DB Schenker is planning to launch scheduled container rail services between Germany and inland China later this year aimed at shippers that currently use ocean shipping.
The logistics unit of Germany's Deutsche Bahn rail company, completed a successful test run last week by a container train that took 16 days to travel from Chongqing in Sichuan province to the port of Duisburg in the Ruhr industrial belt.
Schenker said the service, which was commissioned by a "global company," completed the 6,450-mile journey in half the time it would have taken a container ship on the Asia-Europe sea route.
By The Numbers: Asia-Europe Westbound Container Traffic
The train took a route that went south of Mongolia, through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland to Germany.
Previous test trains followed the entire route north of Mongolia, taken by Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway, which is 1,250 miles longer, but involves fewer customs formalities.
"Transporting the containers [from Chongqing] to a Chinese seaport alone takes around three days," Schenker said.
"By the time they get there, the train to Duisburg will have already covered half of its journey through China along the Eurasian Land Bridge."
The majority of goods exported from Chongqing, an industrial city of 30 million people, currently take the sea route while some are shipped by air.
"Most important of all, the time taken for the journey from China's interior, the train's arrival in the middle of Germany and the possibility of delivering the containers from here to their destinations quickly and safely demonstrates the attractiveness of our service," said Karl-Friedrich Rausch, member of the management board of DB Mobility Logistics.
"We hope with the journey now completed, we have once again convinced our customers of the advantages of such a train."
Rausch said DB Schenker is planning to start regular services in 2011 if there is "sufficient demand."
DB Schenker originally planned to launch a weekly two way rail service targeted at car manufacturers, chemicals companies and white goods manufacturers, in February 2009.
But the service was pulled at the last minute as Europe-China trade stalled amid the global economic crisis and a slump in ocean freight rates eroded rail's competitive advantage.
-- Contact Bruce Barnard at firstname.lastname@example.org.