Opinion: Rail freight between China and Russia is being impacted by infrastructure shortages and unbalanced freight flows
(Photo: Xinhua)

Rail transport from China to Russia has recently experienced problems due to a shortage of infrastructure capacity that do not fully match current volumes. Current modes of transport use railway resources to varying degrees, but Russian railways are not adequately prepared for such an influx of cargo.

Cargoes arriving from Far Eastern ports via sea routes need to enter the railway network at the ports in order to reach their destinations. For a long time , the inland transport routes through the rail border crossing ports have been confronted with increasing volumes. Rolling stock do not have time to return for new shipments. Containers are likely to be stored at the border crossings for a long time. The same problem occurs in the Far East at the ports of Vladivostok and Nakhodka.

In both cases, this ultimately leads to congestion in the container yards and an inability to make space for newly arrived containers. This problem is particularly acute for direct rail transport, where rail trains arrive with full containers but have to wait for many days before they can be unloaded.

Another major problem is the current build-up of 150,000 empty containers at Russian ports and railway crossings. It is not economically efficient to return empty containers to Chinese shippers, and Russia does not need that many containers for its exports.

In February last year, the average price of a 40-foot container in Russia was $4,200, compared with $600 today.