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Train service grows as preferred mod8k8 777 slotse of cargo transportation

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A China-Europe freight train departs from Xi'an Guojigang Railway Station in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on March 7. LI YIBO/XINHUA

A freight train loaded with containers of goods departed from Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, to Belgrade, Serbia, in late March, marking the first direct rail line connecting the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region with Serbia.

The China-Europe Express Rail transport service has witnessed tremendous expansion since its launch in 2011 and has provided transport and logistics support for Belt and Road cooperation over the years.

The China-Europe Express Rail served as a safe and reliable rail line linking Asia and Europe, transporting over 50,000 types of goods, including automobiles, spare parts, clothing, cereals, wine, coffee beans and timber.

According to China State Railway Group, by the end of February 2024, the railway service connects 120 Chinese cities with 219 cities across 25 European countries, making it one of the main transport arteries between China and Europe.

The service has expanded steadily in the first two months of this year, with the number of trains reaching 2,928 in January and February, a year-on-year increase of 9 percent.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the China-Europe Railway Express has proven itself to be a more secure and stable means of transporting cargo as it was less affected than other transportation modes like ships and planes.

Businesses have preferred to choose the railway to transport large quantities of goods and cross-border e-commerce parcels.

Metrans, a major logistics company in Europe, launched its first China-Europe train service in 2017. It now has 20 container terminals across Europe.

The China-Europe Express Rail is also less vulnerable to extreme weather or geopolitical tensions, ensuring the unimpeded flow of international industrial and supply chains.

"The railway to Europe is a viable alternative and we are seeing increased demand for that route," Marco Forgione, director general at the Institute of Export and International Trade, told South China Morning Post.

Michael Aldwell, head of sea logistics at Kuehne and Nagel, told the Financial Times in March that there was "more demand" to move goods from Asia to Europe by rail under current circumstances, adding that "high-value cargo has always been popular on that route."

In recent years, the China-Europe Express Rail service has continued to be more efficient. Today, it takes only about 10 days for a train to travel from Xi'an, Shaanxi province, to Duisburg, Germany, two days less than it took in 2023.

Julija Sciglaite, RailGate Europe's chief business development officer, told CNBC in February that the company uses the China-Europe Express Rail to transport its products as the time of the journey is "significantly better" than the sea route.

The China-Europe Express Rail service is also developing beyond rail, with the introduction of integrated sea-rail transport routes.

A shipment of electric water heaters was delivered from Thailand to Germany about a month ago through multiple transport solutions, passing through Laos, Vietnam and China.

The Belt and Road Initiative, of which the China-Europe Express Rail is a flagship project, is a blueprint that every nation needs in an age of "uncertainty and disruption," said an article published in January in the US magazine Foreign Policy, adding that the BRI represents what all countries should do in their own national interest.




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