Capacity improvement of Eurasian rail transportation? Here are their suggestions…

So far we have had a lot of discussions about the congestion and delays in the Eurasian rail transportation industry that are currently being criticized heavily.The most fundamental cause of congestion and delays to be indentified ist the restrained capacity. In this regard, we took an interview with some experts and scholars and listened to their views.

Ms. Gao Yue-E, Director of Transportation Research Department of China Communications and Transportation Associate, Director of Transportation Research Department of Logistics Research Institute, CCTA Beijing Branch, said, the restrained capacity of Eurasian freight train is affected by many factors. Among them, congested port, especially overseas ports, is restricted by insufficient infrastructure and low technical level. At present, I believe it is mainly attributed to the impact of COVID-19 epidemic. Marine and air transportation are in shortage of capacity too, it is even difficult to find a container now. Additionally, total trade volume between China and Europe has grown, supply and demand are contradictory; Routes of the rail transportation has increased and the market is booming now.

Mr. Ma Bin, Researcher of Institute of International Studies, Fudan University pointed that compared with marine transportation, Eurasian rail freight is a kind of logistics transportation with limited capacity. It is a common situation faced by the international logistics industry that transportation capacity cannot meet market demand. The shortage of shipping space and containers, line congestion, and abnormal changes in logistics demand are factors that restrict the capacity of the railways. Among them, it is the most important reason that conventional international logistics processes were disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic.

Ms. Lu Xiao-Juan, Lecturer of School of Economics and Management, South China Normal University had the opinion that there are two main reasons for the restrained capacity of Eurasia Freight Train and insufficient space. First, the operational conditions pushed marine cargo into the railways due to the congestion of many European marine ports, the sharp decline in loading and unloading capacity, and the stuck return of containers. Another reason is that the capacity increment in rail transportation cannot keep up with the surge in demand.

Ms. Guo Shu-Juan, Associate Professor of School of Transportation Engineering, Dalian Maritime University convinced that the current phenomenon is definitely not caused by one reason, it is a systemic problem of transportation between China and Europe. Currently, the marine freight prices are soaring. As the difference between freight rates of rail and marine freight rates is not so large, a large number of low-timeliness and low-value cargoes in marine market flowed to rail transportation, therefore, it caused congestion and lowered timeliness of Eurasian Freight Train.

Obviously, Eurasian rail transportation is not fully prepared for pouring cargoes. The low timeliness, change of customs and switching tracks, and customs inspections, all those have led to frequent delays and even suspension of loading in China, subsequently, it vanished the previous timeliness advantage of Eurasia Freight Train.

Therefore, the semblance of problems on Eurasian Freight Train is showing as congestion and high freight rates, but the deepest problem is improper distribution of cargo supply. Specifically, most of the original low-timeliness cargo should be delivered by marine transportation, but at present, a large proportion of them selects Eurasia Freight Train. This has led to the failure to guarantee the timeliness of time-sensitive cargoes, which in turn resulted in a series of chaos in freight rate, transportation time, dispatch frequency and delay probability of Eurasia Freight Train.

Capacity improvement of Eurasian rail transportation

About how to improve the capacity of Eurasian Freight Train, what are the suggestions from the experts?

“First, we should improve construction of port infrastructure and its supporting facilities,  expedite the expansion of port capacity and port reconstruction, and speed up the upgrading of railway sections. Second, we should strengthen the construction of assembly center of Eurasian freight train, establish a collection and distribution system based on ‘combination of main and branch line, collection and distribution at assembly hub’, optimize transportation organization and promote the ‘hub-to-hub’ operation. Third, we should promote channel diversification, develop multi-routes line, propel the construction of important overseas train hub nodes, and improve the efficiency of transshipment.” Ms. Gao Yue-e said.

“Fundamental solution for current capacity dilemma of Eurasian Freight Train doesn’t rely on the use of new technologies, and the space for industry players to play a role is relatively limited. Relatively, there are more realistic choices in short term to improve the efficiency of Eurasian Freight Train information platform and maximize the use of existing capacity of Eurasian Freight Train.” Mr. Ma Bin suggested.

Ms. Guo Shu-Juan take short term and long term solution into consideration. “First, in the short period, our country is unable to carry out effective macro-control and overall coordination on the freight rate and infrastructure of Eurasian freight train and marine transportation. Therefore, it will be a very effective choice that freight train platform companies are encouraged to establish reasonable plans for their own train schedules and frequency to reduce the delay per unit-time and increase the capacity of transportation. In addition, it will be another effective means that platform companies enhance communication and contact of train schedules with foreign section companies.”

“Second, from a long-term perspective, there are two main aspects. The first is the source of cargo, and the second is Eurasian freight train itself. The first keypoint is source of cargo. Eurasian rail transportation should strive to attract high value-added and high time-sensitive cargoes but allocate low-value-added and low time-sensitive cargoes to marine transportation, thereby we can improve capacity of the railways by improving the punctuality and timeliness and increasing the dispatch frequency per unit-time.” She added,  “The second keypoint is the maintenance and improvement of the infrastructure of Eurasian freight train in the overseas section. The purpose is to reduce the operation of customs change and switching track, and to improve the transfer capacity of important nodes such as Brest/Terespol corridor, finally to increase the capacity of rail transportation.


Autor: Raphael Zhang / Lou Gong-Wei