BARCELONA, Spain, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- As an alternative means of transport, the rail freight services between China and Europe are "in great health and growing fast," a Spanish expert has said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and disrupted maritime trade turn out to provide an opportunity for China-Europe rail freight transport to grow, Daniel Albalate, an expert in transport economics at the University of Barcelona, told Xinhua.
"Rail freight transport between China and Spain has grown a great deal in a short space of time," Albalate said.
On Aug. 21, the number of China-Europe freight train trips in 2022 reached 10,000, 10 days earlier than last year, data from the China State Railway Group Co., Ltd. showed.
"Trade is cooperative, and we saw a good example of this during the pandemic and the lockdown, when this rail route in particular that connects Europe and Spain with China was used to transport a lot of health material, which at the time was urgent and necessary," said the professor.
With 82 routes reaching Europe, the trains now reach about 200 cities in 24 European countries, transporting more than 50,000 types of goods including IT products, automobiles and parts, clothes, grain, wines, coffee beans, and timber.
Albalate predicted there will be more branch lines of the train services and an increase in the volume of cargoes.
Now a flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative, the train services have grown into an exemplar of win-win cooperation and common prosperity, and brought tangible fruits to people along the routes.
"The increase in exchange and trade is generally mutually beneficial for the side that imports and the side that exports, and the reason they do this voluntarily is that both sides see it as beneficial, and expanding markets and making trade more efficient improves the situation for both sides," said the professor.
The growth in the rail freight services between China and Europe has been spectacular in recent years, with the total annual number of train trips surging from 1,702 in 2016 to 15,183 last year, according to official figures.
Noting that many goods are still transported by sea between Spain and Southeast Asia as well as China, Albalate said it means there is plenty of room for train services to grow, especially for "products that do not need the speed of air travel but need to arrive more quickly than ship."
"Rail freight transport allows for reaching areas that cannot be reached so efficiently by sea. In the end, it's about expanding and reaching more markets while providing a better response for trade in certain types of products, for which rail transport is more efficient," he added. ■