Gefco has handled its first dedicated block train of containerised automotive parts between China and France.

The transport and logistics provider coordinated the 11,000km journey of 40ft containers along the Silk Road trade corridor, negotiating with railway partners in different countries and deploying forwarding teams in Shanghai, Moscow and Paris.

The train left Wuhan on November 3rd. Containers of palletised automotive parts were delivered to the Dourges Terminal in France on November 22nd for distribution to Française de Mécanique, a Groupe PSA subsidiary in Douvrain, in the north of the country.

From China, the train took a route through Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus, continuing through Poland and Germany before arriving at the Dourges terminal. United Transport and Logistics Company (UTLC) provided services on the track between Dosytk in Kazakhstan and Brest in Belarus, which is part of the 1520 rail zone (the standard track gauge in Russia).

Gefco has been managing rail shipments from Asia to Europe for more than four years. A spokesperson for the company said the latest service was a very important and positive sign for its French and Chinese customers because it would improve cost and lead time for exports and imports.

Gefco is aiming to manage the service on a weekly basis, added the spokesperson.

“We have regular flows and we are looking for other customers to ‘mutualise’ the flows and make this block train regular,” the spokesperson told Automotive Logistics. “We are operating more and more exports from Europe and especially from France to China with high value automotive parts, but also food products which are very sensitive to lead time.”

The parts delivered to Douvrain have traditionally been moved by sea; Gefco will continue to use that mode but said the rail option would be used for urgent flows and stock reduction reasons.

The service builds on China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ economic trade plan, which is designed to boost infrastructure and trade links with Europe, Central Asia and Africa, including overland road and rail between Europe and Asia. The China-Europe rail link through Russia and Central Asia has seen a fast rise in services over the past two years.

“[Gefco] Group has been supporting the growing trade between the two continents as well as container deliveries by rail, continuously looking for new cost-effective, flexible, reliable and secure solutions to meet customers’ requirements and support their business development,” said Anthony Gunn, executive vice-president of Gefco Freight Forwarding.

The company said using rail from China to Europe had competitive advantages for economic and ecological reasons for time-critical goods, including automotive and electronic parts. Likewise, there were advantages for shipping spare parts and consumer goods on the return flow, according to Gefco.

“Rail is a secure and reliable solution that is ten times cheaper than air and twice as fast as sea transport,” said the spokesperson. “It is also environmentally friendly as it produces five times less CO2 than air or maritime.”

Last month, Kuehne + Nagel (KN) expanded its Eurasia Express rail service to take automotive shipments between China, South Korea and other south-east Asian countries to Europe.

At the end of June, the first dedicated rail shipment of China-made Volvo S90s rolled into the Wielingendok at the Belgian port of Zeebrugge after a 20-day journey from Daqing.