Cargo bottlenecks are building at the key China-Europe hub in Malaszewicze on the Poland-Belarus border as engineering projects to expand capacity disrupt operations on the maxed-out rail freight network.
'We see heavy congestion at Malaszewicze right now, with delays of up to 14 days already,' said Marco Reichel, business development director for Asia Pacific at Crane Worldwide Logistics.
The Polish Rail Infrastructure Authority is running a construction project at Terespol station in Malaszewicze on a line that is part of the European Union's E20 corridor linking Poland with Germany, the busiest part of the rail network.
The project includes expanding the capacity of Malaszewicze to enable trains of 1,050 metres to operate between Belarus and Poland, building a new bridge, and constructing separate infrastructure for rail and passenger traffic.
In China and western Europe, the rail network operates on standard gauge rails, while the countries in between - Russia and the Central Asian countries - use a wider gauge.
This requires cargo to be transferred to a different train at Khorgos on the China-Kazakhstan border, and again at Malaszewicze, and with the rail network currently running at full capacity, even a slight delay can quickly lead to congestion.
Thomas Kowitzki, head of China rail and multimodal at Germany's DHL Global Forwarding, said the high volume of cargo on the rail network to and from China has been an ongoing issue, with the engineering works exacerbating delays.