If and when China’s car export machine ever gets going in earnest, the city of Chongqing in Western China could become one of its main export hubs. Chongqing is not a sea port. It is the far eastern terminus of a 7,000 mile railroad line that connects Chongqing with Duisburg in Germany.
Currently, the train brings auto parts to China. “A freight train carrying 41 containers full of autoparts arrived in Chongqing in mid-March, sent by U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co. and marking the first direct shipment from Germany by rail,” writes The Nikkei [sub]. BMW, “has been shipping parts mainly by rail, rather than by sea, since its second plant began operating in May last year,” says the Tokyo paper. When trains go from China to Germany, they currently bring mostly notebooks. A freight train can carry about 80,000 units.
By boat to China, the trip would take between 50-60 days, all told, says the paper. By train, it takes two weeks. Railways costs are 70-80 percent higher than sea freight, but time is money. There are plans in China to connect to Europe via high speed rail. This would cut the time down to two days.
The transcontinental rail freight service was launched in 2011 on an experimental basis. Now, one train loaded with 40 containers leaves Germany for China every day.