Trains with 50 railcars leaving cities in Germany and Poland are carrying goods across the steppes of Russia, through the forests of Siberia and desert scrub of the Gobi, and reaching China's industrial centers. And once in China, they load up with Chinese-manufactured goods for the return journey. Total time from one side of Eurasia to the other: 15 days, on average.
But those in the airfreight business who dismiss two-week delivery times as too slow to worry about, in terms of competition, may need to pay more attention to their customers. Once dismissed as a novelty, rail is starting to fill a sweet spot in between the speed of air cargo and affordability of sea freight.
“Fifteen days is really getting the attention from many European shippers,” said Joost van Doesburg, airfreight policy manager at the European Shippers’ Council (ESC). “That’s a nice amount of time for some categories of goods that are either too cheap or too heavy for air. Rail is a good intermediate option.”
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