China-Europe freight train has a series of significant advantages, says Finnish minister
Aerial photo shows a China-Europe freight train bound for Helsinki, Finland waiting for departure at Putian Station of Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan Province, Nov. 20, 2020. (Photo by Xinhua/Hao Yuan)

Finland welcomes more freight train connections with China, and hopes to become a leading hub between China and Europe with its existing advantages in transportation and logistics, said Ville Skinnari, Finnish minister for development cooperation and foreign trade, in a recent interview.

Initiated in 2011, the China-Europe cargo rail transport service is considered a significant component of the Belt and Road Initiative, boosting trade between China and other countries along the Belt and Road.

The first China-Europe freight train route between China and Finland opened in 2017, connecting Xi’an in northwestern China with Kouvola in southeastern Finland.

At present, there are several China-Europe freight train routes from or via Finland, connecting Chinese cities such as Xi’an, Chongqing, and Suzhou.

Skinnari listed speed as one of the advantages of the freight train. “The freight train ride between Finland and China takes about two weeks, compared to the sea freight which usually takes at least 1.5 months,” he said.

The railway freight has a clear sustainability advantage compared to other means of transport due to much lower carbon emissions, Skinnari added.

“For companies, it is important to be able to diversify their logistical chains, add value with speed and have alternative means of transport,” he said.

The China-Europe freight train has facilitated trade between China and Finland as well as other Nordic countries, as industries from Sweden and Norway are also finding new railway routes, he said.

Finland-based company Nurminen Logistics is cooperating with China to operate several China-Europe freight train routes.

According to a press release issued earlier by the company, the volume of its container trains to and from China have tripled in 2020 compared to the previous year.

“We have indeed seen a significant increase in the railway freight volume between Finland and China. And there is a lot of potential for the trade between the two countries by rail,” said Skinnari, hoping Finnish exports to China will grow.

“Finnish food is safe and of excellent quality. There is a growing demand in China for top-quality food products, such as Finnish meat, and our exports have grown significantly in this sector,” he said.

“The logistical chain risk is definitely something that many companies are more aware of now after the COVID-19 pandemic,” noted the minister, adding that it can be seen from the expansion of the freight volume that the China-Europe freight train has a competitive advantage.

Skinnari added that Finland wants to be a leading hub between Europe and China.

“I believe that Finland has its advantages in this sector, for example, well-functioning import or export procedures, reliable transport network, proximity to major hubs in Nordics and Europe and even further to North America, as well as well-functioning transit between different means of transport,” he said.

“Our government is happy to see increased cooperation between Finnish and Chinese companies through the freight trains,” he said. “Increased connectivity between the two countries is very welcome.”