China-Europe freight train completes 90,000 trips

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The high-profile freight train service between China and Europe, supported by the Belt and Road Initiative, has recently achieved another significant milestone by completing its 90,000th journey as of Saturday. [Photo/Xinhua]

The high-profile freight train service between China and Europe, supported by the Belt and Road Initiative, has recently achieved another significant milestone by completing its 90,000th journey as of Saturday, underscoring its crucial role in stabilizing global supply chains and driving economic development along the route.

On Saturday morning, a freight train loaded with 55 containers carrying a diverse range of goods, including LCD monitors, auto parts, clothing, and daily essentials, departed from Xi'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, marking the 90,000th service, according to the China State Railway Group, the operator of the service.

The train will travel westward, exiting China through the Horgos border port in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, passing through Kazakhstan and Russia before reaching Malaszewicze in Poland in about 15 days.

Began in 2011, the China-Europe freight train service has transported over 8.7 million containers with goods valued at more than $380 billion between China and Europe, according to the company. 

The remarkable growth in the number of services reflects strong market demand. This mode of transportation is more cost-effective than air travel and more reliable than sea transport, serving as a strategic and alternative option for international freight.

The annual number of services has surged from a few dozen at the beginning to over 17,000 last year. The growth has become more prominent since 2016.

Between 2016 and 2023, the annual number of China-Europe freight trains increased from 1,702 to over 17,000, representing nearly a tenfold growth with an average annual growth rate of 39.5 percent.

The progression from the first service to the 10,000th service took 90 months, while the leap from the 80,000th service to the 90,000th service only required 7 months.

Since May 2020, the monthly number of China-Europe freight train services has consistently exceeded 1,000.

In 2016, the annual value of goods transported by the service was $8 billion, which soared to $56.7 billion last year.

This rapid development signifies the increasing acceptance and recognition of the service by customers in China and abroad.

Shaanxi Konka Smart Home Appliance, a company based in Xi'an, primarily manufactures white home appliances, with dishwashers being one of its main products sold overseas.

Chen Zhao, the company's general manager, mentioned that about 80 percent of their dishwashers are exported to European countries such as Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

Initially, the dishwashers were shipped to European destinations via sea routes from coastal cities like Qingdao in Shandong province, taking around 45 days. However, utilizing the China-Europe freight train service has significantly reduced the transportation time to about two to three weeks, he said.

Chen also noted that Xi'an's strategic location as a hub for the China-Europe freight train service played a crucial role in their decision to establish a new factory in the city.

He highlighted that all dishwashers manufactured in Xi'an are now transported to Europe via railway.

Due to disruptions in sea transportation caused by the Red Sea Crisis, shipping from China to Europe has been delayed, extending the shipping time to up to 60 days, he said.

"The advantage of the China-Europe freight train service is now more prominent," he said.

Smartlog, an international transport and logistics company with a presence across Eurasia, established an office in Xi'an in 2022.

"Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, overseas enterprises like us can experience a rapid development in China," said Nursulu Zolbaskanova, head of the company's Xi'an office.

Over the past two years, the office's monthly usage of the China-Europe freight train service has increased from two to 70, reflecting the growing importance of this transportation mode.

Shao Boer, general manager of Xi'an International Inland Port Multimodal Transportation, a logistics company based in Xi'an, said most of the company's logistics business is dependent on the China-Europe freight train service.

"The China-Europe freight train is like a high-speed freight train service, which is more reliable, efficient and predictable," he said.

So far, the network of the China-Europe freight train has reached to 223 cities in 25 European countries, connecting more than 100 cities in Asia.

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