European border towns emerge as gateway for China-EU trade

05.05.2022

Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic and soaring shipping costs, the China-Europe Railway Express has become an important logistics channel for international trade.

Along the route of the China-Europe Railway Express, two eastern European border towns — Malaszewicze in Poland and Zahony in Hungary — have witnessed how the Belt and Road Initiative benefits international trade and boosts local economies.

A staff member loads a cargo container to a train in Malaszewicze, Poland, Oct. 15, 2021.(Xinhua/Zhou Nan)

FROM 50 CONTAINERS TO 7,000 IN FIVE YEARS

Since the 19th century, Malaszewicze has gradually developed into the largest railway transshipment hub in Poland, which has several international rail routes running through.

Real Logistics, a company mainly engaged in China-Europe transportation, has recently opened an office there.

Pawel Moskala, president of the Management Board of Real Logistics, told Xinhua that Malaszewicze has been the most important transit point for the China-Europe freight train.

Poland is investing in the construction and transformation of its transportation infrastructure as «an important gateway to the European Union in general for freight services between China and Europe,» he said.

The steady development has led to frequent congestions on the northern rail line, which fueled the upgrading of the southern one.

Zahony, a town that locates within 100 km to five borders with five countries in northeastern Hungary, therefore became an important hub along the southern line.

Norbert Csomos, managing director of MAV-REC Railway Engineering Cooperation Ltd., has witnessed the development in Zahony, where the first container train from China arrived in July 2017.

«Compared to 2017, when we only handled 50 containers, in 2021 we successfully handled the transshipment of 7,000 containers,» he told Xinhua.

A consortium has been established to construct the Central European Logistics and Industrial Zone project in Zahony, aimed at building a modern multimodal logistics center in Europe. The Zahony transshipment station will also be renovated and expanded.

A China-Europe freight train carrying medical supplies bound for Madrid of Spain departs from the city of Yiwu, east China’s Zhejiang Province, June 5, 2020. (Photo by Lyu Bin/Xinhua)

YIWU-XINJIANG-EUROPE CARGO LINE

Yiwu, located in east China’s Zhejiang Province, is often referred to as «the world’s supermarket». The cargo line — Yixin’ou in Chinese (Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe) — stretches 13,052 km.

Although the cost of international shipping has risen sharply, the Yixin’ou cargo line has been maintaining a regular yet busy operation.

«Our company declared 105,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2021, up 31 percent year-on-year,» said Yu Xuefei, a customs declarer at the Zhejiang New Silk Road Customs Agent Co. Ltd, which focuses on goods carried by the China-Europe freight trains.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a record 15,000 China-Europe freight train trips were made by the China-Europe Railway Express in 2021, 22 percent more than a year earlier.

Imports to China by the Express are also increasing. Statistics show that in 2021, the total value of imported goods passing through this route reached 5.16 billion yuan (783 million U.S. dollars), up 683.9 percent year-on-year.

As China-EU trade is on the rise, logistics companies and operators are paying more attention to Zahony, Csomos said.

Aerial photo shows a China-Europe freight train bound for Duisburg of Germany departing from Tuanjiecun Station in southwest China’s Chongqing, Jan. 1, 2021. (Xinhua/Tang Yi)

PROMISING OUTLOOK DESPITE COVID-19

Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic and soaring shipping costs, the China-Europe Railway Express has become an important logistics channel for international trade.

«The Chinese partners are very proactive and helpful, and we have received a lot of help and advice from them. We are confident that we will achieve good results together in the future,» Csomos added.

Moskala, a veteran in the logistics industry, also told Xinhua that he was confident of China-EU cooperation and optimistic about the prospects of the China-Europe freight train.

«I think the first quarter of 2022 was very promising for everyone... I expect the current high demand to be absorbed in the second quarter. But hopefully the demand for railway service could be rebuilt in the third and fourth quarter,» he estimated.

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