A freight train departs from Chongqing for Myanmar in April. TANG YI/XINHUA
New alternative cuts nearly half of time needed before, saves costs for traders
Having run on the rails for 13 days, the first freight train serving a new route linking Chongqing municipality in Southwest China and Southeast Asian nations reached Padang Besar, Malaysia, on Thursday, with its compartments fully loaded with industrial products.
The arrival, announced by the route's operator on Monday, is seen as another milestone in enhancing ties with China's trading partners, especially the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. Prior to the opening of this route, freight took about 25 days for delivery as exports had to be sent to Shanghai first from other regions nationwide through the Yangtze River first, before reaching Penang, Malaysia by sea freight.
Now, with the addition of the International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC), a major international logistics project participated in by China and some of its trade partners, the logistics time from inland provinces to Malaysia is cut by about half.
"The operation of the new route not only enriches the logistics routes between Chongqing and Malaysia, but also helps cut logistics time and costs," said Gao Chenglin, sales manager of Yuxin'ou (Chongqing) Logistics Co, operator of the route.
According to the operator, cargo trains running on this route depart from Tuanjiecun Railway Station in Chongqing, head to the Laotian capital of Vientiane via the China-Laos Railway, then takes a rail route in Thailand before reaching Padang Besar at the northern Malaysia-Thailand border.
Launched in December 2021, the China-Laos Railway has witnessed continuous growth in passenger and freight transportation volume recently. Now, the railway has become a vital conduit between traders in 25 provincial-level regions and those in ASEAN markets.
The company is also providing customized follow-up delivery solutions for clients, such as door-to-door services, after freight trains arrive.
Chongqing, located on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, boasts key geographic advantages and is an international logistics hub. The municipality is a strategic pivot point for national development programs in western regions and is a connecting point serving the Belt and Road Initiative and the Yangtze River Economic Belt.
In March 2011, the first freight train carrying electronics made in Chongqing started its journey on the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe express line. The link, more than 11,000 kilometers long, begins in Chongqing, crosses the border at Alashankou, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and then passes through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland before reaching Duisburg, Germany.
The journey takes an average of 16 days, less than half the time of the maritime route, and makes inland Chongqing a gateway to Western markets.
The project was later adopted by many major Chinese cities and collectively referred to as the China-Europe Express.
In 2021, Yuxin'ou opened international railway trains from Chongqing to Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, and realized a seamless connection with the China-Europe Express in Chongqing, forming an international railway network that spans Europe and Asia.
Now China-Vietnam, China-Laos-Thailand and China-Myanmar international trains have become convenient channels for transportation in ASEAN and European markets, Gao said.
As a key project mapped out for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), the ILSTC is a trade and logistics passage jointly built by provincial-level regions in western China and ASEAN member states.
The land-sea transit route is based on the efficient use of a variety of transportation modes, including railways, highways and waterways.
Over the past five years, the ILSTC's logistics network has connected Europe with Southeast Asia, with Chongqing as a key rail hub, and now reaches 393 ports in 119 countries and regions.