How does Rail Freight From China Work?
9 March 2022

How does Rail Freight From China Work?

The Top 10 Questions about Rail Freight to Europe from China Answered

With many companies looking for alternatives to improve supply chain issues, many are asking about the possibilities to take advantage of the newly improved overland rail routes from China. So here are 10 of the most common questions we are asked!

1 How long does it take for Rail Freight to arrive in Europe?

Approximately 18 – 25 days.

Before 2021, Rail freight was reaching Europe from China in 18 – 20 days (terminal to terminal). However as of 2021, the lead time is currently around 30 days, which is still faster than by sea!

2 How much does Rail Freight Cost?

Costs are similar to sea freight costs to northern Europe.

Before 2020, rail freight cost two or three times more than sea freight. But in 2021, as sea freight costs climbed to historic highs, rail freight prices rose also, but not to the same degree.

So the price difference between sea and rail from China to many parts of Europe is approximately the same, while arriving in less time.

3 What are the Maximum and Minimum Volumes, and is there Capacity Now?

The maximum volume is 50×40′ dry or HQ containers per train (max. 23 tonnes per container)

Rail is a good solution for volume goods or smaller loads, since both Full Container Load (FCL) and Less-than-Container Loads (LCL) options are supported. So whether you have enough goods to fill several containers or only a few pallets for a partial container, it is worth investigating rail freight as an option

Regarding available space, Ziegler’s partnerships in China mean that there is usually capacity reserved for our customer’s shipments, although right now there is more demand than ever for space on departing trains.

4 What types of Goods can be Transported by Rail?

Almost anything can be transported by rail.

Flexibility is one of rail freight’s strengths – its flexibility. Just about everything with the exception of extra large or dangerous goods can be transported via rail. Refrigerated containers are available for freight that must be temperature-controlled.

5 How do I book Rail Freight?

Through a freight forwarder.

Chinese rail companies work exclusively through freight forwarders to book space on departing trains. Speak with a freight specialist at Ziegler Group, and we will provide pricing, timetables and lead times that aren’t available publicly.

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6 How does the Rail Freight Process work?

After your booking, Ziegler books the transport of your goods from the factory in China to the closest train station.

Your goods are loaded on a departing train usually within 2-3 days from arriving at the train station.

There are two main stops for customs and rail gauge changes:
Kazakhstan/China border in Dostyk
Poland/Belarus border in Małaszewicze/Brest

The train arrives at the northern European train station, and your goods are transferred to truck for delivery direct to your warehouse

7 Is door-to-door service available if I use Rail Freight?

Yes! The right logistics company can handle the whole process for you.

The advantage of working with Ziegler Group is that we can manage door-to-door for you via our local delivery options once your freight arrives in Europe.

8 Does Rail Freight offer Tracking?

Yes, daily updates are available.

Ziegler tracks your containers and can provide those details to you as required.

9 Is it Difficult to Switch to Rail Freight from Sea Freight?

No, it’s actually quite simple.

The same kind of documents are needed to ship freight by train vs by sea. The only difference is that dangerous cargo isn’t accepted by train.

10 What are the Timetables for Trains from China?

20 – 30 trains leave for Europe from China every day.

Approximately 7,000 trains depart China for Europe each year, and so that means 20 – 30 trains are leaving China every day. But their timetables are not made publicly available, so you can work with a freight forwarder like Ziegler Group to ensure your freight is expedited as quickly as possible.

BONUS! Where can I find a reliable freight forwarder that can handle my freight from China to final delivery in Europe?

As Chinese manufacturers work exclusively with freight forwarders to book shipments, you need a partner that can handle the process for you and get your goods delivered to their final destination in Europe.

Ziegler Group’s freight specialists in [country] and China will help you determine the best way to leverage or combine different freight solutions to keep your business flourishing and your customers happy.

BONUS! Why is Rail Freight Faster than Sea Freight?

There are several reasons why rail freight is faster than sea freight from China to Europe.

Loading and unloading trains takes less time than loading ships

Little to no wait time for containers
Shorter transit times than sea freight
Less congestion and backlog than sea freight (in 2021)



Chat with a freight specialist at Ziegler Group to see if Rail Freight is right for your business.