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Rail transport from China – the current options

Rail transport from China – the current options


Demand for transport from China is gradually growing again. Due to the Coronavirus, the current situation has unfortunately become very unpredictable. This requires us to become more creative. It is important that we try to make the best possible use of all available modalities. In cases where you need goods relatively quickly, but where air freight may no longer be the most obvious solution, then rail transport offers a great alternative. While Europe and the United States are trying as best they can to fight the Coronavirus, last Saturday the first train left Wuhan since the outbreak began in China in early 2020. 



Rail transport as an alternative

China is still one of the largest export countries in the world, with demand from the Netherlands also remaining high. The best known and most commonly used modalities are still sea and air freight. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has created an unforeseen situation. Air-freight options are limited due to the cancellation of flights, with prices nudging upwards as a result. In cases where goods are needed relatively quickly, but where air freight may currently be a bit more difficult than you are used to, then rail transport offers a great alternative.


Last Saturday, the first freight train left Wuhan since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020. Borders by rail remain open and trains can therefore continue to run as before. And for now at least, rail-freight capacity is strong. In 2019 a total of 408 freight trains ran between Wuhan and Europe: 195 trains departed from the Chinese metropolis, with 213 trains arriving there from Europe.



Faster turnaround time than sea freight, less expensive than air freight

To understand the difference in lead time and costs, the frequently used Shanghai–Rotterdam route will be explained below. Different modalities may of course be chosen, of which the cheapest choice is sea freight. A container ship takes about 28 days to sail from Shanghai to Rotterdam. Including transport to and from the ports, shipments are on the road for an average of about 35 days. With an average of 3 days, air-freight is naturally a lot faster, but the rates are also higher. Sustainability is also a decisive point for many shippers.


In terms of rates and lead time, rail transport and sea-air transport lie between sea freight and air freight. From door to door, a shipment from Shanghai to Rotterdam is on the road for an average of 21 days. Which option is best for your shipment depends on the amount of goods you want to transport. With rail transport you can book both LCL and FCL. That’s why this modality is interesting for full containers but also for smaller shipments.



Experienced partner

Initially, the nearest railway connections to the Netherlands were via stations in Duisburg and Hamburg. For a large part of the Netherlands, time and cost savings were therefore minimal and as a result less interesting. However, with Tilburg as an additional terminus, rail transport from China has in recent years also become an attractive alternative for Dutch entrepreneurs.


Would you like to use rail transport for your shipment from China? Cargo Services, our local agent in China, has built up years of experience in this field. We also have a review from one of our customers on our website that you might want to read.


Please feel free to contact us so together we can work out which modality is most suitable for your shipment at this point. Of course, both the employees of Ritra Cargo in Rotterdam and those of our office at Schiphol Airport would be delighted to provide you with further information.


For information on all possible modalities, please refer to our services.


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