China-Europe intermodal freight is a major success story with 15% growth predicted

A study forecasts the volume of container traffic transported by train between China and Europe could reach 15% annual growth over the next decade. That’s 636,000 TEU by 2027 − about 21 trains per day. The study by global strategy consultants Roland Berger also highlights Eurasian rail freight corridors could also be boosted by e-commerce.

London is the 15th European city now served by direct trains from China

January 18 2017 harked the arrival of a 34 TEU-train at London Eurohub terminal in Barking. The first-ever freight rail service to complete the 12,000km journey. Taking 18 days to pass through eight countries. Travelling more than 12,000km to Britain from Yiwu in eastern China. The journey took around half the time of a similar sea voyage, and cost approximately half of the equivalent air freight journey. London is the 15th European city now served by direct trains from China, joining destinations in Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Spain on a transcontinental network of more than 40 routes.

Currently rail accounts for less than 1% of all exports from China but it’s growing fast.

Volumes of freight travelling between China and Europe by rail are rising quickly. Between 2013 and 2016 cargo traffic quintupled in weight. The volume of rail freight traffic between five Asian countries, especially China (but excluding south-east Asia) and the EU had increased from 25,000 TEU in 2014 to 145,000 TEU in 2016 − the equivalent of almost 1,800 trains. In the first half of this year the value of goods travelling by train rose by 144% compared with the same period in 2016.

New rail routes between China and Europe will change trade patterns

Despite China being the European Union’s second largest trading partner after the United States, and one of its largest single sources of exports, Europe’s reliance on cheap Chinese imports meant that in 2016 there was a trade imbalance of $US 174bn. Currently European exports to China are concentrated on machinery and equipment, cars, aircraft and chemicals. However, there’s a strong demand in China, particularly in the west of the country, for high-end European goods such as fashion items and premium frozen food products, could stimulate interest in faster rail shipments.

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