Coronavirus: Boom in Silk Roads by rail

a. hartrodt offers alternatives to greatly reduced air and sea freight capacities.

Due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, a. hartrodt is currently experiencing great demand for rail transportation on the New Silk Roads between China and Germany. "We are preparing for an even stronger run," says Willem van der Schalk, Managing Director at a. hartrodt in Hamburg. The reason for this is that air and sea freight capacities have been greatly reduced. Two examples: The Lufthansa Group has cancelled 95 percent of its flights. And The Alliance, the network among the carriers Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Ocean Network Express and Yang Ming, is suspending 32 voyages in April. According to van der Schalk, the costs for rail freight are "many times" higher than for sea freight. But the customer gets an alternative.

Polaris Train and Sirius Train

At Stars on Rails, a. hartrodt's China train service, it is becoming more difficult to get space because of the corona crisis. "For export goods from China to Europe, a lead time of two to three weeks must be planned", warns van der Schalk. On two routes, a. hartrodt offers block trains several times a week - the Polaris Train north via Russia and the Sirius Train further south via Kazakhstan and Russia. "For hazardous goods there is a third route from Mukran on the island of Rügen to the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok," says the manager.

Kazakhstan must become a distribution centre

Central Asian countries have so far hardly benefited from the boom on the iron silk roads. Van der Schalk was able to see this himself at the end of February in Nur-Sultan and Almaty: "Kazakhstan must become a distribution center for trains from China so that block trains from Xian to Western Europe do not rush through." Industrial settlements from different countries could be a start. In Kazakhstan, a. hartrodt works with local agents. "We handle Europe-Kazakhstan transports by truck or air freight," says van der Schalk. Although Nur-Sultan and Almaty have been completely sealed off since March 22 due to the Covid 19 pandemic, they are still accessible for goods transports.

In the case of Far East-Europe traffic, van der Schalk observes that sea-rail opportunities are also becoming more interesting during the corona crisis. Shortsea connections are combined with train options – "in the upper price segment", he clarifies.

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