China's freight train to Central Asia makes maiden voyage

By Li Ying in Xi'an Published: 2013-11-28 19:31:40

A freight train on the newly-opened Chang'an International Freight Line embarks on its maiden voyage from Xi'an, Shaanxi Province to Almaty, Kazakhstan at 10 am on November 28. Photo: Courtesy of Management Committee of Xi'an International Trade and Logistics Park

The Chang'an line embarked on its maiden voyage from Xi'an, Shaanxi Province to Almaty, Kazakhstan at 10 am on November 28.

The train, carrying machine parts, barite and industrial salt, is expected to cover the 3,866-kilometer journey in six days, effectively cutting 20 days from previous road transportation time to Central Asia..

The line also reduces costs by some 30 percent, according to data from the Xi'an International Trade and Logistics Park (XITLP), a dry port and logistics center for Northwest China.

Qiang Xiao'an, director of XITLP, explained the train will travel twice a month between November 28, 2013 to June, 2014, after which trips will increase to three times a month. 

Crossing the Chinese border at Alataw Pass, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Chang'an, named after the former name of Xi'an, also reduces time during customs checks, as paperwork and inspections performed in Xi'an prior to departure.

"We hope the new line can better balance our trade with other countries," said Qin Yu, manager of Easyway International Freight Co in Xi'an to the Global Times.

However, experts say management of an international freight line may pose unforeseen challenges.

"One challenge is to coordinate with countries along the line, properly distribute income and manage it collectively, Zhao Jian, professor with School of Economics and Management of Beijing Jiaotong University told the Global Times.

"Considering the departure frequency, the magnitude of cargos via this line still remains at a relatively low level," he added.

The Chang'an line is comprised of one main line stretching from Xi'an to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, while two auxiliary lines branch to Moscow and Kazakhstan.

A second train bound for Zhem, Kazakhstan will leave Xi'an on November 29, which will transport 49 cars of oil-drilling equipment over a 10-day trip covering 5,027 kilometers.

Wang Nan contributed to the story

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