Russian Railways, St. Pet
© Vladimir Grigorev

Transit corridors across Europe and Asia continue to expand, with Russian Railways boosting links to Japan and Eurasian Rail Alliance aiming for a 1m teu increase by 2024.

The launch of the Trans-Siberian Landbridge for expedited services between Japan and Europe via Russia’s far east was announced by the state carrier and Fesco Transport Group.

A test container left Yokohama station yesterday and is expected to arrive in 18 days, more than halving ocean shipment times of 45 days via Suez.

First deputy general director of the carrier Alexander Misharin said the service followed an agreement with Japan’s Ministry of Transport.

“Over the past five years, we have invested more than $5bn in development of railways in eastern Russia, with this route growing by more than a third over this time,” he said.

“We see a very large potential for cooperation with our Japanese colleagues and would like to use this infrastructure for the transportation of goods from Japan as well.”

Fesco will be responsible for sea delivery, port handling and the container fleet, with RZD Logistic responsible for rail transport.

The service is set to be made available in June, and there are further plans for a return service to Japan, with president of Fesco Alexander Isurin keen to strengthen ties further.

“Today, all the freight traffic between Japan and Europe, amounting to 3m teu a year, goes through the Suez Canal,” said Mr Isurin. “We, together with colleagues from Russian Railways, can offer our customers much faster and more efficient services on the Trans-Siberian.

“Bringing transit cargo to Russian infrastructure corresponds to both national strategic goals and the objective economic interests of everyone participating in the market.”

Since April, there have been a slew of new service launches by Russian Railways – following a record-breaking 2018 – with China’s Belt and Road also seeing a rash of new offerings. Chinese officials last month announced that the value of cargo travelling from China to Europe last year had surged more than 106% on 2017 to $33bn.

Operator United Transport And Logistics Company Eurasian Rail Alliance (UTLC ERA) recorded a 54% (62,622 teu) upturn in volumes between China and Europe. And on the back of this has plans to increase container throughput through its native Kazakhstan to 1m teu annually by 2024, announced UTLC president Alexey Grom.

“The transit potential of Kazakhstan is the most important part of the national development strategy. Now, our trains can travel more than 1,000km a day, up 74km on last year, and we plan to accelerate up to 1,073 km a day.”

Mr Grom added this would equate to 5,500km in four-and-a-half days, the equivalent of moving from the border with China to the border with the EU.

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