Environmentally friendly, cost-effective and fast: Transport for your China trade by rail

For trade between China and Europe, rail transport has established a new transport route along the New Silk Road in recent years. Containers are transported by rail to their destination between the two continents with a clear time advantage over sea freight. Dirk Schneider, project manager for the rail solution, among other things at Röhlig Logistics, explained the logistical advantages of rail transport for companies – using the example of the transport route from Europe-China and back.


The gigantic New Silk Road infrastructure project, often referred to as “One Belt, One Road”, was implemented by the Chinese government to create an intercontinental trade and infrastructure network. This led to the creation of a rail network from China in the direction of Europe and the Indian subcontinent and towards the Middle East and Africa.

Why is this relevant – and what do companies gain from it? Because after all, there is the sea route and air freight for trading with China.

Many of our customers ask themselves the same question (and rightly so) – and then the customers ask us. Our answer to this is relatively simple: Transport by rail achieves speed and cost efficiency at the same time. Many globally active companies, whether SMEs or large enterprises – and many of our customers – make intensive use of container rail transport for their trade with China because it is faster than sea freight. In addition, the costs incurred by the time-saving rail transport are significantly lower than those for air freight. Many companies therefore also use rail for FCL and LCL transports between Europe and China. FCL stands for Full Container Load while LCL stands for Less Container Load if you do not need an entire container. In technical jargon, this is also referred to as the consolidation of individual transported goods into a more compact whole.

While in 2013 there were still 80 train connections between Germany and China, by 2018 there were already more than 6000.

Source: China State Railway Group Co

Rail transport to China is almost twice as fast as by sea

The advantage that rail transport offers over sea transport in trading with China lies primarily in the significantly shorter transport time.

The time saved in terms of transit time compared to sea freight is thus between ten and 15 days, which  usually takes around 28 days, although waiting times in Shanghai and Hamburg have not yet been taken into account.

The transit time is between 15 and 20 days, depending on which point in China and to which destination in Europe the transport goes.

The time-tested sea containers are used for rail transport

Sea containers are typically used for rail transport in trading with China. Companies can therefore pack and load containers just as they would for sea transport. Rail transport is even particularly suitable for sensitive goods due to the more gentle conditions, and many companies use it successfully for the transport of high-quality goods exported from China to Europe.

Röhlig Logistics offers comprehensive tailor-made solutions for rail transport such as


If the container is in Germany: On-carriage connections from Hamburg or Duisburg

For the logistics industry, Hamburg and Duisburg are the main destinations for goods shipments to Germany. For this reason, it is usually necessary to plan what are called “on-carriage connections” to the destination in Germany. As with sea freight, further transport is usually carried out by truck or inland waterway vessel. On the Chinese side, delivery is possible via various domestic railway stations along the route.


Good for the environment: The positive CO2 balance in rail transport has an ecological advantage

Transporting goods by rail generates significantly lower CO2 emissions than sea transport. Companies that value this ecological component therefore prefer to use rail as their means of transport. For companies in which the environmental compatibility of all processes is anchored in the company philosophy, imports from China can be made in the most ecological way possible by rail container transport.

Rail freight to China for full containers and piece goods

Our range of services for rail transport between China and Germany covers both FCL (Full Container Load) and LCL (Less Container Load / piece goods). Customers can book door-to-door deliveries for both full containers and piece goods. Due to consolidation or deconsolidation in China or Europe, delivery can therefore often take place via the hub of a service provider.

Rail freight traffic to and from China can be conveniently booked online

Rail transport has successfully established itself in recent years and customers can book the dispatch and receipt of containers and piece goods very easily online via Röhlig RealTime. Our experienced team from the Central Rail Desk at Röhlig Logistics is responsible for handling rail transports to and from China. The team has built up a lot of practical expertise in freight transport between Europe and China by rail.

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