Sichuan capital transports itself to new era of trade and travel

Authors: Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph


The rapid development of Chengdu’s railway networks has led to a surge in trade between locally based companies and European countries.
The rapid development of Chengdu's railway networks has led to a surge in trade between locally based companies and European countries.
In line with China's westward opening-up and the Belt and Road Initiative, Chengdu launched an express rail route on April 26, 2013, linking it to Lodz, Poland.
The Chengdu-Europe Express Rail, stretching 6,100 miles, is the fastest and most frequently used direct freight route from China to Europe. A one-way trip takes only 10 days, after which cargo is distributed to customers via rail and road networks throughout Europe in less than three days, according to the Chengdu Port and Logistics Office.
Express rail is much faster than alternative sea routes, giving Chengdu a distinct advantage over China’s other eastern coastal cities when it comes to trading with Europe.
In the past three years the express rail has run more than 200 journeys, transporting Dell laptops, iPads, Philips lighting products, auto parts and home appliances to Europe, and bringing back mechanical and electrical products, food and beverages.
Last year products made in Chengdu worth $300 million were exported to Europe via the express rail, Chengdu Customs said.
Many companies in provinces around Chengdu, and even those in eastern coastal cities and provinces such as Shanghai, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong, also chose to transport their goods on the express rail. On March 25 last year a train carrying 20,000 semi-finished color TVs made at TCL's Huizhou plant in Guangdong province headed for Europe on the express rail. The TVs were to be finished in Poland and eventually sold throughout Europe.
Since last January TCL has transported 468 metric tons of cargo worth 53.72 million yuan ($8.3 million) via the express rail, Chengdu Customs said. “We used to send the semi-finished TVs to our factory in Poland by sea, which takes 27 days,” said Liu Guifang, project director of TCL's operations center. “The express rail saves us a lot of time, cutting transport time to around 10 days.” Liu said the express rail gives her company a more direct and convenient channel to do business with its European customers.
The company plans to produce TVs for export at its Chengdu plant and export them weekly via the express rail.
The city is playing a greater role in collaboration and exchanges between China and Europe as it advances the idea of a “Chengdu-Europe Plus” strategy, which refers to further rail connections with both domestic and European cities.
On April 30 an express train carrying 41 containers fully loaded with auto parts, food and wine departed from Kutno, Poland, for Chengdu, after an opening ceremony of the Chengdu express rail service.
Kutno railway station, in central Poland, is one of Europe’s most important logistics hubs. “Kutno railway station is an important logistics hub giving Chengdu additional links to Nuremberg in Germany and Tilburg in the Netherlands,” an official at the Chengdu Port and Logistics Office said.
Under the Chengdu-Europe Plus strategy, the express rail will connect with more logistics hubs in Europe, while in China it is expanding to Chinese cities including Shanghai, Shenzhen, Xiamen and Kunming. The express rail is expected to run 400 journeys this year, helping to strengthen both Chengdu’s strategic position in the Belt and Road Initiative and Sino-European economic and trade ties, the official said.
To boost its collaboration with Central Asia, Chengdu opened the Chengdu-Central Asia Express Rail in July 2014, allowing much more rapid access to countries in Central Asia within nine to 11 days.
The city is also upgrading its domestic railway network. By 2020 it will be possible to travel between Chengdu and Chongqing and other nearby cities within an hour, major cities such as Xi'an, Kunming, Guiyang and Wuhan within four hours, and to the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and the Bohai Rim area within eight hours.
Chengdu also improved its transport links to the Yangtze River and developed road-river transportation routes along the river through collaboration with port cities including Yibin, Luzhou and Wuhan.
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