The first rail shuttle between China and the Netherlands is up and running. The service was launched by the Chinese rail operator CDiRS in June, and now the Chengdu-Tilburg-Rotterdam-Express is in full operation. At the moment, this is a weekly service, however, the ambition of CDiRS and its Dutch partner, RailPortbrabant, part of the GVT Group, is to run the service five times a week as of late next year.
The Chengdu-Tilburg-Rotterdam-Express reaches its destination “door-to-door” in 15 days and crosses Kazakhstan and Moscow. Chengdu offers railway connections to Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, Ningbo, Wuhan, Yiwu, Xiamen, Shenzhen, Nanning and Kunming, as well as to Vietnam and South Korea.
“Cargo from China is often shipped by sea, short sea, from the port of Rotterdam to the UK, Scandinavia and Portugal,” said Roland Verbraak, general manager at GVT Group of Logistics, on September 28.
Fast Land Connection
“This is great development,” added Allard Castelein, chief executive officer of the Port of Rotterdam Authority. “By sea, Rotterdam is already the most important European destination of Chinese cargo. Thanks to this shuttle, we are now also adding a fast connection by land. We strongly believe in this concept, partly because a large part of Europe can efficiently be reached via the excellent short sea connections from Rotterdam. And vice versa, of course.”
Container Traffic by Rail on Growth Track
The transportation of containers by rail could expand substantially in China, especially if the nation continues adopting the kind of operating practices and regulatory reforms that have boosted the development of the North American rail network, according to a World Bank research paper.
Those measures include the ability of rail operators to tailor service offerings including pricing, routing and delivery time to client needs, as well as “mainstreaming” of specialization in the value chain, allowing rail operators to focus on the things they are good at, according to the paper, Customer-driven Rail Intermodal Logistics: Unlocking a New Source of Value for China.
“A more intense use of rail as part of the country’s containerized freight delivery logistics system could be a game-changer for Chinese manufacturers and consumers alike, as we have seen in North America,” said Luis Blancas, a senior transport specialist at the World Bank and lead author of the paper. “That’s because more and more manufacturing has moved to China’s western provinces, which increases the distance of international and domestic shipments. At the same time, China’s highways are becoming more congested, making it difficult to deliver goods and get value-for-money in trucking services.”
Since 1998, freight container traffic in China has grown faster than the rate of economic growth. While container traffic on trucks and ships has increased, the use of trains for part of the journey – which is known as rail intermodal logistics – decreased in the same period. A 2013 study found that only 1.3 percent of container traffic through China’s ports involved trains, with 85 percent of all containers entering or leaving the ports on trucks and the rest on ships.