Railway giant Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the Chinese city of Hefei signed a MoU to launch weekly freight trains across the Eurasian land bridge. The service will commence at the beginning of October.
In the initial stage, cargo containers will only be transported from East to West, but operations are expected to expand fast, including runs in the opposite direction. The journey, covering
10,600 kilometers, takes fifteen days with trains traveling via the northern route, rolling through Dostyk in Kazakhstan, Moscow, Warsaw and ending in Hamburg, Germany. Due to its nodal position
in the central Chinese province of Anhui, Hefei is a freight hub for customers from eastern and southern Chinese regions, emphasizes DB Cargo in a release.
Part of the Silk Road project
The containers to be railed from Hefei to Hamburg will mainly be filled with photovoltaic components, computers and textiles. Operator of the run is Trans Eurasia Logistics, a joint venture between Deutsche Bahn and Russian Railways. Since years, the company is managing a multitude of train connections mostly both ways between China and Europe with constantly increasing numbers.
Hefei's municipal government points out that the upcoming service is part of Beijing's Silk Road project called ‘One Belt – One Road.’ It’s pushed forward by the government to get directly involved in infrastructure activities abroad in order to gain influence and secure their economy a substantial slice of the pie. For this reason, 65 different national markets have been identified by Beijing, including some located along the railroad track Hefei-Hamburg.
Eurasian trains challenge increasingly combined sea-air transports
Juergen Wilder, CEO of DB Cargo stated while signing the Memorandum of Understanding: "The constantly rising transport volumes of the trans-Eurasian land bridge demonstrate that rail transport has established itself as a competitive alternative to other modes of freight transport. I firmly believe that more customers will use rail services to transport their goods to and from China in the future."
In fact, the number of cargo trains linking China and Europe, mostly operated back and forth, is steadily growing. They are increasingly becoming an alternative to ocean and air freight and a serious challenger of combined sea-air transports via Dubai and other ports in the Gulf region.
Their attractiveness is also shown by the growing volumes railed across the Eurasian land bridge and the rising commitment of forwarding agents that engage in this business by operating entire trains or secure capacity on many runs. Next to pioneer Deutsche Bahn and its forwarding arm DB Schenker also DHL, Hellmann some Polish and Austrian agents have meanwhile jumped on board.
More will presumably follow suit.