China to Germany freight train makes maiden journey

China to Germany freight train makes maiden journey

A new rail freight route between Zhengzhou in China and Hamburg in Germany has seen the first train make the 10,214km journey.

Operated by the city Zhengzhou and DB Schenker, the rail route passed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland on its way to Germany, doing so in a record time of 15 days.

The route has opened up the opportunities for rail freight activity between Europe and the Asian market, which is pivotal at a time when Chinese goods traffic is on the increase.

On its travels, the train carried a total of 51 containers from the capital of Henan province to the German city.

It is not the first rail route between Europe and Asia, but the fast delivery time and the potential for further export and activity makes this latest route so promising.

According to Rudiger Grube, chairman of the management board of Deutsche Bahn AG, the Chinese market should be capitalised on.

"The growing Chinese goods traffic, together with the ongoing shift from production-intensive industries to the Chinese hinterland, offers a lot of potential," he said when the train entered Hamburg.

Zhengzhou in particular offers a large industrial centre and transportation hub, so the opportunity for freight activity between Europe and the Chinese city has been increased following the successful use of the new rail route.

The news of the freight train's arrival has come shortly after the China-Russia freight route resumed service.

Up to 63 tonnes of coal was transported on the 100km line, with a Russian train making the delivery for the province of Jilin.

The route had been closed since 2004 following a dispute among shareholders. However, the Hunchun-Makhalino railway between the province and Russia's border region of Primorskiy Kray could help to cut transport expenses and reduce time in cross-border trade, according to vice governor of Kilin Chen Weigen.

This is a belief shared by chairman of the railway's China operator Li Fengmao who says the line will boost cross-border co-operation for both tourism and trade.
"The Northeast Asian region needs to tackle its transportation bottleneck and build a land-sea-air transport network in order to tap its huge economic development potential," he added.

As reported by Xinhua, Hunchun municipal government figures show that a 29 per cent year-on-year increase was seen in Russian arrivals, with 156,000 recorded in the twelve months of 2012. Furthermore, exports from Hunchun to Russia saw a 25 per cent rise during the same period.

Currently, most freight activity between the two areas is conducted by road transportation.

The news will also be welcomed by China's freight industry as a whole, as volumes saw a 2.8 per cent fall in volume year-on-year during the January-June period.

A fall of 55.07 million tonnes in volume was seen when comparing to the same period last year, with just 1.94 billion tonnes of cargo transported on the railways, statistics from the China Railway Corporation reveal.

In June, the Corporation set out plans to revamp the freight transport business, with intentions to simplify the rules associated with the activity and the ensure that transportation is better suited to the needs of customers in an effort to increase its activity in the logistics market.

Improvements in rail freight could either help to offset the problems seen in the air freight sector of the Asian market.

A recent International Air Transport Association report revealed that Asia-Pacific airlines activity was the worst in all the regions surveyed. A 1.8 per cent demand contraction was reported in June 2013, in comparison to figures in the same month last year. This increased to 2.3 per cent when based on figures from the first six months of 2013.

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