There are two existing freight rail links between China and Europe. One is between Chengdu in Sichuan Province and Lodz in Poland. Another is between Chongqing and Duisburg in Germany. Both were established in recent years. The 9,826 km Chengdu – Lodz link was established in April 2013. Each trip takes 14 days, which is only one third of the time taken by sea. Freight cost is estimated to be reduced by 75%. The 10,800 km (6,750 miles) Chongqing – Duisburg route was established in July 2011. Each trip takes 13 days. The annual freight volume handled via this link in 2012 was 2 million metric tons. The estimated future peak volume is 15 million metric tons.
In 2012, the China-Germany cargo trains, “roughly eight football fields [800 yards or meters] long”, ran weekly. In early 2014 it runs three times weekly and, “to accommodate a sevenfold increase volume since 2012 — soon will go daily”. By 2020 trade with China could top that Germany has with the Netherlands and France, in 2014 the top two German trade partners.
According to the European Commission, as of March 2014, the EU is China’s biggest trading partner. Rail transport is becoming increasingly important for trade between Europe and China.
Rail shipping is half of the cost of air shipping and is faster than ships.
The China-EU freight trains average about 17 miles per hour. There are freight trains that go up to 50-60mph at times but that is unusual. Average freight train speeds in the US are 23-25 mph. Freight trains often have to wait 25 hours on journeys because of traffic or to let other trains pass. The China-EU route likely has delays in Kazakhstan and other countries with different gauge (width) rail.
Something traveling at 50 mph for the whole 6,750 miles would get from China to Germany in about 5.5 days.
Oil-rich Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest economy, forecasts its gross domestic product to expand by 6 percent this year after a 5-percent rise in 2012.
Kazakh state railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) has estimated that cargo transit via its network would reach 35 million metric tons by 2020 and eventually rise to 50 million metric tons.
Kazakhstan will increase oil production to 1.74 million barrels per day in 2014 and 1.87 million barrels per day in 2015, the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Short-Term Energy Outlook said.
“EIA expects Kazakhstan’s production to grow by 0.09 million barrels per day in 2014, and by 0.13 million barrels per day in 2015 as output ramps up at the Kashagan oil field,” the agency said.