Although backlog in border ports and train delay, DIT data shows no congestion at Duisburg terminals

According to China Railway Group Co., Ltd., in the first half of this year, 7,377 trains were operated and 707,000 TEUs of cargo were delivered, an increase of 43% and 52% year-on-year, respectively. The comprehensive heavy container rate reached 98%, and the coverage of Eurasia Freight Train expanded to 168 cities in 23 European countries, the cumulative number of operating trains has remarkably exceeded 40,000 in total.

Before this data, the transcript of the Eurasia Freight Train in June also came out. In June, the number of monthly operating trains reached 1,404, and the number of shipments was 137,000 TEUs.

The growth curve in June was flatter than that in May, indicating that the growth rate has slowed down from the previous month. Combined with the industry backlog and congestion we’ve learned before, it can be interpreted that the transportation capacity is approaching saturation. How to expand, modify and increase transportation capacity will become the key point to solving the subsequent growth momentum of Eurasia Freight Train.

(Data: China Raiway, NDRC)

On July 10, the China Railway issued an internal dispatch order, “Due to the backlog of border ports, the whole-route export cargo transited to Alashankou (territory) will be suspended from 18:00 on July 10 to 18:00 on July 15 except for the Eurasia Freight Train.”

The suspension of other land transportation methods gives way to Eurasia Freight Train, we can conclude from the suspension that current backlog in border ports cannot be underestimated.

Last week, we paid attention to the situation of Eurasia Freight Train in Europe. The container congestion at the European terminal has aroused widespread concerns in the industry.

This week, the Duisburg DIT, the most important hub in Germany for Eurasia Freight Train, disclosed some data to us for the industry to discuss current problems faced by Eurasia Freight Train across the whole line.

In Europe, Slot resources are extremely critical for railway operations. Slots can be understood as a dedicated time slot for the loading and unloading operation of the train. The terminal provides a specific and unique stop time slot for all scheduled trains. A specific railway is only provided to a specific train during a specific time slot, and another train will stop for the next time slot.

Figure: Duisburg’s slot utilization per week in 2021(Data: Duisburg DIT)


Graphic description:

  • The orange straight line shows the agreed slots for Eurasia Freight Train at Duisburg terminal;
  • on this basis, in order to cope with the increase and the possible delay of the trains, we have taken action in advance, such as offering additional slots, which is displayed by the dark blue curve;
  • agreed slots plus additional slots, the total slots that are granted to Eurasia Freight Train is indicated by the light blue curve;
  • The gray curve shows the slots that are actually used;
  • The yellow curve shows the slots that are not used.

As shown in above figure, the orange straight line shows the planed Slots which are provided for Eurasia Freight Train in advance by Duisburg terminal.

The grey curve shows actually used Slots. The increased gap between the gray curve and the orange one is the number of wasted Slots.

Why is there wasted Slot? During the long transportation process, if the train is delayed at a certain node in the previous section, and finally fails to arrive at the Duisburg terminal within the planned time period, the reserved Slot will be missed. For the daily operation of the terminal, valuable Slot resources are wasted.

The yellow curve shows the Slots that are not used. According to DIT data, The number of wasted Slot due to previous delay reached a new peak in this year.

The dark blue curve shows additional Slots offered by the terminal temporarily. Why is there additional Slot? Because there are also previously delayed trains arriving, in addition to the temporary increase of scheduled and unscheduled trains. If  the train arrives out of the Slot as scheduled by DIT terminal, the terminal will need to provide additional Slot before accepting the train for entry.

From this point of view, the Slot resources at Duisburg terminal are not absent, but still adequate and available. The problem is, many Eurasia Freight Trains are often delayed due to congestion and cannot arrive at their destination terminal in Germany on time. To understand congestion outside the terminal, it is similar to the phenomenon of delay caused by the Suez Canal incident, subsequently, ships should queue to enter European ports.

For the trains that were delayed in the early stage and caught up in the later stage, if they want to enter the terminal, they should wait for a new Slot allocated by the terminal. Definitely, the arrival and entry for those trains are not as smooth as the train that arrives on time.

Can we make more flexible adjustment by communication means, such as timely sharing of information, to solve the problem of low utilization of Slot resources? it calls for the coordination of multiple railway companies and multiple departments.


Reporter: Qiaonan Zhang / Gong-Wei Lou