Thursday, January 24, 2008

China-to-Germany Cargo Train Completes Trial Run in 15 Days

China-to-Germany Cargo Train Completes Trial Run in 15 Days

By Patrick Donahue

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- A cargo train arrived in Hamburg on a trial run from Beijing after making the trans-Siberian journey in 15 days, half the time it would take to transport goods by sea, and underscoring growing trade between Asia and Europe.

Today's arrival is the result of cooperation between Deutsche Bahn AG, Germany's state-owned railway, and countries along the 10,000-kilometer (6,215-mile) route. The train crossed through Mongolia, Russia, Belarus and Poland on a trip that was expected to take 20 days, Deutsche Bahn spokeswoman Kerstin Eckstein said in a phone interview from the German port city.

``The workers of the six participating railways have proved with their excellent cooperation that Asian-European freight traffic traversing Eurasia has a future,'' Deutsche Bahn Chief Executive Officer Hartmut Mehdorn said in an e-mailed statement.

While train travel between Europe and Asia has long existed on routes such as the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the cooperation of the six governments is intended to make the shipment of cargo by rail a viable alternative to sea and air transportation by scaling back bureaucracy, including lengthy border processing and a patchwork of regulatory hurdles.

Mehdorn said Deutsche Bahn aims for regular European-Asian rail traffic by the end of the decade.

Chinese exports to the European Union climbed 19 percent in 2006, while China imported 11 percent more goods from the EU.

Train transportation is quicker than moving cargo by sea and also is ``significantly'' cheaper than airlifting goods such as clothing and electronics from China, Deutsche Bahn said.

Jan. 9 Departure

The train, bearing a load of electronic equipment, clothing and shoes, left Beijing's Dongzhimen Station on the afternoon of Jan. 9 and arrived at Hamburg's Hafen Station before 10 a.m. local time. Officials from the six railways, including Mehdorn and OAO Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Yakunin, were in Hamburg to greet the train on arrival.

Deutsche Bahn said authorities along the route must iron out regulatory details such as train length, track width and differing electronic systems to make the trip smoother.

Russian and Chinese authorities, for example, have a 1,000- meter (3,280-foot) limit on train length, while Germany has a 700-meter limit, Eckstein said. That called for splitting the 49- container train in Brest, at the Polish-Belarussian border.

For the part of the journey through Russia, the cargo was moved onto different cars to travel on Russian tracks, which are almost 6 percent wider than those to the east and west, Deutsche Bahn said.

Deutsche Bahn said Europe-bound goods originating in China's interior could be transported more cheaply on the Beijing-Hamburg route than by way of China's eastern ports.

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