In the year 2023, the China-Europe freight train has reached 17,000 trips, transporting 1.9 million TEUs, marking a notable increase of 6% and 18% year-on-year, as per the statistics released by the China State Railway Group.
More precise data from China Railway Container Transport (CRCT) reveals that there were 17,523 trips and 1,901,949 TEUs in 2023. Among these, 9,343 trips were westbound, while 8,180 trips were designated for eastbound transportation.
Notably, excluding the initial two months due to the Spring Festival holiday, over 1,400 trains operated during the remaining 10 months of 2023. The peak months were November with 1,561 trips and July with 1,552 trips.
Examining Chinese border crossings, Alashankou Port maintained its position as the port with the highest rail freight traffic. With the rapid growth in China-Russia trade, both the China-Russia border crossing at Manzhouli Port and the China/Mongolia border port of Erenhot experienced substantial increases in traffic.
In contrast to other ports, Manzhouli and Suifenhe ports demonstrated a notable trend of more return trips than outbound trips, establishing them as the preferred customs clearance ports for Russian import cargo.
Tongjiang Railway Port made significant strides, initiating its first outbound train in July 2023 and the first return train at the end of October. This development bodes well for the future, aligning with the upward trajectory of China-Russia trade.
On the city front, Xi’an, Chongqing, Chengdu, and Zhengzhou maintained their positions as the top four cities. The platform companies in Changsha, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Yiwu, Shenyang, and Hefei all operated over 500 trains in 2023.
Decrease on China-Europe routes excl. Russian routes
It is noteworthy that the aforementioned figures encompass the freight volume on the China-Russia routes. Excluding the Russian routes, the volume of freight transport between China and European countries witnessed a further decrease.
As reported by the ERAI EURASIAN RAIL ALLIANCE INDEX (index1520) for 2023, encompassing China and several European countries including Poland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Italy, and France, a total of 211,110 TEUs were transported along the China-Europe routes. This indicates a significant decrease of 48.57% compared to 2022 and represents only one-third of the 2021 figure, which stood at 618,180 TEUs.
One notable consequence of the decline in freight volumes is the continual improvement in transport duration, with the average station-to-station transport time reducing to a mere 9.9 days.
Westbound to Poland, eastbound from Germany
Poland continued to lead among European countries with the highest containerized cargo arriving on westbound trains, amounting to 117,628 TEUs, albeit experiencing a 34.11% year-on-year decline.
Meanwhile, rail freight from China to Germany faced a substantial decline, with only 12,866 TEUs in 2023, marking an 80.02% drop. On the eastbound shipment front, Germany, known for its robust product exports, remained the country that shipped the most containers to China, reaching 58,282 TEUs but still experiencing a 45.68% year-on-year decline.