In the 20th century, there were two means of transport for the exchange of goods between China and Europe: ship and plane. The first one is relatively cheap, but you have to calculate up to 6 weeks for the sea transport depending on origin and destination. Air freight takes only a few days, but costs more money. Now, there is a third way!
The New Silk Road – “One belt – one road”
In 2011, the port of Duisburg (Duisport) began regular rail freight traffic between the Ruhr area and Chongqing. With 30 million inhabitants this city is one of the world’s major industrial sites in the southwest region of China.
The route via Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and much of China is often referred to as the “New Silk Road” – almost a romantic name. This is reminiscent of the trade route known since the second century BC. However, its new version is much more than the caravan path used to be built with steel rails and concrete sleepers. Back then, noble spices, rare stones, ivory and, of course, silk was transported in manageable batches between China, the Arab countries and Europe. Today, it is about mass-produced articles such as electrical appliances, electronic components and textiles. Therefore, in addition to the name “New Silk Road” a much more modern expression is used: “One belt – one road”.
40 trains – 40 containers – 40 feet
By now, Duisburg handles up to 40 trains a week that commute via on the New Silk Road. Each carries about 40 sea freight containers being 40 feet long (around 12 meters). For the 11,000-kilometer route to Chongqing the train takes two weeks. But that’s just one of many goals. From Duisburg the shippers reach 12 destinations in the so-called “Middle Kingdom.”
Not only Duisport has discovered rail freight traffic towards the Far East. Of the 80,000 sports cars that Porsche sells to China every year, every 10th now reaches its destination by rail. This was announced by the Stuttgart carmaker at the end of March. Oliver Bronder, Head of Logistics and Production Control at Porsche, said: “Our customers in southwestern China are getting their new vehicles much faster.” The transport between the factory and the dealer takes 50 days, involving ships. “The rail transport of a total of 20 days shortens the automotive logistics by up to three weeks despite various gauges and multiple stops of the container.” The Russian track measures 1,520 millimeters, the Central European standard gauge is almost 10 centimeters narrower. Therefore, the freight has to change in between.
From the Pacific to the Atlantic
There are more and more reports on new connections. Since autumn 2018, Mannheim offers a connection by rail to China. In April 2019, a commuter freight train between the Bettemburg-Dudelange terminal in Luxembourg and the international railway hub Chengdu Qingbaijiang in the Chinese province of Sichuan was put into operation. There are 200 trains running between Hamburg and China each week.
Also commodity on behalf of Schenker Deutschland AG is travelling on virtually all connections. Already almost 150 years ago, company founder Gottfried Schenker sent collected goods by rail across the continent. Now, we are following in his footsteps and are off to Asia and from Asia to Europe – experts speak of Eastbound and Westbound respectively.
DB Schenker also handles groupage transports from Asia to Poland and Sweden. And for particularly large deliveries, the logistics provider puts block trains on the rails exclusively for single customers.
“Several trains are rolling down the new #SilkRoad. They bring Europe and Asia closer together.“Tweet WhatsApp
Since late 2018, a train runs between Yiwu (250 kilometers south of Shanghai) and Cologne. At the port terminal on the Rhine, the containers are reloaded and many travel by train to Madrid. Thus, the New Silk Road stretches almost from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Almost!