe freight train has not only increased the supply of automobiles in the Central Asian market but has also enabled more «Made-in-China» products to reach ordinary households in Central Asia.

At present, the China-Europe freight trains (Wuhan) have developed 37 stable cross-border transport routes, radiating 107 cities in 40 countries and regions in Asia and Europe, and transporting more than 400 varieties of products, from the initial electronic components, monitors and daily necessities to complete automobiles and spare parts, mechanical and electrical products, glass curtain walls, clothing, shoes and hats, tea, cultural goods, fruits, brand liquor and anti-pandemic supplies.

According to the person in charge of China Railway Xi’an Bureau Group Co., Ltd., the products exported by the China-Europe freight train (Xi’an) have expanded from construction machinery products in 2013 to new energy vehicles, solar photovoltaic panels, refrigerators, and other products. This is especially evident in the variety of goods exported to Central Asian countries.

Freight trains see faster capacity expansion and reconstruction

«Mongolian Railways agreed to our proposal to include 15 pairs/day of broad gauge conversion and 8 pairs/day of standard gauge conversion in the Protocol of the China-Mongolia Joint Border Railway Committee Meeting, which was implemented from March 1, as a result of the joint efforts of the delegations of both sides,» introduced the person in charge of Transportation Department of China Railway Hohhot Bureau Group Co., Ltd.

The traffic volume of China-Europe freight trains is increasing every day and their role is becoming more and more prominent. In order to better adapt to the development situation and play the role of connecting China with other countries and smooth the supply chain of the different industries, all parties have intensified their efforts in capacity expansion and reconstruction of the freight trains.

In 2022, in order to better serve the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and promote construction of the central corridor of the China-Europe freight train routes, China Railway Hohhot Bureau Group Co., Ltd. carried out capacity expansion and reconstruction to Jining-Erenhot railroad line and Erenhot Station, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The number of wide-gauge and standard-gauge connecting train lines has increased to 30. The newly constructed Erenhot Station Dispatch and Command Center will adopt the integrated control and transportation organization model of wide-gauge yard, standard-gauge yard, wheel-changing facility, and border inspection facility, providing ample capacity assurance for the efficient operation of the China-Europe freight trains.

«In the first four months of this year, we have maintained regular operation of more than 20 inbound and outbound freight trains per day, with the highest daily throughput at the port reaching 29 trains, achieving the best level since the opening of the station,» said Zhang Shuoguo, a dispatcher at the Safety Production Command Center of China Railway Urumqi Bureau Group Co., Ltd., Horgos Station.

As the western corridor of the China-Europe freight trains, the railway authorities of Xinjiang have actively focused on improving the throughput capacity of the ports and smoothing transport channel of China-Europe freight trains, and stepped up the capacity expansion and reconstruction of Alataw Pass Station.

As of May 10th this year, Xinjiang had witnessed a total of 5,032 China-Europe freight trains passing through the Alataw Pass and Horgos Ports, representing a 17.8 percent year-on-year increase. Specifically, Alataw Pass Railway Port had 2,317 China-Europe freight trains passing through, showing a 12.3 percent year-on-year growth, while Horgos Railway Port witnessed a total of 2,715 freight trains passing through the port, indicating a 22.9 percent year-on-year increase.

Since the beginning of this year, China State Railway Group Co., Ltd. (CHINA RAILWAY) has continuously expanding the China-Europe freight train routes by leveraging the capacity of port stations. From January to April, the number of train operations on the western, central, and eastern routes increased by 25 percent, 9 percent, and 10 percent respectively compared to the same period last year. This has led to continuous enhancement of transportation capacity and efficiency for the China-Europe freight trains.

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