China to Europe Train at Manzhouli. Photo: FELB ©

Iron Silk Road from China to Europe via Russia in 15 Days

While Turkey is trying to step forward in constructing Iron Silk Road by mainly two projects, Marmaray and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, Russia and Kazakhstan have both proceeded a lot about the rail connection between China and Europe.

There are three alternatives in this Silk Road corridor via Russia:

Eastern Route : Mainly supported by sea connections from South Korea, Shanghai and Japan. The distance from Vostochny Port (Russia) to Brest (the border terminal between Belarus and Poland) is 10090 km. 9500 km of the total route is in Russia, mainly using Trans-Siberian railway (+1300 km for Duisburg/Germany).

China - Europe Eastern Railway Route. Map: ecotransit.org
China – Europe Eastern Railway Route. Map: ecotransit.org

Northern Route : Mainly serving to norhern regions of China (Changchun, Shenyang, Beijing etc). Route passes from China to Russia using the Manzhouli/Zabaikalsk border stations. The route is 8600 km from Changchun to Brest using again the Trans-Siberian railway.

China - Europe Northern Railway Route. Map: ecotransit.org
China – Europe Northern Railway Route. Map: ecotransit.org

Southern Route : This route is mainly used by central regions (Chongqing etc) and north-west part (Urumqi etc) of China. The route used Dostyk border station in China/Kazakh border, and follows Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus to reach to Brest border station of Belarus. The distance to Brest is 5750 km from Urumqi (+3200 km from Chongqing).

China - Europe Southern Railway Route. Map: ecotransit.org
China – Europe Southern Railway Route. Map: ecotransit.org

Although 3 lines are differing from each other in terms of length of route and number of border-crossings, they provide very similar services in terms of transit time: 18-20 days for block trains and 21-25 days for single container shipments.

Several European logistic companies (DB Schenker, PCC Intermodal etc) have organized the trains between Europe and Belarus. The route between China and Belarus, on the other hand, is organized by two main companies. Far East Land Bridge, a 100% subsidary of RZD Group is active especially on Trans-Siberian line where YuXinOu Logistics, a joint venture between Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Germany has mainly focused on southern route.

All container transports are by now accompanied by CIM/SMGS Common Consignment Note which simplifies the border-crossing.

Both Russia and Kazakhstan have been working to strengthen these connections to get a share from the large pie of China-Europe container traffic of about 20 million TEU annually. The container traffic by rail via these routes is estimated to reach to only 25k TEU until now.

Photo: FELB ©

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