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China's container rail network on the fast track

Hong Kong: China's container rail network is to take a major step forward next year, eventually linking via Russia with the European rail grid, according to an official of one of its main backers, reports the South China Morning Post. The network could have 18 stations operational by 2012, an official of NWS Holdings, the infrastructure arm of New World Development, has said.

The mainland container rail network is operated by China United International Rail Containers (CUIRC), a joint venture between the Ministry of Railways (34%), NWS Holdings (22%) and other minority stakeholders that include shipping lines CMA CGM and Zim, as well as German state rail firm Deutsche Bahn (8% each).      

Currently only one mainland rail station is operational, in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. But next year, container train stations will start operations in seven other cities - Chongqing, Chengdu, Xian, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Qingdao and Dalian.

Thereafter 10 more stations are planned by 2012 - in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Ningbo, Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing, Shenyang, Harbin, Lanzhou and Urumqi.   

At present around 3m containers are carried by rail in China each year, but that volume is expected to triple by 2012. On the one hand the network will link inland cities with China's sea ports, but a planned evolution is to open up an overland rail link to Europe. Such a service might carry up to 400,000teu a year, a research study for CUIRC carried out by consultants Macquarie found. Despatching a container from China to Europe by rail might take 21 days, compared to nearer 32 by sea, the study also suggested.  [03/12/09]  

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