DB_Cargo_route_Hefei_EDITmwDB Cargo (formerly DB Schenker Rail) has signed an agreement with the municipal government of Hefei in China aimed at starting a direct rail freight route between there and Hamburg in Germany next month.

According to DB Cargo, in its first stage, the new rail service will start with one train a week at the beginning of October carrying freight westbound only. DB Cargo said that freight would be varied and include photovoltaic components, computers and textiles. The train will run via Dostyk (Kazakhstan), Moscow (Russia) and Warsaw (Poland) covering 10,600km on a 15-day journey across the so-called ‘land bridge’ connecting Europe and China.

However, according to a spokesperson for DB Cargo, at a later stage the company plans to extend the service to cover eastbound shipments as well, which will include automotive parts. Automotive parts are more likely to be moving in an eastbound direction though DB Cargo said it had the expertise to offer the service for any vehicle component freight moving in the other direction.

The rail service will be organised by Trans Eurasia Logistics, a joint venture between Deutsche Bahn and Russian Railways. Trans Eurasia Logistics has been offering train connections between Europe and a host of Chinese regions for several years. For example, back in 2014 it started a service for vehicle shipments between the Germany’s inland port of Duisberg to Chongqing. DB Cargo’s spokesperson said the company was “very experienced in transportation of automotive components on board of [its] block trains”.

Investment in Hefei"We are thrilled that we can continue to expand rail transport with Hefei along the traditional Silk Road route,” said Dr Jürgen Wilder, CEO of DB Cargo. “The constantly rising transport volumes of the trans-Eurasian land bridge demonstrate that railway has established itself as a competitive alternative to other modes of freight transport. I firmly believe that more customers will use rail services to transport their goods to and from China in the future."

The Hefei municipal government is providing DB Cargo with full support to run the block train between Hefei and Hamburg. Hefei Municipal People’s Government and DB Cargo signed an agreement on September 5th at Deutsche Bahn’s headquarters Berlin. That included a strategic cooperation agreement on China-Europe (Hefei-Hamburg) international freight trains, where both sides agreed on close work together in order to make Hefei products affordable and reliable for the market.

“We are pleased and proud that the Hefei government has decided on DB Cargo and Trans Eurasia Logistics as partners,” said DB Cargo’s spokesperson. “The Hefei government is interested in developing the economy in this region and the Hefei-Hamburg block train enables them to bring more investments and attract more attention to this region from the Chinese companies as well as from foreign companies.”

Hefei is a freight hub for customers from eastern and southern Chinese regions and the government wants to contribute to Beijing's Silk Road project as part of the country’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy. That initiative is designed to open new routes linking Europe, Asia, and Africa and, along with the Silk Road includes the ‘Maritime Silk Road’ linking China’s ports with the African coast.

BMW extends contractSince 2011 DB Cargo has also been making regular rail shipments of CKD kits for BMW from its Leipzig logistics centre in Germany to BMW’s joint venture assembly plant in Shenyang, north-eastern China. The parts are supplied from the BMW’s Leipzig and Regensburg plants and travel via Poland and Russia on the 11,000km trans-Siberian route.

Last month BMW signed an extension to that contract and reported that it had reduced the journey time by six days, meaning it is now almost twice as fast as moving freight by ocean. The new contract includes two trains a week and a volume of 2,500 containers per year. DB Cargo has already transported more than 15,000 containers since the set up of the service in 2010.

"We are delighted with the new contract and our successful long-term to cooperation with BMW for the traffic to China,” said Andreas Busemann, chief sales officer of DB Cargo. "We are constantly developing the concept and have reduced the transport time from 23 days to under 17 days. That now means door-to-door times of less than 20 days is possible.”