Expansion projects at border railway stations have increased transportation capacity and efficiency to facilitate freight train services between China and Europe, which are vital in efforts to stabilize the global supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The border railway station in Ereenhot, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, completed its expansion project in December last year, adding two lines for standard-track train inspection. The station now has three such lines.
Every China-Europe freight train is required to stop at the border to wait for inspections to be conducted and related paperwork to be processed by both China and Mongolia, said Zhang Peng, deputy head of the control center at Ereenhot railway station.
“Previously, the station had only one inspection line for standard-track vehicles. When inbound and outbound trains arrived at the same time, one train had to wait. As the number of the shipments increased, so would the length of the queue.”
He added the expansion project has solved the bottleneck problem and greatly improved the transport efficiency of the services.
Now, trains from both sides can undergo border inspections simultaneously. The border can receive 18 trains a day, up from 12 previously, according to Hohhot Railway Group, the local railway operator.
The benefit of the expansion projects has become readily apparent, Zhang said.
From January to October, the port handled 2,269 trips, a year-on-year increase of 16.5 percent.
The cross-border freight train service usually takes about two to three weeks from China to Europe. It is cheaper than air transportation and faster than sea.
Out west, border railway stations in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region also finished expansion projects to improve their capacity in December last year, local railway operator Urumqi Railway Group said.
A new pair of cargo reloading lines was introduced at the Horgos railway station in Xinjiang, as well as 10 new or extended lines to allow more trains to undergo border inspections at the same time.
The facility upgrades have boosted transportation capacity by more than 30 percent, the company said.
Other expansion projects have been carried out to handle bulk cargo and containers at Alataw Pass station in Xinjiang and Manzhouli station in Inner Mongolia.
With Christmas around the corner, a special China-Europe freight train carrying holiday-related goods departed from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Nov 5 and was expected to arrive in Duisburg, Germany, on Sunday. From there, the train will carry goods to other European countries, including Poland, Belgium, Sweden, France and the Netherlands.
“September and October mark the peak season for shipments of Christmas-related orders, but there have been capacity constraints in maritime and land transportation this year due to the pandemic,” said Wang Ping, deputy general manager of Shenzhen Huashang International Supply Chain Service, adding that without the train services, manufacturers might have to choose more expensive airfreight.