Luxemburg-China freight train fails to secure backing
Photo: CFL

A freight train between Luxembourg and China faces an uncertain future as partners in the Middle Kingdom have not yet committed to establishing a permanent connection.

Test runs of the train between the grand duchy and Chengdu, the capital of the south-western Sichuan province, launched with much fanfare in 2019, but the project has been stuck in limbo since then.

“The final decision concerning the kick-off of new rail connections between Chinese and European terminals lies with the Chinese partners,” said transport minister François Bausch in answer to a parliamentary question. “For now, the Chinese partners not having chosen Luxembourg, the CFL is focusing on the development of their intermodal European network.”

The connection’s two-week journey was supposed to carry freight between Luxembourg and China via Germany, Poland, Belarus and Russia, picking up and dropping off cargo along the way. Plans foresaw a weekly departure, but this has failed to materialise.

As part of its focus on Europe, rail operator CFL has launched three weekly return trips to the German port cities of Kiel and Rostock with a view to connecting to Scandinavia. By the end of this year or early 2022, the CFL plans new connections to Poland and Hungary, Bausch said.

The expanded European network will allow companies to ship from Luxembourg to China after all “as several of these countries have regular connections in direction of Asia,” Bausch said.

Luxembourg more than a decade ago under then economy minister Jeannot Krecké chose logistics as a priority area to diversify its economy. It has expanded its rail freight hub in Bettembourg-Dudelange and markets itself as a convenient destination at the centre of Western Europe.

Logistics providers such as Dachser, DHL and Kühne + Nagel operate from Luxembourg, which is also the home base of freight airline Cargolux. Since 2014, Chinese investor group HNCA owns 35% of shares in the company and the airline services five destinations in mainland China: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Xiamen and Zhengzhou.