Coronavirus halts most China-Europe freight trains until mid-February: industry insiders

By Zhang Dan Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/20 17:21:54

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The outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) in China has halted most China-Europe export freight trains in February, with some import freight trains operating as normal, transport companies said. Before Russia banned the entry of Chinese nationals in an effort to contain the virus' spread on Thursday, all direct trains to Russia departing from Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province, had been canceled. 

Loaded with machines, clothes, electronics and bearings, a China-Europe freight train on Tuesday set out from Zhengzhou and began its journey to Hamburg, Germany. It was the Henan-based supply chain management company Jinhongluo's first dispatch since the outbreak began. 

"We had scheduled 20 freight trains to travel to Hamburg, Munich and Liege in February, but only two have been secured so far. One set out on Tuesday and another will start a round-trip journey to Hamburg on February 28," Liu Fang, sales manager at Jinhongluo Supply Chain Management Co, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

The number of trains from Zhengzhou to Europe decreased significantly in February compared with last year, as most factories halted production amid the coronavirus onslaught, and the trains could not be filled, according to Liu. 

"We were told that direct trains to Russia had been canceled and that any train to Europe could not stop in Russia," Liu said, noting that Chinese train drivers do not go to Europe, and drivers from the next country will continue to replace the previous drivers as normal. 

With the exception of Russia, there is no limitation from any other country along the Zhengzhou to Germany route, Liu noted. 

The epidemic also stopped 90 percent of shipments of manager Xu Yuanyuan's company, Shaanxi Further Strategy Supply Chain Management Co in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, which sends furniture, clothes and machines to Germany and countries in Central Asia.

"We usually dispatch 600 to 700 containers per month, but now the number has decreased to about 100 after the outbreak of coronavirus," Xu told the Global Times, adding the estimated loss for his company would  surpass 300,000 yuan ($42,755). 

Delayed resumption of production, traffic blockages across China and lack of staff are the main difficulties for Xu's company. 

A staff member surnamed Wang at Sino-Europe Trains (Shenzhen) Co in South China's Guangdong Province told the Global Times that his company has not yet fully resumed operation. 

The number of entry and exit trains from Alashankou Port in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has dropped to one or two per day, Xinjiang-based news site reported. Horgos Port in Xinjiang has also seen a significant decline in numbers.

"We estimate train dispatches could recover by the end of March, since most factories in China will resume production by the end of the month," Liu said, noting that her company has 30 trips to Europe planned for March. 

According to media reports, a few China-Europe freight trains have partly resumed operation since mid-February, including those from Shilong in Guangdong and Nanchang in East China's Jiangxi Province.


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