DHL Global Forwarding has launched a rail express service from China to Europe that will deliver containers in 12 days or fewer.
The service is being launched in partnership with Xi’an International, and will run between Xi’an in north-central China to Hamburg and Neuss in Germany. Its 9,400km route will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania before reaching Neuss on the River Rhine.
DHL said in a statement that the "fastest rail service between China and Germany was created with the support of China Railway, Belintertrans, RTSB Gmbh and UTLC-Eurasian Rail Alliance".
Rail freight between the two ends of Eurasia have grown in recent years, with rail prized for being faster than ships and cheaper than aircraft.
The Northern Eurasian corridor has emerged as the fastest and most reliable route, carrying 325,000 containers in 2018, according to a report released this year by the European Commission. This predicted that traffic would rise to at least 437,000 by 2030 but could rise to over 4 million if sufficient capacity and funding were available.
DHL said that on the Xi’an-Germany link customers will be able to track deliveries thanks to GPS and the iSee software platform.
Germany, China’s biggest trade partner among EU countries, has led the development of intercontinental railway connections. In 1973, the first Deutsche Bahn (DB) container crossed the Trans-Siberian Railway. In 2008, a test freight train from Beijing reached Hamburg, and the first container train from Xi’ang followed in October.
In the opposite direction, a freight train from Hamburg arrived in Wujiashan, a city in the central Chinese province of Hubei, in March 2011. Since then, DB has offered regular train services between Germany and China. In 2018, about 235 weekly container train services were offered from Hamburg to 27 Chinese cities, 25% more than in 2017.
Image: One of the sturdy diesel locomotives plying the trans-Asia run (Brunel Shipping)