TILBURG, The Netherlands, June 16 (Xinhua) -- A new direct rail link from Chengdu to Tilburg, the sixth largest city and the second largest logistic hotspot in the Netherlands, is being seen as a "golden opportunity."
Chengdu is 10,947 km away in China's southwest Sichuan Province. The latest alternative logistic service is growing in popularity and promises broadened industrial cooperation between the two cities.
The service, launched in June last year, now has three trains westbound and three trains eastbound per week. "We plan to have five trains westbound and five trains eastbound by the end of this year," Roland Verbraak, general manager of the GVT Group of Logistics told Xinhua.
GVT, a 60-year-old family company, is the Dutch partner of CDIRS Chengdu International Railway Services.
Various rail freight services along three main routes with 43 transit hubs on the network are currently in operation or under planning.
For the Chengdu-Tilburg link, trains travel through China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany before reaching RailPort Brabant, a terminal located in Tilburg and owned by GVT.
Cargo coming from China is mostly electronics for multinational groups such as Sony, Samsung, Dell and Apple as well as products for European aerospace industry. Some 70 percent of them go to the Netherlands and the rest are delivered by barge or by train to other destinations in Europe, according to GVT.
Cargo going to China includes auto spare parts for big manufacturers in China, new cars and food articles such as wine, cookies, chocolate.
At the end of May, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), a global leader in diversified chemicals headquartered in Riyadh, joined the growing group of eastbound clients. The Saudi company that operates in 50-more countries shipped its first eight containers of resin, produced in Genk (Belgium), as feedstock for its own facilities and its customer's facilities in Shanghai via Tilburg-Chengdu rail freight service.
"Typically we ship via ocean, but currently we are facing constraints on ocean freight capacity from northern Europe to the Far East, so we need alternatives. Shipping via air is of course very fast but also very expensive with a cost per ton similar to the sales price per ton. So SABIC is happy with the New Silk Road, a good alternative for air transportation," said Stijn Scheffers, Eurpean logistic manager of the Saudi company.
The containers arrived in Shanghai via Chengdu in about 20 days. "Everything went well. The material was in good condition and arrived on time to avoid a production stop," Scheffers told Xinhua. "The Chengdu-Tilburg rail link has proven to be a reliable mode of transport, we will use it more in the future for sure."
He added that other companies headquartered in the Middle East are also interested in the services. "They have multiple production sites in Europe from where a lot is shipped directly to China, they can all make use of this connection."
Optimistic about the growing popularity of this service, Verbraak believes the Chengdu-Tilburg link will further boom when the challenge posed by border-crossing in Malewice (between Russia and Poland) is resolved. Russia and Poland have different widths of the track so trains have to change the wagon sets at border-crossing and Malewice terminal can only handle 12 trains a day.
As to the competition with other links such as Chongqing-Duisburg, Verbraak said each link is based on the needs of its own area and competition means healthy business.
"We have the experience that it changes the landscape of economies because it opens a complete new market for the Netherlands. That's why we work closely together with local governments here and in Chengdu to connect also the industries with each other," he said, "We see possibilities in that Dutch companies produce for the Chengdu market, and also start producing in Chengdu for the European market."
Together with the municipality of Tilburg, GVT will arrange business trips this year to connect the industries from both regions. In September, the city of Tilburg will set up a "China desk" and officially celebrated its direct rail link with Chengdu.
"For us it is very important to have these excellent connections, because it will make us an even more important logistic hub facility for big international companies," said Erik De Ridder, vice mayor of Tilburg. "Every country in Europe wants to have good connections to China. China is such a very strong and important economy."
De Ridder believed that the Chengdu-Tilburg link develops in an excellent way with increasing frequency and volume of goods. "We see much demand, now we need even more trains to drive to China and back, because we have so many companies interested in this connection."
"For us it is very important to set the attention to this opportunity, because we see it as a golden opportunity for the future," De Ridder said.