Intermodal rail freight services are growing rapidly, with 65 routes now service 14 countries. Stefan Holmqvist, managing director of NGL Asia, talked to Dragon News about this vibrant mode and how NGL’s rail freight business has grown by several hundred percentage points, in just a few years.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a gigantic, visionary project with both pros and cons for the countries involved.

Just a few years ago, rail freight was not really an option for companies sending goods between China and Europe. Freight forwarders would use sea or air freight for almost all of their shipments.

“Since then, we have witnessed a substantial increase in rail freight,” says Stefan Holmqvist, managing director of the freight forwarding firm Norman Global Logistics Hong Kong.

“The number of routes has grown fast, services have become better, the lead times have become shorter and costs have decreased. Our rail freight business has grown by several hundred percentage points over the past couple of years and we have set up a department in Shanghai that exclusively handles rail shipments,” he says.

In May 2011, two years before President Xi Jinping announced the BRI, or the New Silk Road as it is also called, a rail route opened between Chongqing and Duisburg in Germany, marking the start of the China-Europe cargo train service.

Boosted by the BRI, the international rail network has since then been expanding rapidly. In 2018, China sent a record 6,300 cargo trains to Europe.

A total of 48 Chinese cities have launched 65 freight-train routes, reaching 14 countries and more than 40 cities in Europe in 2018.

“This rail network means that 100 million people in Europe are now connected by land transportation with an area that hosts 60 per cent of the world’s population,” says Holmqvist.
“Freight by sea and air still dominate by far but we expect a huge growth in rail freight in the coming years,” he adds.

The above is an extract of the Dragon News article “Ups and downs along the New Silk Road”
You can view the article in full here