The southwestern Chinese metropolis of Chongqing has sent off and welcomed back more than 7,000 freight trains travelling between Europe and China as of Sunday as the route continues to play an integral part in international transport.

The China-Europe freight trains are running more frequently than ever this year, ensuring trade and transport of epidemic prevention materials in both directions. They have also been an important part of the Belt & Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013.

“Many customers now want to transport their products to Europe by train. For those who have demand in the European market and are used to transporting products by air or by ship, they have to find a way out, so they choose this channel,” said Qi Dan, the general manager of Yuxinou (Chongqing) Logistics Company.

Affected by the limited capacity of air and sea freight services, China-Europe freight trains have become a new avenue for foreign trade companies.

From January to November this year, more than 10 million parcels have been sent to Europe via Chongqing, over 10 times more than that of the year earlier.

Outbound trains carry goods like daily necessities, equipment, medical supplies and vehicles, while inbound trains transport milk powder, wine and automobile parts.

“[The freight trains] mainly transport some daily necessities sold by Chinese e-commerce retailers to overseas consumers, such as clothing, bags, shoes and toys. At the same time, during the epidemic period, it also delivered some anti-epidemic materials that our citizens sent to their relatives and friends overseas,” said Xia Zheng, the chief of customs supervision division of post office under Chongqing Customs.

In order to increase transportation volume, Chongqing Customs launched the cross-border e-commerce Business-to-Business (B2B) model this September, offering enterprises simplified export declarations.

“In the traditional trade model, we usually transported five to 10 TEUs of goods each day. But now with the new business model of B2B and through the China-Europe freight trains, we can transport 30 to 50 on a daily basis,” said Li Yi, the general manager of an e-commerce company in Chongqing.

The China-Europe freight train has not only delivered anti-epidemic materials and daily necessities that are in short supply to European countries, but it has also shipped a large number of quality foreign products to China.

Meanwhile, Chongqing is also actively expanding its influence in Europe.

“We expanded [our service] from Moscow in Russia and Minsk, to Duisburg and Hamburg in Germany, and then to Prague in the Czech Republic. These are all our important transit stations. Our services will then cover countries and regions along the Silk Road via these transit stations,” said Qi.

China-Europe freight train services have gained popularity during the pandemic thanks to their low prices, large transportation capacity, and high stability, helping stabilize the international industrial chain and support the efforts of both Europe and Asia to contain the epidemic and resume production.

As of Nov 5, the number of China-Europe freight trains hit a record high of 10,180 this year, according to data from the China State Railway Group Company.