Is Rail Freight Transport Replacing See Freight?
A lot of manufacturers routinely transport goods and raw materials between China and Germany by ship or air.
- The market share of sea freight is close to 90%.
- Airplane is the second most common means of transportation.
- In comparison, trucks and trains are rarely used.
In 2020 and 2021, we’re seeing a shift towards rail freight transport.
More and more customers are asking for freight trains for their shipments between China and Germany.
What Are the Reasons for the Increased Freight Train Demand?
In 2020, the Corona pandemic surprisingly created new transportation needs, namely the necessity to transport large quantities of protective goods such as face masks.
This needed to happen fast, to get protective gear to medical personal and, of course, the public.
- The usual transit time for ships of four to six weeks seemed quite long for the urgent demand.
- In contrast, fast air freight was too expensive.
Thus, a new interest in the train arose as an advantageous compromise between transit time and cost. The transport of masks, for example, could be completed by train within 2 to 3 weeks. By ship, you would have had to wait double that time.
The second consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic was the collapse of traditional supply chains.
Lockdowns and then later corona testing caused disruptions in shipping routes.
- Airports were closed down.
- Freight capacity was lost due to cancelled passenger flights.
- Production stoppages at companies and supply bottlenecks for raw materials meant that the schedules of previously planned shipments could not be kept.
- Logistics of shipping containers were also thrown into disarray.
In short, logistics worldwide were upside down for raw materials and goods, and companies had to plan anew.
In doing so, many companies have rediscovered freight trains as a useful link in the supply chain.
In March 2021, the EVER GIVEN accident turned into a nightmare for sea freight.
12% of the world’s cargo flows through the bottleneck of the Suez Canal. For shipments from Asia to Germany, the alternative is to detour around the entire continent of Africa. This extends the already long journey by ten more days.
And How Do Freight Trains Compare to Trucks?
Despite the long distance, the transport from China to Germany can also be completed by truck. Trucks are slightly faster and have the advantage that cargo can be delivered door-to-door.
However, transport by truck is not a real competitor to the railroad, because it has major disadvantages.
To put the freight of a single freight train on the road, you need 40 to 50 freight trucks.
- 40 to 50 times shipping documents.
- 40 to 50 times border controls at each border.
- 40 to 50 drivers for single manned trucks. With 2 drivers per vehicle, this means 80 to 100 people.
- And during the Corona pandemic for each driver there will also be Corona tests again and again.
Obviously, the environmental performance of these vehicles is significantly worse than that of the railroads.