China-Europe freight train services steam ahead, with a year-on-year increase of 32% as of August
A China-Europe Express Train from Jinhua, Zhejiang province, sets off for Budapest, Hungary, on June 7, carrying 100 containers loaded with electronic products and machinery parts. The train arrived in Budapest 18 days later. (Photo by Xinhua)

More than 10,000 freight train services operated between China and Europe in the first eight months of this year, ensuring the stability of the international logistics chain amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the service provider said on Thursday.

From January to August, 10,030 trips were handled, up 32 percent year-on-year. The services sent 964,000 containers, an increase of 40 percent, according to China State Railway Group, the national railway operator and also the freight train service provider.

It took 10 months to reach 10,000 services last year. August was the fourth month to see more than 1,300 such services since May, and the 16th month with more than 1,000 services since May last year.

The group said it has improved coordination between China and countries along the way to respond to the strong demand for the services during the COVID-19 pandemic, making full efforts to handle cargo transshipments from sea and air transportation, enhancing the capacity to handle cargo at ports and increasing operational efficiency.

The services have played a strategic role in maintaining smooth trade exchanges between China and Europe, the group said.

Cooperation with countries along the route has included the holding of online video conferences to discuss cross-border transport. Guidelines such as a standard timetable have been agreed to, aiming to improve the quality of the services.

To improve the cargo-handling capacity of cross-border ports, expansion projects have been carried out at key railway ports such as Ereenhot in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and Khorgos and Alataw Pass in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Service quality has also been improved through strengthened communication with international trade companies, and intensified efforts to discover customers’ needs, with international logistics plans made accordingly. That has led to a reduction in international logistics costs, improving the international competitiveness of Chinese and European companies.

The network of services, which supports the Belt and Road Initiative, has reached more than 170 cities in 23 European countries, transporting more than 50,000 kinds of products.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the train services have assisted with international cooperation against the virus. Since the start of the pandemic, they have carried 12.8 million pieces of anti-pandemic supplies weighing 99,000 metric tons from China to Europe.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the departure of the first China-Europe freight train, which traveled from Chongqing to Duisburg, Germany.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news conference in May that the services, like the contemporary railway version of camel caravans, have played an important role during the pandemic in keeping logistics unimpeded and ensuring a stable supply of materials to China, Europe and countries along the routes.