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China-Europe freight rail service traverses continents, history

By LUO WANGSHU in Xi'an, and Urumqi and Horgos, Xinjiang | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-06 07:37

Containers are loaded on freight trains before leaving Urumqi, Xinjiang, to Europe in May.GUAN YONGJUN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Spreading its reach

As a crucial link in the international logistics supply chain, ensuring that the China-Europe freight train service becomes faster, more reliable, convenient, efficient, and cost-effective is paramount for its continuing success.

The key to unlocking this success entails a combination of strategic planning, operational excellence, technological innovation, streamlined processes, and seamless coordination among all parties involved. Expanding the network by opening new routes, even amid global crises, is an essential element.

Today, the network of the China-Europe freight train service reaches 223 cities in 25 European countries, and connects more than 100 cities in Asia.

Xinjiang serves as a significant ketchup global production hub, annually exporting approximately 700,000 metric tons of the sauce to European markets such as Italy and Spain.

Xinjiang Tianshun Supply Chain Co, a logistics and supply chain management company based in Urumqi, plays a pivotal role in transporting ketchup to Europe, but predominantly relies on shipping.

However, the Red Sea crisis led to the company's ketchup shipments being stranded at Tianjin Port since the Spring Festival in February.

"We have had over 10,000 tons of ketchup piled up in Tianjin Port since the Spring Festival (because of the Red Sea attacks)," said Ding Zhiping, president of the company.

With ketchup having a shelf life of about 18 months to 2 years, Ding faced challenges in dealing with the stranded cargo in Tianjin until a new opportunity arose.

A new China-Europe freight train route was opened, covering over 10,000 km in about 35 days and seamlessly integrating rail and maritime transportation.

It traverses the Caspian and Black seas to reach its final destination, Salerno, Italy — offering a significantly quicker journey compared with traditional maritime routes to Southern Europe.

Since April, the company has utilized the new China-Europe freight train route to transport ketchup from Xinjiang to Europe.

"Thanks to the new train service between Xinjiang and Italy, our logistical challenges have been swiftly resolved, leading to increased export volumes, reduced transit times, and improved operational efficiency," Ding said.

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