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Rail links between Hamburg and China

Hamburg Port Authority seeks improved freight link between Hamburg and China amid rising demand

Plans are being laid for increased co-operation along the ancient Silk Road, which was pivotal to cultural interaction across Asia for centuries and linked the east and west. The route holds potential for even more co-operation, according to Jens Meier, Chairman of the Management Board of the Hamburg Port Authority Friday (April 7). China is one of Hamburg’s most important trading partners with around 2.6 million containers handled on the sea route. At the same time, the number of direct links between Hamburg and China is also rising according to HPA. A total of 177 rail connections between the Port of Hamburg and 32 destinations in China now exist.

Meier said: “To this end, we should urgently bring all partners to the negotiating table to discuss the framework conditions for expanding and standardising freight train connections between the Silk Road hub ‘Hamburg’ and Asia.” Reports about the Silk Road date back to the Greek and Roman antiquities. The legendary Italian merchant traveller Marco Polo traversed the route to China.

Obstacles on Silk Road

Yet, many obstacles to re-establishing the Silk Road exist. At present, freight trains in the EU, for instance, travel at maximum daily speeds of 400 kilometres owing to the lack of regulation on unit trains allowing freight trains to overtake them. Co-ordinating building sites across the EU would also be a step in the right direction, according to Meier. “Apart from that, a lot of time is lost on the EU’s outer borders because trains that can carry up to 65 containers on Russian broad gauge railway lines have to be reloaded for travel on unit trains that transport 41 foot containers maximum within the EU.”

Improved hinterland links

Extended train links between Hamburg and China could make planning the logistics chain more reliable by improving rail, water and air efficiency. Commenting on the importance of the Silk Road in the 21st century, Uwe Leuschner, Senior Vice President of DB Cargo AG, said: “This bridge has already emerged as a new market and Hamburg is connected.” The interior location of the Port of Hamburg, ideal hinterland connections, efficiency, power of innovation and constantly expanding analogous and digital infrastructure means the harbour is predestined to become a hub on the new Silk Road.

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