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Real Logistics – The New Silk Road and the Covid-19 pandemic

Rail transport stated record increases and forecasts for the coming years are equally optimistic.

2020 was a unique and difficult year at the same time, mainly due to the dynamical spread of COVID-19. The effects of this situation can be observed in all industries, but for rail transport on the New Silk Road it was a record year in terms of the transported volume.

Big increase in rail

2020 began good, but unfortunately the situation changed drastically when at the turn of January and February China decided to close Wuhan and suspend rail operations from this region. Initially, the reduction number of departing trains was expected. However, the impact of the pandemic on other means of transport benefited rail services.

According to data provided by UTLC ERA, there was an increase in transit transport on the China – Europe – China route, by 64% compared to 2019 (more than 45% increase in export to China and more than 77% increase in import from China to Europe).

The increase in export is also an effect of the Russia’s decision to allow the transit of products covered by sanctions so far through its territory.

Difficult access to containers

Despite the significant increase in rail transport, the transport market was also struggling with many problems. The biggest problem was undoubtedly the limited availability of containers. The problem began to worsen from October 2020, which resulted in an increase in freight prices by up to 264%, and container leasing in China increased by about USD 1,500 (+ 287%). There are several factors that led to this situation – the imbalance in trade between China and Europe; a lot of European countries closed or significantly limited the operation of their economies in the first half of 2020 and majority of orders for new containers were canceled; a significant slowdown in air transport, which resulted in the volume being shifted to rail transport.

Forecasts for the coming years

Currently, over 90% of imported goods are transshipped in Malaszewicze and unfortunately the operational capabilities of this place are not sufficient. According to the “Logistics Performance Index” report, Poland is currently ranked as 17th in Europe. The government plans to adopt a program for the construction of the Malaszewicze Logistics Park later this year. The investment would allow longer and heavier trains to be accepted. Currently, the maximum length of the train is 750 meters and the axle load is 22.5 tons. After the reconstruction, the length would increase to 1,050 meters and the axle load to 25 tons. Additionally, there are plans to reconstruct the track layout, overhead contact line and traffic control. Planned works are to start in early 2023 and end in mid-2026.

Real Logistics Poland also felt the impact of the transport situation. Being an expert of the New Silk Road rail service has helped not only to live through the difficult times of COVID-19 but also to get good financial results. In addition to that, interest in our complementary services (road transportation, warehousing, customs agency) has also increased, allowing us to make all the services even better to fulfil the needs of wide range of partners. Our frequent rail LCL services Chengdu – Warsaw and Lodz – Chengdu became very popular since they are a good alternative for a sea transport. Many new clients used this mean of transport for the first time and then kept using it. We expect the continuing fast development of the rail transport, not only through Malaszewicze but also through Slawkow this year. We are ready to help our MarcoPolo Line partners to join this trend: