Photo by Xinhuanet
The freight rail across Eurasia officially launched on Thursday night, with a cargo train leaving on its journey from Chongqing to Duisburg, Germany, filled with laptops and LCD screens scheduled to arrive in Europe two weeks after leaving China.
The 11,179 kilometers long track will be running through the far western Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Poland, before finally reaching Germany.
China Daily reports that the rail link to Europe will cut transportation time dramatically, compared to the sea trade route:
The route offers a major shortcut to the more traditional sea trade routes from Shanghai and Guangzhou, cutting travel time to Europe from about 36 days by container ship to just 13 days by freight train, said Huang Qifan, mayor of the inland business hub.
Not only is the overland route to Europe shorter, the rail freight option is also said to be safer and less expensive than transporting goods by sea.
Even though the railway track itself has already existed for over a decade, it is only now that the railway could be put into operation, due to complicated customs checks and issues with cargo transfer logistics. This changed last year, when China signed a strategic agreement with Russia and Kazakhstan to open the new freight route.
The country is trying to build the inland labor-rich municipality into an international high-tech hub, especially for laptops. Foxconn, the world’s biggest contract electronics supplier, Acer, Taiwan’s leading computer maker, and Hewlett-Packard (HP) are already in place in Chongqing to produce laptops.
The shorter transport time will make made-in Chongqing notebook computers more competitive. Currently, the train makes trips to Europe only once a month, but increased operations are likely to occur.
And so the notion of an overland trade highway linking China to Europe, an idea whose foundations were first laid by Alexander the Great, and then later came into full fruition as the Silk Road that linked East and West throughout the Pax’s Romana and Mongolica, is now once again a viable and feasible prospect.
The ancient Silk Road also facilitated trade between China and Northern Africa, so it might be a safe bet to expect that new railway tentacles will be built to reach into the Saharan bloc within a few years.
But all in all, just another ho-hum story about how much China likes trains, right?
By Nele Diels