From Silk Road to Silk Rail

There are already a number of European trial projects under way for “green lanes” in sea transport. However, this has not yet been done for cross-border rail transport. The Belgian customs service played a leading role in tackling this problem: together with their Chinese counterparts they looked at various ways of setting up a Green Train Lane (GTL) with customs and other inspections being reduced to a minimum.
During the trade mission to the People’s Republic of China in October this year, the Chinese and Belgian customs authorities signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which among other things they agreed to give support to the GTL project and develop it further. Practical steps are being worked out by the Chinese and Belgian customs services to implement the Green Train Lane between the two countries as quickly as possible.

Six months after the start of the project the results are positive. “Thanks to this rail link, Antwerp will be seen even more clearly as the European logistics hub for trade in both directions between the two continents,” declared port alderman Marc Van Peel. The new rail connection enables goods to be carried between Antwerp and Chongqing in two to three weeks, compared with 40 days or so by sea. While rail transport is more expensive it enables the goods to reach their destination more quickly. The train that arrived on 15 November took 21 days to make the journey, a speed that was achieved thanks to good collaboration at the various border crossings along the way.

There is potential for a lot more time to be gained here, according to Koen Helsen, chairman of the Province of Antwerp Development Corporation: “it was this collaboration between the various authorities that enabled us to set up the rail link in the first place. Further collaboration will now make it possible to reduce the overall time for the trip even more.”

Source: Sino-Belgian Trade and Investment Portal