Major China-Europe railway steams ahead with continued growth

(People's Daily Online) 10:42, August 08, 2023

A photo shows a freight train running on the Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe freight train route linking Yiwu in east China's Zhejiang Province and Madrid, Spain – Europe's largest small-commodity distribution center – via northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Photo/Hu Xiaofei)

A major China-Europe freight train route linking Yiwu, known as “the world’s supermarket” in east China’s Zhejiang Province, and Europe’s largest small-commodity distribution center in Madrid, Spain, has steadily developed since its launch.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of both the launch of the first freight train via the Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe freight train route, known as Yixin'ou in Chinese, and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Yixin'ou route spans more than 13,000 kilometers and launched its maiden trip on Nov. 18, 2014. It is China's only rail link to Europe run by a privately-funded company.

On July 29, a China-Europe freight train loaded with 110 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers of various goods, such as automotive parts, electric bicycles, and photovoltaic modules, departed from Yiwu West Railway Station in Yiwu for Madrid. This marked the 10,000th trip by China-Europe freight trains this year. The train will pass through the Alataw Pass in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and arrive in Madrid around Aug. 19.

A freight train loaded with 110 twenty-foot equivalent unit containers of goods departs from Yiwu West Railway Station in Yiwu, east China’s Zhejiang Province, July 29, 2023. (Photo/Qian Xusheng)

The 10,000-trip mark was reached 22 days earlier than last year. Trains have also transported over 1.08 million TEUs of goods this year, a 27 percent increase from a year ago.

"The 10,000th trip of China-Europe freight trains this year was made via the Yixin'ou route. It's a great honor for us," said Ye Qiuran, vice president of operations at Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Co., Ltd., the operator of the Yixin'ou route.

"The Yixin'ou route is a very important early result of the BRI," said Huang Wei, who was the driver of the very first train on the Yixin'ou route.

A photo shows Huang Wei, a train driver on the Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe freight train route. (Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

"I'm proud to be a China-Europe freight train driver. I can make participating in the BRI’s construction a lifelong career," added Huang.

Three to four trains depart from Yiwu for Madrid via the Yixin'ou route each day. The ratio of return trains to Yiwu via the route reached 42.8 percent in 2022, up from 9.6 percent in 2015.

Zhou Huawei, an official with Yiwu Customs, noted that the number of freight train trips via the Yixin'ou route handled by customs in recent years has shown rapid growth momentum.

The rapid growth of the China-Europe freight train route can be attributed to its unique advantages: trains are safer, faster, more convenient, and environmentally friendly, and are less likely to be affected by natural conditions. Additionally, Yiwu's status as the "world's capital of small commodities" provides industrial advantages.

A photo shows a Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe freight train loaded with goods containers. (Photo/Hu Xiaofei)

"In the early days, most goods exported through the Yixin'ou route were small commodities. Nowadays, the structure of export products via the route has changed, with the proportion of high-tech products increasing gradually. Exports of high-value goods, including smart devices, solar panels, automobiles and spare parts, and large medical equipment, have increased markedly," Zhou explained.

Zhou further stated that imports from Europe via the Yixin'ou route have expanded from consumer goods like wine and dairy to more diversified products, such as mechanical and electrical products and high-end furniture.

So far, Yiwu Customs has handled over 6,000 freight trains via the Yixin'ou route, becoming an integral part of BRI development.

To ensure the smooth operation of China-Europe freight trains, Yiwu Customs offers 24/7 customs clearance services alongside other facilitation measures. For instance, it has adopted the H986 large container inspection system that uses X-ray imaging to scan containers. These measures have reduced the customs clearance time for cargo transported via the Yixin'ou route to just 10 minutes.

A photo shows Yiwu Railway Port in Yiwu, east China's Zhejiang Province. (People's Daily Online/Fang Pengyimeng)

After years of development, the Yixin'ou route has opened 18 international freight routes and reached over 160 cities in more than 50 countries across Europe and Asia. As a result, China's "circle of friends" for economic and trade exchanges along the Yixin'ou route has continued to expand.

"The Yixin'ou route has promoted high-level opening up and enabled the transportation of over 10,000 types of goods," said Bi Fei, deputy general manager of Yiwu Land Railway Port Development Co., Ltd.

It has facilitated convenience for people in countries along the Belt and Road and played a vital role in deepening international economic and trade cooperation that is mutually beneficial and win-win, Bi added.

According to statistics, freight trains running on the Yixin'ou route have made 1,044 trips so far this year, reflecting an increase of 14.7 percent year on year.

(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Liang Jun)


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