DUISBURG — The city of Duisburg, Germany’s biggest inland port, is the western terminus of the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe rail line.
Though the line opened in 2011, more and more trains — operated by the China Railway Express (CRE) from Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Suzhou, Yiwu and other Chinese cities — have been arriving here.
It takes only 13 days for goods to arrive in Duisburg from Chongqing by rail, 30 days less than by sea, and at a fifth of the cost of air freight. According to industry experts, the China-Europe freight train services have been providing solutions for the international logistics industry and promoting international trade ties and economic development along the Belt and Road Initiative economies.
CRE conducts freight transportation between China and Europe. The trains bring unlimited business opportunity and bring Duisburg and China much closer, Soeren Link, the mayor of Duisburg, told Xinhua in an interview.
More and more frequently, Duisburg is called Germany’s “China City”, he added.
In 2014, Link joined with Chinese leaders to witness the arrival of China-Europe trains at the Duisburg Intermodal Terminal (DIT). At that time, there were three trains operating to and from Duisburg and Chongqing every week. Today, the number has increased to more than 25 per week.
Daniel Thomas, of Duisburg Intermodal Terminal, said that among them, about 17 trains are westbound (from China to Europe), while an additional eight are eastbound.
According to data from consultants GFW Duisburg, the number of Chinese businesses has grown steadily since 2014. More than 100 Chinese companies have so far settled here. At the same time, around 50,000 import and export containers were transported by CRE trains in 2016, almost four times of the amount in 2014.
“These numbers show the Belt and Road Initiative has brought many economic development opportunities to Duisburg,” Link said.
The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to build a trade, investment and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.
As CRE business continues to flourish and business changes over the years, DIT management is considering how to improve efficiency.
Eight years ago, DIT terminals were using waterways and trains much more frequently than trucking. Now with CRE, the company needs more trucking services, Thomas said, adding they need to truck 10 containers per week.
“Our trucking service has to change. We need more drivers who are willing to drive long distances,” Thomas said.
In addition, DIT needs to deal with long-standing empty containers because of the imbalance between eastbound and westbound trains. Shan Jing, business development manager of Far East Land Bridge Ltd (FELB), said that customs clearance has become more efficient and FELB, as a railway operator, has also received support from local governments because of the Belt and Road Initiative.
“The Belt and Road Initiative supplies new development opportunities. It improves transit efficiency and helps to enlarge our service portfolio,” Shan added. So far, most CRE trains have been mainly to and from Germany, routed through the Polish village of Mataszewicze, which could lead to congestion and affect the punctuality of the trains.