Shipping products from China to Europe by sea can take months. If air cargo is not an option because of the cost, rail may very well be, since DB Schenker has developed a rail alternative that takes only 16 to 19 days. The German trains are a success – in both directions. European car manufacturers are now filling the trains to China with car parts.
With over 5,000 employees and 90 logistics sites in China, DB Schenker is very ambitious to become the China-Europe rail cargo operator. Its trains travel to and from China on two routes - a North and a South route. The northern one uses the Trans-Siberian Railway and runs to the North of Mongolia. The southern one runs through Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia. On average, the trains take 16 to 19 days to complete the 10,000 to 12,000 km journey. Each train must undergo at least two changes of gauge during this journey, which is the world’s longest rail route. China uses the same track gauge as Europe, while Belarus, Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan use broad gauge.
Rail beats sea freight
Despite the delay caused by the gauge changes, rail transportation beats sea freight in travel times. Freight rates are higher for rail than for ocean freight by up to 50 percent, but the rail option is almost twice as fast as the ocean option from door to door. Daniel Wieland, DB Schenker’s Senior Vice President Rail Logistics and Forwarding explains: “Rail transport by land makes sense for products that need to be transported faster than by shipping and more inexpensively than would be possible by air. Promotional goods for the clothing industry and capital-intensive items such as automotive parts and electronics are particularly suited for this type of transportation.” A company may book a whole train as a block train but it may also transport individual containers by train.
40,000 containers since 2012
After the first DB Schenker train from Beijing to Hamburg arrived in 2008, freight trains have come a long way. Since 2012 a total of 40,000 containers have been travelling between China and Europe on behalf of DB Schenker. The Eurasian Land Bridge is now fully operational and several trains per week run in both directions between Germany and China. Trains run between Leipzig and Shenyang, between Chongqing and Duisburg and between Zhengzhou and Hamburg. Trains now also carry loads from Europe to China too. For the automobile manufacturer BMW, DB Schenker runs services of automotive components from the Leipzig factory right into the BMW Brilliance plant in Shenyang. Other customers use this train also, which stops at destinations such as Changchun, Beijing and Shanghai.
Attractive to second-tier city manufacturers
Now that the Chinese hinterland area with large cities like Chongqing has become very active in industrial production, rail transport is a very suitable means of transportation. In Chongqing, one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing metropolises, many multinational corporations now have production facilities. Until recently goods are exported from Chongqing to Europe primarily by ocean or airfreight. But it takes around three days just to transport containers from Chongqing to a Chinese seaport. By rail, these containers are already halfway China after three days, saving precious time on their way to customers all over Europe.