Freight trains have become an important link between China and European, Central Asian, and South Asian countries, as Lanzhou, capital city of northwest China’s Gansu province, gears up to become an international trade and logistics center along the Belt and Road.
In 2015, thirty-eight freight trains set out from Lanzhou, and the number increased to 104 in 2016. By mid-July this year, the number of freight trains had surpassed the whole number of last year, said Xu Chunhua, director of Lanzhou International Trade and Logistic Park.
The park, planned in 2013 and put into use in 2016, was aimed at becoming an international logistics pivot under the Belt and Road Initiative and an important platform to open up the country westward.
Last year, the park handled 5 million tons of cargo worth $300 million in total. This year, the park plans to complete 8 million tons of cargo valued at $1 billion, Xie said.
“The park has five core functions with a total investment of 10.5 billion yuan ($1.6 billion),” said Luo Zhe, deputy director of the park’s administrative committee. Other services, such as containers, special cargo, and bulk cargo have been formulated and put into operation, Luo added.
To date, more than 4,000 freight train journeys have been made between 28 Chinese cities and European and central Asian cities, and about 9 journeys are made per day, said Chang Ming, deputy director of the freight department under the Lanzhou Railway Bureau.
Lanzhou is the main junction of several railways and is a must-go spot linking Chinese cities with their European, Central Asian and South Asian counterparts, Chang pointed out.
In January 2016, the Gansu Government and the General Administration of Customs signed a memorandum on cooperation, agreeing to forge the Lanzhou Railway container center into a national station for China-Europe freight trains.
Under the framework of the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, China has opened several freight services between Gansu and European and Central Asian cities in recent years.
In August 2015, a freight train service between Hamburg, Germany, and Lanzhou opened. It takes about 15 days to travel the track to Hamburg, fifteen days less than travel by sea.
In 2016, the Lanzhou International Trade and Logistic Park launched international freight train services to Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Two to three journeys are made every week and 104 journeys have been made by 4,455 trains so far, delivering 103,000 tons of exports with a total value of $198 million.
China’s freight train services have also connected Nepal and Pakistan, and radiated India, Bangladesh, and other South Asian countries. Last year, 295 trains made 10 journeys between China and the South Asian countries, delivering over 10,000 tons of exports with a total value of $88.5 million.
Currently, Lanzhou is preparing to launch a second freight train service to South Asia. The new line will start from Lanzhou and travel through Kashgar in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the Gwadar Port of Pakistan.