335 - China Europe train - FELBRail Freight

China to Europe via Turkey vs Russia

Turkey has target to attract the traffic between China and Europe which is currently being handled via Russia. Furthermore, some recent political developments may even give some advantage to “via Turkey route”.

However, the competition is not between via Russia and via Turkey routes. Competition is mainly agains oversea solutions, in the other words, sea container lines. China-Europe rail line via Russia had grown very fast in recent years, only after proposing very competitive figures in terms of cost, transit time and service quality.

Thus, even if the traffic via Russia stopped due to any reason, a solution via Turkey must have reached similar KPIs before attracting considerable volumes from this traffic.

So let’s compare what “via Russia” solutions has overcome, and what “via Turkey” solutions are capable of.


Transporting a 40’ container from China to Germany approximately costs as follows:

by Sea by Rail (via Russia) by Air Cargo
USD 3000 USD 8000 USD 37000

There’s no rate in market for a transport from China to Europe via Turkey, but we have following data to make a comparison:

There have been some trials this year from China to Georgia, and the rate is expected to be around USD 6500 if this route becomes regular.

And the container services from European side of Turkey to Central Germany offers min € 1200 (USD 1300) for terminal2terminal services.

TCDD’s rate for a 40’ container from Kars to European side is € 900 (USD 1000) in average. That would of course be less for a regular block train with additional discount for this new business.

A total rate of USD 8800 has to be decreased by at least 10% to be competitive as much as via Russia route.

Transit Time

Transit time by different modes including first and last mile trucking is as follows:

by Sea by Rail (via Russia) by Air Cargo
50 days 22 days 10 days

The main terminal to main terminal transit time by rail is 15 days for via Russia route.

It took 8 days for the train from China’s Urumqi region to Tbilisi. Urumqi is about 3000 km away from Eastern region, which will take min 3 days to cross that section in China.

Container trains from European side of Turkey to Munich complete the route in min 4 days.

A block train departing from Akhalkalaki to Europen side of Turkey has to cover around 1800 km. It may take one additional day to cross Marmara by rail ferry, or in the future by Marmaray Tunnel which will only be open during 4-5 hours in the midnight. Today, this much distance is covered in minimum 5 days.

So transit time makes around 20 days, %33 more than the transit time via Russia. This would be the biggest challange for Turkey to become an alternative to China-Europe traffic.

Cover Photo: FELB ©


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