China-Europe Railway Express injects new impetus for world economy, as 77,000 trains operated in a decade
77,000 freight trains operated in 10 yrs; further expansion underway
Published: Sep 15, 2023 08:06 PM
A China-Europe freight train departed from the logistics base of Hefei North Railway Station for Budapest, Hungary, on July 29, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

A China-Europe freight train departed from the logistics base of Hefei North Railway Station for Budapest, Hungary, on July 29, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday that China-Europe Railway Express had built a new platform for economic and trade cooperation along the route, effectively guaranteeing the stability of the global industrial chain and supply chain, and injecting new impetus into the development of the world economy.

Xi sent a congratulatory letter to the China-Europe Railway Express Cooperation Forum held in Lianyungang, East China's Jiangsu, marking the 10th anniversary of the launch of the freight train services. Over the past decade, 77,000 China-Europe freight trains have been operated, forming an important bridge for international economic and trade cooperation, according to official data revealed on Friday.

Ten years on, the trains have transported 7.31 million TEUs of goods with a combined value exceeding $340 billion. The transportation network has reached 217 cities in 25 European countries, showed the data released by the National Development and Reform Commission on the sidelines of the forum. 

In the congratulatory letter, Xi said that China will continue to work with all sides to uphold the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and make new and greater contributions to building a community with a shared future for mankind.

In 2013, China put forward the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The China-Europe freight train service was launched in the same year and has flourished over the past decade, becoming the modern day "steel camel caravans" that transport goods between China and Europe.

Over the years, the freight trains have provided a more reliable alternative to traditional shipping methods, facilitated the transportation of a wide range of goods and played a crucial role in facilitating international trade by providing a faster, more reliable, and diversified transportation option, logistic agents and industry insiders involved in the China-EU freight train business told the Global Times.
"I have seen remarkable expansion and growth in terms of geographical coverage, the number of countries and cities served, and the diversity of goods the freight trains handle," Tommy Tan, president of Shanghai EPU Supply Chain Management Co, which has served as an agent for the China-EU freight train service for years, told the Global Times on Friday, while highlighting the substantial expansion in the new-energy vehicle sector.

Five China-Europe freight train service routes now have trains running on prescheduled timetables, the state railway operator announced on Friday, noting that a total of 80 such services have been launched. The service has set trains, routes, departure and return dates and fixed locations for departure and port of entry.

In the first half of 2023, the maximum load capacity of a single China-Europe freight train was raised from 2,500 tons to 3,000 tons. At present, the number of different types of goods on the freight trains has increased to more than 50,000, with rapid growth in mechanical and electrical products, vehicles and auto parts, according to China Media Group. 

Compared with sea transportation, many exporters favored the China-Europe freight train service due to its efficiency. It only takes 25 days to reach Europe via the China-Europe railway express, compared to two months by sea, Ma Siwei, general manager of Heze-based Shandong China Post International Logistics Co, told the Global Times on Friday.

The main destinations for his customers' shipments are Central Asian countries and Europe, primarily for daily necessities, Ma said. 

Underscoring China's steady operation of foreign trade, the China-Europe railway express has seen steady growth in the first eight months of 2023, according to China State Railway Group Co.

The number of China-Europe freight train trips rose 5 percent year-on-year to 10,575 in the first eight months of the year. The trains transported a total of 1.02 million TEUs of goods, an increase of 6 percent from a year ago. In August alone, the number of China-Europe freight train services surged by 18 percent year-on-year, hitting a record number of 1,585 trips, according to the company.

As the BRI marked its 10th anniversary and the freight volume saw a significant increase, multiple Chinese logistic hubs are mulling ways to further expand the China-Europe freight train services with new routes and better services.

Zhao Yi, assistant general manager at International Land Port in Urumqi, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region said that the company is planning to open more China-Europe freight train routes that directly connect to Europe. 

"In particular, we aim to set up some premium routes to transport electronic components and local specialty goods via the China-Europe railway express. This year, we are also actively engaging with Kazakhstan to establish business partnerships and enhance customs clearance efficiency," Zhao told the Global Times.

In the first seven months of 2023, the International Land Port in Urumqi opened 772 China-Europe freight trains, up 9.35 percent year-on-year. 

As of Sunday, the number of inbound and outbound China-Europe freight trains passing through Xinjiang have totaled 10,017 this year, up 10.1 percent year-on-year.