China-Europe freight train trips surpass 90,000, energizing high-quality BRI development

A train fully loaded with diverse goods departed from Xi’an, the capital city of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province on Saturday morning, bound for Malaszewicze, Poland, marking a significant milestone as the total number of China-Europe freight train trips has surpassed 90,000.

To date, China-Europe freight trains have transported more than 8.7 million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers of goods, valued at 380 billion U.S. dollars, according to China State Railway Group Co., Ltd (China Railway).

From 2016 to 2023, the annual number of China-Europe freight train trips surged from 1,702 to over 17,000. The value of goods transported by this service skyrocketed from 8 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to 56.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2023.

The types of commodities transported via the China-Europe freight trains have expanded from IT products such as laptops and printers at the beginning to over 50,000 different types, including clothing and footwear, automobiles and parts, daily necessities, food, timber, furniture, chemicals and machinery.

So far, the China-Europe freight trains have reached 223 cities in 25 European countries and over 100 cities in 11 Asian countries, with the service network covering almost the entire Eurasian continent, it added.

Trucks transport containers at Xi’an international port station in Xi’an, the capital city of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, May 25, 2024. (Xinhua/Zhang Bowen)


“The China-Europe freight trains represent a new model of international transportation with advantages such as convenience, speed, safety, stability and green economy. They have become widely popular as an international public product,” said Huang Xin, deputy director of China Railway’s cargo department.

“They have injected new momentum into serving the high-quality construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and promoting economic and trade exchanges between China and Europe,” Huang added.

Continuous vitality

Inside the intelligent workshops of Shaanxi Konka Smart Home Appliance Co., Ltd, production lines hum with activity as workers help assemble dishwashers and washing machines for its overseas orders. Here, a washing machine can be produced within 20 seconds.

“Many of our factories were previously located in the eastern and southern regions of China. We were drawn to establish our operations here in western Xi’an due to its strategic position as a key hub for China-Europe freight trains, along with the supportive government policies and abundant talent pool,” said Chen Zhao, the company’s general manager.

An aerial drone photo taken on Nov. 17, 2023 shows the Bell Tower and a city view in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. Xi’an, one of the ancient capitals in Chinese history, attracts a growing number of tourists in recent years. (Xinhua/Shao Rui)


Starting operations in November 2022, the company has now seen 80 percent of their dishwashers and 20 percent of washing machines destined for international markets, according to Chen.

In late November 2022, a China-Europe freight train carrying the company’s home appliance export products embarked on its journey. As of April this year, Shaanxi Konka has exported 135,000 units of home appliance via 30 dedicated China-Europe freight trains.

“Thanks to the China-Europe freight trains, our products now reach various European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Russia, as well as Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan. This mode of transportation not only reduces costs but also significantly shortens delivery time,” said Chen, adding that sea shipping typically takes 45 days, while China-Europe freight trains expedite this process, completing deliveries in just 15 to 20 days.

“Our overseas clients appreciate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the China-Europe freight train service, which not only enhances their experience but also reduces their transportation expenses. It’s become the preferred and secure choice for them,” Chen added.

Since 2023, an increasing number of Chinese-made “tech-intensive green trio” products — lithium-ion batteries, photovoltaic products, and new energy vehicles (NEVs) — have been transported through the China-Europe freight trains, reflecting a strong market demand.

Cao Ping, from the Xi’an branch of China Railway Special Cargo Services CO., LTD, a professional transportation enterprise mainly engaged in railway transportation of vehicles, oversized cargo and refrigerated goods, has had some experience with this.

“Since the beginning of this year, this trend has become more pronounced. All the vehicles exported via the China-Europe freight trains from our company are produced by local companies in Shaanxi, and they are all new energy vehicles, which are quite popular abroad,” said Cao, adding that the number of monthly exported NEVs handled by her company would exceed 1,300 units, and main destinations are Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

An aerial drone photo taken on May 25, 2024 shows Xi’an international port station in Xi’an, the capital city of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. (Xinhua/Zhang Bowen)


The rapid development of the China-Europe freight trains has opened up a new channel for the inland regions of Asia and Europe, enhancing their economic and trade cooperation.

Xi’an-based TERRAcont International Logistics Co., Ltd was established two years ago, with only three workers in its earlier days. Over the past two years, the number of workers at this company has increased to more than 20, said Zholbaskanova Nursulu, CEO of the company, who is from Kazakhstan.

“Our containers depart via the China-Europe freight trains every month, some from Xi’an and others from Chongqing and Chengdu,” Nursulu said.

“I’ve witnessed the rapid development of the China-Europe freight trains and received a lot of support from the Chinese government over the years. It has significantly strengthened China’s relations with BRI participating countries, fostering closer trade ties between them,” she added.

“The spillover effects of the China-Europe freight trains are becoming increasingly prominent, facilitating better integration of related countries and regions into the open world economy, and greatly enhancing the well-being of people from BRI countries,” Huang said.

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