Forwarders launch new services to tap into China-Europe rail demand

GERMANY's express delivery giant DHL has launched a range of block train and less than container load services between China and Europe to meet growing demand

24 March 2021 - 19:00
GERMANY's express delivery giant DHL has launched a range of block train and less than container load services between China and Europe to meet growing demand.

Faced with such strong demand from customers, forwarders in the last six months have launched new rail services from China to Europe, reports IHS Media.

Forwarders in turn have launched a many new China-Europe rail services to capitalise on heavy demand from shippers forced out of air and ocean markets by soaring freight rates and tight capacity.

Forwarders are spreading their services across the three China-Europe trade lanes - the northern corridor through Russia, the middle corridor via Kazakhstan and Russia, and the southern corridor via Uzbekistan and Turkey.

The growing volume swamping the network is also keeping forwarders in a constant search for new cross-border routes into Europe to avoid bottlenecks at change-of-gauge stations in Poland and Belarus, said the report.

Europe and China use a rail gauge that differs from that of the states of the former Soviet Union, thus necessitating the transfer of containers from one mode to another twice along the way.

But the growing volume has seen the expansion of other Polish border crossings into Europe, as well as entry points in Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria.

The adjusted routes appear to be having a positive effect on cargo flows despite the huge increase in volume. A record 12,400 trains were deployed in 2020, up 50 per cent year on year, with volume up 56 per cent compared with 2019 at 1.13 million TEU, according to data from the state-owned China Railway Express.

Even with the increase in demand, forwarders are reporting either no congestion or delays of four days or less, which can generally be absorbed in lead time windows built into the advertised transit times.

'There are very limited delays in getting containers by rail from China at present, either due to border hold-ups or the sustained ongoing demand,' said Tony Cole, head of ocean at UK-based forwarder Davies Turner.

'We have been experiencing 18-day transits from Wuhan to Duisburg for quite some time, which gives six days to get the container from Duisburg to Purfleet, via Rotterdam, to meet the publicised schedule, which we are achieving,' he said.

In the past few months, DHL Global Forwarding had launched five new direct train connections, as well as dedicated customer block trains, from Chinese rail terminals to Europe.

Six new less-than-container-load (LCL) services have also been introduced by DHL into Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden, Baltics and Poland.

The services cater to larger concentrated volume of rail cargo in China, which enables DHL to fill both block trains or LCL boxes, and to identify new routings able to bypass congested borders.

Nippon Express launched a new weekly service from Suzhou, near Shanghai, in early February, using the northern route via Moscow and Malaszewicze, connecting to Hamburg and Duisburg. The Japanese service provider already operates regular train services from Xian.

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