Railforum 2017 - New Rail Connection to China Launches in November

The dream of creating the “new Silk Road by rail” took a big step forward at RailForum 2017, as it was announced that the first container train from Kouvola, Finland, will start its journey to Xi’an, China, on 10 November, 2017. After the first train, the connection is planned to become a weekly occurrence, with one inbound and one outbound train.

Locking down the date is an important milestone in the venture which seeks to route a considerable amount of goods in a novel way. Chinese cargo bound for Europe will travel west from Xi’an, going through Kazakhstan and Russia to reach Finland in 10-12 days. Transporting the same goods on ships, for instance, would take more than three times that time.

Delivering the welcoming speech at Railforum 2017, Kouvola Mayor Marita Toikka remarked that the new route to/from Asia will provide a “new logistics concept” that is both flexible and fast. Anne Berner, Minister of Transport and Communications, echoed that sentiment by commenting that, in the global context, rail creates vitality and the new connection between Asia and Finland is “most welcome”.

The Minister recalled Kouvola’s stellar track record as a “great logistics city” and noted that also the current trends support rail traffic as logistics are becoming more resource-efficient and mindful of their carbon footprint. She defined Finland’s forte as “connecting people, goods and data” in new and innovative ways, believing that the new venture will be able to carry on this tradition.

Reboot the Silk Road

In her presentation, Nancy Li, General Director, Scan-China International Link, Finland, showed that Xi’an, one-time capital of China, is an inland port brimming with potential. With a population of more than 8 million people, Xi’an was actually the eastern starting point of the original Silk Road trading route.

Xi’an has an important role in the Chinese “One Belt, One Road” agenda, specifically with regards to One Belt: according to the strategy, the land-based “belt” stretches from China to Europe, while the sea “road” links maritime traffic. Li commented that Xi’an is poised to “connect east and west” as the new route provides both reliability and efficiency.

Great investments have also been made both in Kazakhstan and Russia to make this all work. Murat Nurtleuov, the Kazakhstan ambassador to Finland, said that the state has made infrastructure investments to the tune of 26 billion USD, with 6 billion more to materialize by 2020.

- New connections give new opportunities, Nurtleuov said, adding that multimodal competence and over-all quality of the operations will determine its future.

Yana Kuzina, Vice President, Freight Village Russia, commented that by working together it is possible for all the stakeholders to be successful and expand their business.

- There is fantastic potential in the new connection, she said.      

 

Text by Sami Anteroinen, Dialog Designs Oy
Foto by Johannes Wiehn: Kouvola Mayor Marita Toikka remarked that the new route to/from Asia will provide a “new logistics concept” that is both flexible and fast.​