Russian transport companies intensify rail freight traffic to EU via Poland

2021/11/03 at 10:50 AM

China has already become a crucial impetus for the development of new container trains between Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, Russia that plays a key role as a transit country for the New Silk Road connections is also trying to stimulate the rail freight traffic to the European Union. In the past few days, two Russian transport companies together with the European partners initiated two new intermodal services to the EU via Poland.

On the last day of October, the new container train with 20 flat wagons departed from the Port of Rotterdam towards Moscow, namely to the railway terminals in Selyatino and Vorsino in its vicinity. It is the first regular connection between Europe’s largest container port and the Russian capital since 2005. As the Netherlands is the fourth trade partner for Russia (after China, Germany and Belarus), the direct intermodal service is vitally important for both countries.

The pandemic year of 2020 confirmed this with growing volumes of freight running between the Netherlands and Russia. As for the current year, the mentioned trend is ongoing. Therefore, Smartcontainer, the Dutch subsidiary of Ruscon that belongs to the Russian transport holding Delo Group, joined forces with the European partners including the Port of Rotterdam Authority, RSC Rotterdam and BTT Multimodal Container Solutions.

New service via Brest

“There is certainly a need for reliable, sustainable and cost-effective container transport. With our shuttle service, we can provide it,” said Frank Donkers, CEO of Smartcontainer. Initially, the Rotterdam-Moscow shuttle will run once a week. In 2022, the Russian company is planning to increase train frequency up to three weekly shipments in each direction. This will depend on adding intermediate stops and combining the new service with the existing ones running from Russia to China, Kazakhstan and other countries. “With our existing network, we are in direct contact with other Eurasian countries such as Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. This allows us not only to guarantee a secure and lasting connection but also to offer our customers the necessary flexibility. Stops in Germany and Poland are among the possibilities,” explained Frank Donkers.

The first shipment of the Rotterdam-Moscow container train, source: the Port of Rotterdam Authority

The new container train on its seven-day-long way between the termini passes through three states: Germany, Poland and Belarus. Currently, it has only one intermediate stop, in Brest, due to the break of gauge and the necessity of transhipment. It means that the Rotterdam-Moscow covers the European section of the most popular corridor within the New Silk Road by using the Brest/Małaszewicze railway border crossing. As for intermodal terminals in Selyatino and Vorsino, they are well-connected with various cities in Russia and China. Taking this into account, the initiators of the rail freight link intend to combine it with other connections. What combinations could be established? Let’s wait for the next year.

Via Kaliningrad to Italy

Another new Russia-EU intermodal connection was inaugurated earlier this week. To this end, Novik Group, the Russian logistics company based in Kaliningrad, has teamed up with Rail Cargo Group (RCG), the dedicated subsidiary of the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB). Together they launched the new direct intermodal service between Russia and Italy. It is not the first link of this kind between the two countries. However, this one has two unique features: it provides a direct connection (the existing services such as from Milan to Jinan and Xi’an are transit) and it has a very distinctive route.

Rail Cargo container train
Rail Cargo container train, source: Rail Cargo Group

The new Milan-Moscow freight connection has a transit time of 11-12 days. During this period, the train runs via Belarus, Lithuania, the Kaliningrad region of Russia, Poland, Czechia and Austria. For the transhipment when entering Poland, the intermodal terminal in Chernyakhovsk is used. The facility is operated by Novik Group to handle different types of freight in 40-foot high cube containers. Due to the cooperation with Novik Group, the Milan-Moscow train runs via the Zheleznodorzhny/Skandawa border crossing, which has enough free capacity for the transhipment of more volumes of boxes. Furthermore, the Russian company assists with customs clearance, for example by offering a choice of two locations in either the Kaliningrad or the Moscow area. It is worth noting that this service was initiated within RCG’s TransFER network of intermodal services, so it could be joined with other connections of the Austrian rail freight operator.

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