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The New Silk Road

11 2011

Several successful projects to launch a new container train between Asia and Europe have been realized this year. But their future popularity depends on solving a number of problems.

A new train Saule («Sun") was launched on October 28, 2011, on the route of Chongqing (China) - Dostyk (Kazakhstan) - Klaipeda (Lithuania) - Antwerp (Belgium). The total distance is 11 thousand kilometers. As Vice-Minister of Transport of Lithuania Arunas Štaras said on November 1, the train reached the Sino-Kazakh border and customs procedures at the station Dostyk were carried out in a record time - 4 hours 20 minutes. On November 10, the train was already on the territory of Lithuania. The entire route from China to Belgium will be surmounted in two weeks. Organizers of the new train were able to transport computer equipment, in future they expect a variety of products - from consumer electronics to textiles, raw materials and even food.

Another new project is a container-contrailer train "Baltic Transit 2". It was agreed about its running at the I International transport and logistics business forum "Silk Road", which took place during the Days of Transport of Kazakhstan - 2011. The agreement was signed between JSC "NC Kazakhstan Temir Joly”, RAS “Latvian Railways” (LDz), JSC “Estonian Railways” (Eesti Raudtee) and a transport group “FESCO". Considering the advantages of a consolidated transportation of the product, the project will contribute to ensuring a high quality and competitive service through the ports of the Republic of Estonia to the station Almaty-1, 2, stations of the East Kazakhstan region of Kazakhstan and to Alamedin station in Kyrgyz Republic.

A block train "Baltic Transit" provides regular service since 2003. It delivers goods from Baltic ports in the states of Central Asia. "Baltic-Transit-2" will increase the container transportation from the ports of Baltic countries to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and in future - to China and in the opposite direction. As the Minister of Transport and Communications of Kazakhstan Berik Kamaliyev said, the launch of a new project is planned for December 2011.

According to Director General of JSC "TransContainer" Peter Baskakov it is supposed to carry out a test shipment of the new train Dostyk - Dobra (Slovakia) in the early 2012. At present time "TransContainer" is consulting with foreign partners, in particular with "Cargo Slovakia" about the project "2 D". The Kazakh side, in turn, has already established competitive rates.

One of the biggest projects of 2011 is a container train Chongqing - Duisburg, which was called "New Silk Road". Its first trip was in March 2011. The route originates in Chongqing (Southwest China), and on the Alashankou (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China) station it joins the Kazakh railway. Then, through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland joins the German Duisburg. The project was implemented with the participation of the government of Chongqing, CRIMT (China), "Kaztransservice" JSC (Kazakhstan), JSC "TransContainer", "BELINTERTRANS-transport-logistic center" of the Belarusian Railway (Belarus), DB Schenker Berlin and Trans Eurasia Logistics (Germany).

The length of the route Chongqing - Dostyk - Iletsk - Brest - Duisburg is more than 11 thousand kilometers - less than the well-known Chinese Eastern Railway (CER) by 1 sq km. From March to September 2011 14 trains with computer equipment of Hewlett-Packard company (1168 TEU) proceeded through it. The distance was overcome on average in 17.8 days (the best result - 15 days) at the speed of 663 km a day.

The results of trains passing were carefully analyzed and as a result a number of problematic points were identified. Firstly, the safety and the security of cargo containers on the whole route (when running on the territory of Russia there has been a burglary of laptops from the container in the train number 2). Secondly, maintenance of speed of trains on the territory of China, Poland and Germany. For example, the train number 8 arrived at the station Duisburg with a delay of two days because of the broken valve at the station Malaszewicze, and due to the problems with the availability of locomotives of DB, and construction activities on the border of Frankfurt on the Oder, there was a delay of the train number 11. Third, mistakes were made when making customs documents on the station Alashankou, which caused a delay of three trains - 3, 12 and 14. Fourth, the need to create an effective pass-through rates competitive with the alternative routes. Fifth, the absence of loading of containers on return, which leads to additional costs.

The main directions of the development of this project, on the opinion of the President of JSC "Kaztransservice" Askar Sagyndykova, are the increase of the average speed, the usage of a single waybill CIM / SMGS, the reduction of time for handling of containers at border crossings, to attract new traffic and increased marketing efforts to ensure backward upload. Some steps have already been taken. Partners - the organizers of cruising container train Chongqing - Duisburg have signed a memorandum providing for preservation of goods in containers, design of transit declarations within the Customs Union, the use of standardized CIM / SMGS.

The tariffs issue is the most problematic of course. If the Chinese government hasn’t been subsidizing a substantial amount of this initiative, the cargo owner would have been sending goods at a loss. This aspect is to be settled. It may be possible to develop a common position and to start a discount mechanism. China has now insisted on a joint reduction of interest rates. "This is a single product, and no party alone should be here to conduct its personal politics" - adds the vice-president of JSC "NC Kazakhstan Temir Joly" Erhat Iskaliev. KTZ and RZD now arrange the formation of a stable tariff environment for 5-7 years.

In 2012 the "The New Silk Road" train will become regular and will run at least once a decade. There are also more ambitious intentions - to bring the frequency of sending it up to 35 times per month. But in that case many problems have to be solved, particularly with providing rolling stock.

In general, the potential cargo flow from West China to Europe is estimated at 1.5 million TEU. According to the opinion of the President of JSC "Kedentransservice" Edil Iskakov, which is shared by most experts, the railroad can count on up to 300 thousand TEU by 2015, but to reach that number border crossings have to be continued developing, issues of freight safety have to be solved, as well as more attractive conditions should be offered. 

                                                                                           According to www.rzd-partner.ru