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Rail Link from China to Germany :: Silk Road Revived

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Update: China’s Grand Project, The Economist August 5, 2017 p. 49-50.

In 2013, Zhengzhou, a business and logistics center in Central China, became the starting point for rail transport service to Hamburg, Germany and other European ports.  The trip is a 6,436 mile (10,214-kilometer) run taking 15 to 18 days — twice as fast as shipping goods by sea.

China manufactures products for the world.  We all know that.  And it imports tons of materials and mineral resources. Trade connections between China and the major markets of Europe and North America are essential for global economic prosperity.

No one can overlook the importance of railroad infrastructure and the challenges of distance in historical economic advancement. If a country can’t get its goods to a robust marketplace with money, the economy doesn’t grow. Ship, truck and airplane transport are all part of the modern trade and transport equation, but rail is often the cheapest way to ship goods overland.

 

China was slow to build its rail system, but it is now third largest in the world.  During the past few decades, China has made lightening strides to improve its rail networks for passengers and freight. Some analysts believe the extensive new rail infrastructure may have been built too fast, given the problems along the Beijing to Tibet line.

The Mag-Lev rail connecter from Shanghai airport to the city’s terrific subway is a marvel, priced for tourists from the western hemisphere and wealthy Chinese. I also traveled on other Chinese railroads promoted as high speed, which were not.

Why Ship by Rail? Why Now?

Global Shipping Routes by GPS. Map: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/smart-takes/infographic-global-shipping-routes-mapped-using-gps-data/3605

Global Shipping Routes by GPS.
Map: Smart Planet.com

Maritime routes from Central China to Northern Europe go through the Suez Canal, because despite global warming and climate change, shipping on a great circle route over the North Pole isn’t a viable option yet. According to the information graphic, the China to Northern Europe sea route is one of the heaviest travelled routes in the world. It also goes right through pirate zone near the Horn of Africa. The Suez Canal and eastern Mediterranean, last time I checked, have issues of potential instability.

20130802_chinazug_karte

Rail link between China and Germany.
Map: DB Schenker

This land route from China to Northern Europe saves potentially 80 % of the cost compared with air shipments, and it’s about $489 cheaper on average, compared with road transportation. DB Schenker manages the transportation and logistics.

Nicknamed the New Silk Road, the route goes through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland. Zhengzhou International Inland Port Development Co Ltd is responsible for cooperating with partner rail companies in each country.

Variables affecting international rail transport include:
1) Rail loading gauge — how much weight can be tolerated on given carriers and track.
2) Track gauge — the width between the tracks.

There is broad gauge, standard or international gauge and narrow gauge. Further complicated by an array of different widths for broad gauge.

Loading gauges, couplings, container markings, and much more are encoded by the International Union of Railways, an organization created in 1922 to standardize rail transport industry practices. There are 82 active members including from Europe, Russia, China, Kazakhstan and others. The U.S. is an associate member.

With a route that travels through five or more countries, there are challenges along the route. The railroad containers have to be shifted by crane twice:

  • From Chinese rolling stock to the Russian style broad gauge line at the Kazakhstan-China border at Alashankou, in northeastern China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
  • Second transfer to standard gauge at the Polish-Belarusian border.

US Customers

Hewlett Packard was an early customer of the new rail connection. They booked the route for a major shipment of H-P computers manufactured in China destined to ship from Holland across the Atlantic Ocean to the US.

Here is a video of train route that the H-P computers traveled to Rotterdam, including crane transfer of containers from one railway track to a different gauge rail track.

I’m looking forward to the day passenger trains run the route!

Written by patwa

02/10/2013 at 1:29 am

Toronto for TIFF and Fashion

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Toronto at Night

Toronto at Night

 

 

 

The last time I enjoyed the  brisk bright nightlife district in Toronto, I was writing a story for Washington Flyer, an airport customer magazine.

 

 

 

On this recent trip,  my visit overlapped the opening week of TIFF  — Toronto International Film Festival — a bit like Cannes without the huff and Hollywood.

TIFF logoWe join the ecelictic mix of late night party mammals at the top of  Mr. Trump‘s hotel where the cocktail napkins are emblazoned with a large $ symbol.     The barman was studying for an exam, we guessed, since he was slow to loosen up and was consulting a book.

 

In the elevator going down, the vapid girl-star from the vampire flicks was nosing her thumbs into a crack berry while an assistant in a too-tight denim jacket worked media appointments on her mobile.  The big ‘ole body guard was Russian, Serb or Tra-jikastan.

Over at Four Seasons bar, the vibe was easier, but we didn’t like seeing the drink maker fish olives from the jar with his fingers.  Please!

In front of TIFF headquarters, people with and without tickets milled around in amoebic clumps, seeing and being the scene. On another day I went to Queen St. East (way East) to Jac Flash to buy  poppy strewn skinny jeans. tiff sked

At KitKat/Club Lucky  the mood is casual and off-hand chic.  Downstairs is a familiar bar; upstairs explosed brick walls, red check table cloths, cigars and single malt.  A tuxedo-wearing tenor from the London cast of Phantom might serenade the birthday girl at his table to exhuberant applause from the whole room gets into the act.  The scene for cigars and single malt.

The Old  Front St. neighborhood of downtown Toronto centers on St. Lawrence Market.  The two buildings — one 19th century, one modern — are crammed with food vendors, purveyors of gourmet bottled goods and the foodie crowd angling in for a free taste. Back in the day the market was a lot more earthy and real with Italian sons of butchers hollering out to visitors, ‘buy our sausage, not from the next guy’.

Approach the Cathedral Church of St. James, 106 King St. E. from the south through the Market Square courtyard and sculpture garden for a memorable prospect of the 306 foot tower and spire, the tallest in North America after St. Patrick’s in New York City.  2954699 city-photos.org

End the day at the ornate, opulent and sensually engaging Winter Garden. It’s all that a theatre should be.  Colored lights hang from the ceiling, real and artificial branches suspended on high create the effect of stepping into a midsummer’s night dream extending from the stage to the back of the house. I saw the interior of this theatre with a CBC radio reporter back in the day when dedicated preservation groups worked to save it from the developer’s wrecking ball. So glad it was saved.

Written by patwa

06/09/2013 at 1:40 am

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