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The creation of a genuine trans-Eurasia rail landbridge to rival ocean carriers’ Asia-Europe services has been a long-held dream of rail freight executives from Berlin to Beijing. It is a genuinely complex project unlike, say, putting a boat on the water and sailing it from China to Rotterdam (although doing that profitably appears to be out of reach of most shiping lines).

But there is evidence that Asia-Europe rail freight services are growing in popularity with shippers, given that: security levels have improved markedly; the 15-day transit time is increasingly attractive compared with slow-steaming containerships; rates are significantly below those of ultra-fast air freight; and the relocation of many production sites in the interior of China means rail has become as easy as any other mode – if not more so.

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