Door-to-door between China and Europe

Rail transport has become more competitive in speed and cost

BY THOMAS-PEDER JENSEN, TSCHUDI LOGISTICS DENMARK AND TOOMAS VANA, TSCHUDI LOGISTICS ESTONIA

Rail is becoming an increasingly important and competitive transportation mode from East to West. It is predicted that new rail routes between China and Europe will change trade patterns, challenging airlines and shipping companies.

A Chinese initiative, together with other countries en-route through Central Asia, like for example Kazakhstan, is to build a “New Silk Road”. Already a constant flow of trains each pulling several containers can be seen passing through the railway station of Astana, the remote capital of Kazakhstan.

Original overland trade routes between Europe and China have mainly been replaced by sea transport via the Cape of Good Hope. However the land route through Central Asia is relatively short. A container ship too large for the Suez Canal has to make a 24,000km journey to reach Europe. Trains travel approximately 11,000km to reach the same destination.

Rail freight between China and Europe is rapidly increasing. In the first half of 2017 the value of goods travelling by train rose by 144% compared with the same period in 2016. Rail freight enables European companies to reduce costs – air freight to Europe is extremely pricey. In November, the China Railway Corporation (CRC) reported that more than 3000 container trains had run between the two continents since the start of 2017, exceeding the total for the previous six years combined and serving 35 cities in China, with 34 destinations in Europe.

Rail has become more competitive in speed and cost. When the American Chamber of Commerce compared China-Europe transport options in 2006, rail was not only more expensive but also slower than maritime shipping. The analysis compared transport options for shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai, China, to Hamburg, Germany. In 2006, that journey took 36 days by rail. It now takes just 16 days. Cost has declined as well, but not as dramatically as transit time. Also noteworthy – rail freight is a more environmentally friendly form of transportation than air and ocean freight.
 

From our logistics offices in Århus and Tallinn, we are regularly finding suitable rail solutions for our customers. With deliveries to and from the East a great advantage is having our Tschudi China office to assist with all local operations.

It appears customers are definitely open for competitive and reliable alternatives for transporting their goods. With almost 20 years’ rail experience within Europe and the CIS countries, Tschudi Logistics is using their expertise and network to offer customers an extended service, door-to-door from China to any European destination.

Rail transport between Europe and Asia

Enhancing this service, we operate with our own railway container depots in Rotterdam, Immingham, Harwich and Fredericia. From there, containers are loaded with cargo for destinations such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijani, Mongolia and other CIS countries. Containers rather than curtain side trailers are used, thus also safeguarding cargoes against theft and vandalism.

Due to increased demand, Tschudi Logistics are also planning to expand their service with rail container depots in Oslo and Gothenburg. Scandinavian customers will then also benefit from efficient rail transport to the CIS countries and further East.

Cooperating together Tschudi Denmark and Tschudi China have recently completed two successful rail transports for a European customer from China to Slovenia. Transit time from pick-up to delivery was 22 days and something our customer was very pleased with.

The pickup and cargo handling of 7 boxes loaded with crane parts from the Chinese supplier was handled by Tschudi China. Here we see the clear advantage of our local office in Qingdao – their knowledge of the Chinese market ensured a smooth transition from supplier to being safely loaded inside the container for departure. Our cargo was part of a weekly LCL (less container load) train service from Shanghai. LCL shipments are just what they sound like; shipments of smaller volume cargoes from several different shippers combined inside a single container. Paying a lower rate than a full container, as you naturally only pay for the space used.

On arrival in Warsaw, Poland the goods were custom cleared and transshipped for further transportation by truck. This may sound like quite a complicated and potentially risky operation but on both occasions this has been very straightforward with all formalities completed within a day. Our cargo was then driven from Warsaw to the end destination in Slovenia.