UK-based freight forwarder, Davies Turner, says April was the busiest month to date for its direct Express China Rail service, reflecting surging China-Europe rail transport demand.
Davies Turner says reports indicate that 976 container freight trains departed for Europe from various places in China during April – a 47 per cent year-on-year increase.
But severe congestion is now building, according to reports out of China. The Chengdu International Railway Service says it has cut the number of its trains leaving Alashan in Xinjiang province bound for central Europe to two from six between the three days of 27-30 June, according to the South China Morning Post. The rail company has said it will adjust the timetable going forward depending on rail traffic conditions.
The rail company says that its decision followed an announcement from state-owned railroad operator China Railway of severe congestion at the freight terminals in Alashan and Khorgos, cities on China’s western border with Kazakhstan.
Tony Cole, head of supply chain services at the independent freight and logistics company says: “Our weekly LCL volumes on the service have increased from one to two 40-foot High Cube consol containers per week this time last year, to three to four, currently; more than a 100 per cent increase in the last 12 months.”
The coronavirus-induced shutdown of commercial passenger aviation which then dramatically reduced air cargo capacity and spiked prices, saw a rapid uptake of overland rail services from China to Europe.
The Changan terminal in Xian, for instance, handled 1,667 China-Europe trains between January and June, nearly twice as many as the 846 trains in the same period last year, according to the South China Morning Post. The total weight of goods shipped was 1.3 million tonnes, nearly two times the same period last year. And Chengdu’s China-Europe train traffic increased by 63 per cent this year through May.
Cole adds that since the company’s first train was launched in 2011, numerous departure points have been added. The rail option also gained added momentum from the Belt and Road initiative launched by China’s President Xi Jinping.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic has brought aviation to a standstill, shippers are seeing freight trains as a faster alternative to shipping. As liner operators have blanked sailings to reduce capacity and maintain utilisation levels, shippers are presented both with cost and time constraints.”
Davies Turner launched its own dedicated weekly fixed-day rail consolidation import service from China to the UK in November 2018 with bookings steadily increasing.
On departure from China, the rail service heads direct to Duisburg in Germany. Containers are then trucked under bond to the nearby port of Rotterdam for transport by ferry to Purfleet, near Dartford. From there they are moved on-carriage by truck to Davies Turner’s regional distribution centres, where they are discharged, customs cleared and delivered.
“With a transit time of around 24 days from China to Dartford, our direct Express China Rail service offers a vastly improved transit time versus the all-ocean alternative from ports on China’s North Eastern and Eastern coasts,” Cole adds.