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Trains, planes to rescue as sea cargo slumps

By WANG KEJU | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-07-11 08:00

A worker passes containers to be transported to Moscow via China-Europe freight trains in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on July 3. YAO JIANFENG/XINHUA

First-half freight rail journeys between China, Europe up 36 percent year-on-year

The number of China-Europe freight train journeys posted notable growth in the first half as rail logistics services continue to play a vital role in maintaining the global supply chain amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the country's railway operator.

Freight rail trips between China and Europe rose 36 percent year-on-year to 5,122 in the first six months, said China State Railway Group on Friday, adding that the figure hit a record monthly high of 1,169 in June.

Cargo train services have become an important logistics channel to ensure smooth trade as seaborne cargo transport has been disrupted by the pandemic, the company said.

A total of 461,000 standard-sized shipping containers of cargo were transported by rail in the first half, up 41 percent year-on-year, it added.

The China-Europe freight trains have proactively helped with the global fight against the pandemic and transported 27,000 tons of contagion prevention materials to Europe by the end of last month since the first train carrying medical supplies departed from Yiwu, Zhejiang province, on March 21, it said.

Also on Friday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said the country has seen a giant leap in its international air cargo transportation capacity, thus helping maintain the smooth running of the supply chain, thanks to a series of supportive measures in place.

Domestic and foreign-operated international cargo flights in China totaled an average of 2,390 per week in June, a 135.7 percent increase before the coronavirus outbreak, and connected with 105 destinations in 45 countries and regions across the globe, said Jin Junhao, deputy director of the administration's transportation department.

The administration established an international airfreight flight information system allowing round the clock online approval in a simplified manner and approved 2,083 additional chartered all-cargo flights in May and 1,521 in June, a sharp rise of 578.5 percent and 541.8 percent, respectively, from the same period last year, Jin said.

He said the administration also encouraged airlines to help remedy severe shortages in freight capacity by retrofitting idle passenger jets into cargo-ready aircraft.

The country saw 4,625 and 2,539 all-cargo flights via renovated passenger jets, respectively, in the past two months, which cushioned the tough blow to the civil aviation sector brought about by the pandemic, Jin added.

In an effort to offer emergency humanitarian aid and transport much-needed medical supplies to other countries, the civil aviation authority also deployed 1,035 flights carrying over 4,948 tons of materials by the end of last month since the outbreak began overseas, according to the administration.

Jin also noted that China's effective coronavirus containment has set the stage for the gradual recovery of the country's civil aviation sector as air passenger volume last month reported narrower declines from a month earlier.

The country handled about 30.74 million individual air passenger trips last month, which still marks a year-on-year drop of about 42.4 percent. But the decline narrowed 10.2 percentage points from May and 42.1 percentage points from February, he said.

Individual air passenger trips registered 150 million during the first half, standing at only 45.8 percent of the volume recorded during the same period last year, he said, adding that domestic routes saw 140 million passenger trips while international routes reported 8.52 million, equivalent to 48.6 percent and 23.5 percent of the volume for the same period last year, respectively.

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