China’s Xi’an sees increase in China-Europe freight train traffic
(Photo: Xi’an Daily)

The Xi’an Guojigang Railway Station in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi province, is the railway station that sees the most trips made by China-Europe freight trains across China. It is designed to handle 5.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and transport 66 million tons of cargo via railway each year.

Since the China-Europe freight train (Xi’an) service was launched in 2013, Xi’an has handled over 20,000 China-Europe freight trains, or about a quarter of China’s total. It operated more than 5,000 China-Europe freight trains in 2023 alone.

Today, Xi’an Guojigang Railway Station operates 18 regular international westward routes that reach Almaty in Kazakhstan, Tashkent in Uzbekistan and Hamburg in Germany and cross the Caspian Sea, covering the entire Eurasian continent and connecting Xi’an to major international trade hubs.

The station also operates scheduled rail-sea intermodal services to Qingdao, Ningbo and Lianyungang in the east, and freight services to Vietnam and Laos in the south.

Currently, Xi’an Guojigang Railway Station serves as a distribution hub for freight from more than 20 provinces across China, as 21 rail routes to Western Europe pass through it.

“Although Xi’an isn’t on the border or the coast, you can see the whole world from here,” says Li Pei, a duty manager at the station.

According to Shao Bo’er, general manager of Xi’an International Inland Port Multimodal Transportation Co., Ltd., which operates the China-Europe freight train (Xi’an) service, the company’s business volume increased by 1.5 times year-on-year in the first two months of this year.

The company has gained major domestic enterprises like Sany Heavy Industry and LiuGong as new clients, as well as multinational corporations such as Volkswagen, Shao said. Even consigners from Japan and South Korea would take Xi’an as a transfer hub for their goods to Europe, Shao added.

In July 2023, the station upgraded its service to a “2.0 version” – with two outbound and one inbound full-time schedule trains per week.

Full-time schedule trains refer to freight trains that operate like passenger trains, with fixed train numbers, routes, schedules and travel times, ensuring reliable transport efficiency.

For example, the cargo service between Xi’an and Duisburg, Germany sees two departures from the Xi’an Guojigang Railway Station at 3:55 am every Wednesday and Saturday. The train arrives in Duisburg about 10 days later after traveling 9,908 kilometers, which is over 30 percent faster than regular freight services. The average carbon emission of the service is only 1/15 of air transportation and 1/7 of road transportation.

“We have installed electronic positioning locks powered by the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System on containers, allowing shippers to track their goods just like express deliveries,” said Shao.

Although the full-time freight train service is slightly more expensive than regular services, its quality has attracted a growing number of manufacturers of high-end products.

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Lively logistics signal a positive trend of continued economic recovery.

At a battery factory owned by LONGi Green Energy Technology Co. (LONGi), a leading Chinese company in the photovoltaic industry based in Xi’an, a solar panel is produced every 0.8 seconds in a spacious and bright dust-free workshop covering 17,000 square metres.

“These are the solar panels we’re producing for a 1GW photovoltaic project in Uzbekistan. There are more than 2.08 million of them, which will be loaded into about 3,000 containers and transported in batches by China-Europe freight trains to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan,” said She Haifeng, vice president of LONGi.

Photovoltaic modules have become a “new star” on the China-Europe freight train cargo list in recent years. While traditional products such as clothing, furniture and home appliances still account for a significant volume, the share of new products, including new energy vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and photovoltaic products, is growing rapidly.

“High-value-added products such as aerospace components, traffic signalling equipment, ship structures and mineral fuels account for about 50 per cent of the cargo volume,” said Shao.

At the same time, traditional products exported via the China-Europe freight service are becoming high-end, smart and green. The added value of products such as electronics, machinery parts, textiles, metal ornaments and plastic goods is getting higher and higher.

“According to statistics, the average value of goods per container of full-time schedule China-Europe freight trains is around 1 million yuan ($138,238),” Shao said.

The thriving China-Europe freight train service is driving the continuous extension of an “online Silk Road”.

Adjacent to the Xi’an Guojigang Railway Station sits the Xi’an Chanba Cross-Border E-Commerce Industrial Park, which has gathered over 300 cross-border e-commerce companies and related businesses.

It is reported that the park hosts over 100 foreign e-commerce live streamers. Connected directly to the railway station, the park enables customs clearance within 1.5 hours.