China Railway Group Co., Ltd., also known as China Railway, released statistics on April 10 showing that China-Europe freight trains transported 449,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of goods, making 4,186 trips in the first quarter of 2023. This represents a year-on-year increase of 28% and 15%, respectively. The number of trips in March alone was 1,488, with 162,000 TEUs transported, an increase of 31% and 52%, respectively, compared to the previous year. In addition, the China-Europe freight train trips have exceeded 1,000 for 35 consecutive months since May 2020.
Wuhan, in central China’s Hubei province, launched its first China-Europe freight train to Zhodzina, Belarus on March 24. It was the third new route for the cargo service opened in the city this year, with 44 stable cross-border routes currently running through the city, involving 109 cities in 40 countries across the Eurasian continent.
Other Chinese cities, such as Beijing, Tianjin, Anyang, and Zhongshan, have also launched new routes or stations for the China-Europe freight train service this year. The upgraded services have enriched the sources of cargo and clients for China-Europe freight trains.
The seamless connection between the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st-century Maritime Silk Road” has opened up new prospects for rail-sea intermodal train services, shortening the cargo transportation time to only 20 days, which is 45 days less time than whole sea transportation. Xiamen’s China-Europe freight train service plans to promote cross-border LCL business and transfer cargo from Southeast Asia and Central Asia to Europe through the railway.
Infrastructure upgrades and relevant services have significantly improved the efficiency of China-Europe freight trains. For example, Xi’an International Port in northwest China’s Shaanxi province has expanded its handling capacity by 30% after three rounds of upgrading, while the China Railway Beijing Group has opened two cargo routes in a China-Europe freight train base in Shijiazhuang, improving loading capacity by 50%. Wuhan’s customs department and railway department are sharing logistics data, which has reduced the time for customs clearance by one to two days.
China-Europe freight trains are transporting a wide range of goods, including automobiles, wood, furniture, chemical products, machinery, fertilizers, and new energy vehicles (NEVs). The prospering development of the NEV sector in China is driving the cargo volume of China-Europe freight trains, with each container able to carry up to four vehicles at most, largely reducing the logistics cost for auto exporters.
The continuous recovery of China’s macro economy has helped many cities set new records in the China-Europe freight train service, such as Xi’an, which saw over 1,100 China-Europe freight train trips in the first quarter of 2023, up 39.6% year on year, and Hefei, which set up 21 new stations for the cargo service and made 340 China-Europe freight train trips, up 49.78% year on year.