Opinion: While other routes struggle, China-Kazakhstan rail freight on the rise
(Photo: KTZ)

Growth in rail freight volumes between China and Kazakhstan shows no sign of abating, with an overall increase of 22% last year, but the signs are less positive for other European and Eurasian routes, reported by the Loadstar.

Spurred on by Western sanctions against Russia, rail operators have begun moving some 28 million tonnes of goods between China and Europe via Central Asia, boosting not only volumes but also rail construction along the Middle Corridor.

The full-year growth was not unexpected, following a strong six months in which Kazakhstan’s state-owned operator, KTZ Rail, recorded an 86% increase in volumes.

According to local media, KTZ’s full-year growth saw it carry more than 1m teu, helped by the construction of the Xi’an dry port as a new Chinese freight terminal in Kazakhstan.

Estonian and Russian rail operators, on the other hand, have had some serious problems.

Having seemingly rebuffed Western sanctions by turning to China, Russian Railways (RZD) is facing a shortage of locomotives as wear and tear eats into stock availability, and the operator is also struggling to find spare parts as sanctions prevent imports.

Reports from Russia suggest that the situation “deteriorated particularly sharply” in the last three months of last year.

In the Kyiv Post, the general director of Russia’s Infoline-Analytics, Mikhail Burmistrov, said rail operators needed to ensure 95% of their fleet was operable to keep services flowing as normal, but noted that this had dropped to 93% by mid-2023 and had continued to decline.

China-Russia services, according to quotes seen by The Loadstar, were costing more than $5,100 per 40ft, rising to more than $6,000 on routes between China and Belarus.

Nor is Russia alone in seeing its rail services hampered by sanctions, with reports suggesting that Estonian operator Eesti Raudtee has seen freight volumes fall by around 43% over the past 12 months.

 

Source: The Loadstar