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Railway freight express puts China-EU cooperation amid pandemic on fast track

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The China-Europe cagro train arrives at Paris, France, June 23, 2020. After a 19-day journey, a China-Europe cargo train loaded with medical materials arrived in Paris on Tuesday morning, the first freight train dedicated to transport protective materials against COVID-19 directly from China to France. (Xinhua/Xu Yongchun)

Departing from Nanchang, the capital of China’s Jiangxi province, a cargo train loaded with medical materials against COVID-19 arrived in Paris, vividly reflecting the sustained pragmatic anti-pandemic cooperation between China and Europe. Among many China-Europe express operations for transport of much-needed medical supplies since the COVID-19 outbreak, this train had run over 11,920 kilometres through seven countries before delivering some 20 million surgical masks and gloves, water-soluble bags, contactless gel dispensers and other resources, which marked the first dedicated rail transport of protective materials directly from China to France amid the pandemic.

In the meantime, two additional China-Europe freight trains carrying anti-Coronavirus supplies are on their way to Duisburg, Germany, and Madrid, Spain, respectively, expected to arrive on Saturday and Monday. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the freight trains have been playing a crucial role in supporting Europe’s anti-epidemic fight by opening “green passages” for the transport of important supplies and raw materials. From January to May, a total of 12,524 tonnes of anti-epidemic materials were sent from China to European countries by train.

Lyazid Benhami, vice-president of the Paris Association of French-Chinese Friendship, was delighted to witness the arrival of the “medical train” from China.

“In this period of health crisis, we are pleased to note that this important volume of materials transported [to France], including 20 million surgical masks and protective equipment, is up to meet the demand and needs of consumers and the market,” he said.

The smooth operation of this anti-virus supply train has proven the feasibility, punctuality and safety of this land corridor with lower delivery costs than air freight, but less time consumption and more flexibility than sea freight, said Yao Hongzhi, general manager of COSCO Shipping (France) Agency.

“Against the backdrop of current international anti-pandemic cooperation, China-Europe freight trains have fully demonstrated their advantages in transporting medical materials,” Yao added.

Carrying 35 containers of COVID-19 control and prevention materials, all of which were manufactured in central China’s Hubei province, a freight train from Wuhan, the provincial capital, is expected to arrive in the western German city of Duisburg, a logistics hub in central Europe on Saturday, before running further towards Hamburg. “The original mode of transportation was container shipping to Europe, but now the products need to be delivered as soon as possible,” said Gao Zandong, deputy general manager of COSCO Shipping Lines (Wuhan). Gao noted that only a little bit more than 10 days were needed to transport much-needed medical materials from Hubei to Germany.

On June 29, Madrid will also greet a freight train from the city of Yiwu, in East China’s Zhejiang province, carrying 86 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) with about 257 tonnes of cargo, including 25.05 million face masks and 400,000 protective suits. Carlos Santana, who is responsible for the company which operates the Yiwu-Madrid line in Spain, told Xinhua that railway transport has been proven to be a reliable means of importing health materials from China in the midst of the pandemic.

Chinese Ambassador to Spain Wu Haitao said the Yiwu-Madrid express with medical materials is a living proof of international anti-Coronavirus cooperation.Beyond the contributions to underpinning anti-pandemic actions, the rail connection between China and Europe, since the restoration of its regular operation, has also brought an impetus to economic resumption in the Eurasian continent amid the pandemic by stabilising trade and supply chains. From January to May, the number and shipments of China-Europe freight trains surged by 28 percent and 32 percent year-on-year respectively, according to the China State Railway Group. Notably, freight trains made a new high of 1,033 trips in May, up 43 percent year-on-year, transporting a record of 93,000 TEUs.

China-Europe freight trains open an opportunity for boosting trade between France and China, Benhami noted, adding: “The ‘win-win’ approach is very real for everyone, including the environment, businesses and consumers.” Xulio Rios, director of the Observatory of Chinese Politics in Spain, said the railway connection between Yiwu and Madrid offers an important route for goods traffic, from medical materials to items for everyday use during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

From Santana’s perspective, rail transport from Asia continues to upgrade from moving small-sized, low-cost goods towards delivering goods with added value, because China is exporting goods with added value in greater quantities, such as watches, Bluetooth devices, automobile parts, electrical goods, and so on. From Spain, he added, top-end consumer goods such as extra virgin olive oil, wine and cured ham are brought to China by rail as well, with clear advantages of being speedy, ecological and cost-effective.

Laszlo Mosoczi, secretary of state for transport policy at the Hungarian Ministry of Innovation and Technology, said that “as a transit country, Hungary benefits from freight traffic from Asia to Europe and Hungary can become the logistics centre of the region.”China is willing to join hands with the European side to push for a more stable and mature relationship in the post-pandemic era and lift bilateral ties to a new height, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on video with EU leaders.

By Shen Zhonghao in Frankfurt, Xu Yongchun and Liu Fang in Paris, Zhu Sheng in Berlin, Feng Junwei in Madrid, and Yuan Liang in Budapest. XINHUA

 

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