Rotterdam-China Rail Transport Still Growing


The Port of Rotterdam has shared a new assessment of rail as a transport option, highlighting how the freight network has becoming increasingly popular along routes between China and Rotterdam.

Dirk Wens of Cross Limits Logistics, a part of D&R Group, said: “Until recently, parties almost automatically relied on sea shipping to transport cargo from or to the People’s Republic. We can see a new balance taking shape.

“What’s more, China’s coastal region has not only become prohibitively expensive; the air quality has deteriorated to the point where it has a serious impact on the local business climate. You can see more and more plants relocating to inland regions.”

Rob Zuidwijk, Rotterdam School of Management, discusses collaboration between smart ports in a recent Port Technology technical paper

According to D&R Group, the low cost of shipping a container by sea is mitigated by the complications and expense required to arrange this mode of transport, making rail an increasingly attractive alternative.

The study also reveals that logistics chains look very different from Chinese provinces like Xinjiang, Qinghai and Sichuan.

Wens commented on why rail is becoming an interesting alternative for these regions: “If you’re transporting your product to the UK, for example, rail and short sea via Rotterdam can be a very attractive option. And this even applies to cargo destined for the US.

“Since Rotterdam serves as the first and last port of call on many Atlantic itineraries, you can save up to two weeks by opting for rail rather than using shipping for the entire route.”



There are four key rail routes between China and Western Europe, with the Duisburg and Tilburg services connecting almost directly to Rotterdam.

While newly-announced shuttle services often turn out to be a one-time affair, according to Cross Limits, the company still saw rail transport to China increase by 30 percent% in 2018.

Dennis de Roo, Managing Director of D&R Group, added: “More and more often, the freight forwarder’s added value lies in supplementary services like customs settlement and handling the last mile. And of course, you could say that’s the way it should be.”

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