Fastest China-Europe train so far? The secret lies in the border crossing

A new rail link was launched recently on the New Silk Road connecting Wuwei, in the Gansu province, with Hamburg in Germany. Unlike others, this new service avoids the busy Malaszewicze border crossing. Instead, it follows a different route into the EU via the Bruzgi-Kuznica corridor on the Belarusian/Polish border and arrives in Poland in just 13 days. In the words of Gansu Platform Company: “It has become the fastest China-Europe train”.
The new train departed from Wuwei loaded with epidemic prevention supplies, ceramic supplies, LED mirrors, small household appliances, electronic products and Christmas supplies. The total weight of the goods is 622,100 tons, and their value equals 16,108,400 Chinese Yuan (approximately 2 million euros).

“The number of China-Europe trains has surged, resulting in slower transit and less efficiency along the New Silk Road. Due to the delays, many shippers have turned to sea transport again. However, the successful opening of the new route between Wuwei-Hamburg showcases how China-Europe trains are undoubtedly the lifeline of international trade between China and Europe,” explained a representative of Gansu Platform Company, responsible for the new service.

Why is Malaszewicze so congested?

Malszewicze, on the border between Belarus and Poland, has always handled the majority of the China-Europe traffic, with several alternative routes springing up in recent years to share some of the freight pressure. Nevertheless, Malaszewicze remains the most popular route. In terms of westbound traffic, its share for 2020 was 79 per cent and 68 per cent for 2021. Regarding eastbound traffic, its share has been 90 per cent and 82 per cent respectively during the last two years.

This situation has led congestion in Malaszewicze to become the norm, with the average waiting time currently being around ten days and sometimes as long as 16 days. As you can imagine, entering the EU in 15 days sounds like an unrealistic luxury.

Faster gateways

Apart from Malaszewicze, there are three more operating transhipment points for China-Europe trains at the Polish/Belarusian border. One of them is Bruzgi-Kuznica, located in the Grodno region of Belarus, which is used by the new Wuwei-Hamburg service and which received the first China-Europe train back in July 2017. This section of the railway has both an electrified standard-gauge railway and a non-electrified broad-gauge railway, which trains can use to change tracks.

Seventy kilometres away from Bruzgi-Kuznica is the Svisloch/Siemianówka border point, which opened in March 2018 by receiving the first Chengdu – Lodz train. In addition, at the end of 2019, Belarusian Railways reopened the Visoko-Litovsk/Czeremcha border point, which was abandoned in 2011, to cope with the surge in Central European cargo. Located fifty kilometres north-west of Brest, the site is equipped with a double-gauge track. It is used to handle bulk cargo, allowing trains passing through the main border crossing points to be partially diverted there to reduce congestion.

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