Parcels a promising freight for Japan-Europe multimodal route

2022/02/02 at 2:33 PM

The 2021 year was momentous for the Japan-Europe multimodal route as the new country, Finland, started to use this transport solution. In near future, a new type of freight may appear on the corridor.

“High speed of transportation, freight safety and just-in-time delivery is what is needed for e-commerce products. And this is what Russian Railways is ready to offer today,” said Alexei Shilo, the company’s deputy general director after launching the new service. On Monday, 31 January, the container train delivered the first batch of e-commerce parcels from Japan to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. It is the first shipment of this type.

24 containers were moved from Japan to Russia by sea and then by rail from the Port of Vostochny to the final destination. On its way from the Port of Vostochny to Yekaterinburg, the post container train ran a distance of 7,653 kilometres. This means that its average speed was 1,512 kilometres per day. “We hope that the service has fully met the expectations of our partners and in the very near future such transportation will become regular,” added the top manager of Russian Railways (RZD).

Illustrative picture. Container train in Russia, source: Russian Railways (RZD)

To the west

Meanwhile, Yekaterinburg is far from the European hubs. Is it an opportunity to deliver parcels in containers by rail further to the west? Partially yes and partially no. Yekaterinburg is an important industrial and logistics centre of Russia. Many container trains, both domestic and international, run to/from the city or via it. Therefore, some containers with parcels may be added to them for delivering to the railway hubs in the European part of Russia such as Moscow, Kaliningrad or others.

As for dedicated container trains for moving parcels from Yekaterinburg westward, there is no connection of this type. However, an important event that happened in the last days of 2021 can drastically change this. In late December of the past year, RZD and the Russian Post started the trial rail shipments of parcels in containers between Moscow and Kaliningrad. The first 40-foot box with packages was delivered from Kaliningrad to Moscow. 400 parcels with a total weight of almost 8 tonnes were loaded into the container.

The test deliveries between the two cities will last until the end of March 2022. Afterwards, RZD and the Russian Post are planning to launch container trains with packages from Moscow to Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk. These connections may be combined into one intermodal service from the Port of Vostochny to Kaliningrad. “The possibility of delivering several dozen containers in one accelerated train significantly increases the volume of shipments delivered at a time while meeting the deadlines. On the basis of this technology, the Russian Post is developing its new multimodal products for foreign postal administrations and corporate clients, expanding the possibilities for the delivery of electronic commerce, retail and other commercial groupage cargo,” said Sergey Sergushev, deputy general director for logistics at the Russian Post.

Baggage wagon of Russian Post, source: Transmashholding (TMH)

Between time and costs

Before the test rail shipments of packages between Moscow and Kaliningrad, the Russian Post moved this type of freight in the dedicated baggage wagons, which are coupled to the long-distance passenger trains. Such kind of delivery is very popular in Russia and the national postal operator has been upgrading its wagon fleet for several years in a row. Since 2015, the Russian Post acquired around 400 new baggage wagons.

At the same time, the state-owned company has been analysing the possibilities of containers for carrying parcels. In September 2021, this results in boosting cooperation between RZD and the Russian Post as well as a joint memorandum on containerisation of parcel delivery. “The decision to carry out test transport of postal items using container technology was caused by the growth in the volume of bulky items. The use of container service, as the most technologically advanced solution for transporting this type of freight, will allow us to strike a balance between economic efficiency and delivery speed,” explained Yury Yuryev, director for multimodal transport development at the Russian Post.

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