China Railway Express to Europe
The launch of a rail freight service from the Chinese city Chongqing via the Alashankou border crossing in Xinjiang through Central Asia to Europe in March 2011 ushered in a new era for freight on rail as an alternative to shipping by sea or air. China-Europe rail cargo transport has subsequently gained rapid traction, fueled by the rollout of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The importance of China’s rail link to Europe was highlighted in a white paper issued by the Chinese government in March 2015 entitled Joining Hands to Build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road – Vision and Actions. The name “China Railway Express” was formally introduced on June 8, 2016, for all Europe-bound trains.
There are currently 40 service lines running through Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Northeast border crossings to destinations in Central Asia, Russia, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe. With the launch of the Yiwu-London line in January 2017, the trans-Eurasian network now extends to 15 cities in 10 European countries. A total of 1,702 trains made the trans-continental voyage between China and Europe in 2016, up 109 percent from a year before.
The “China Railway Express” service, seen as the “Belt and Road on rail,” helps boost connectivity between China and the rest of Eurasia. An interconnected network has begun to replace uncoordinated individual cargo lines. In addition to offering freight transport solutions, it contributes to flows of global investment, resources, technology and skilled personnel, and facilitates global cross-sector collaboration.