Freight Train: Ultimate Guide

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Written By Sharline

Sharline is an expert on Chinese export trade. With 10 years of experience in the field of sourcing in China, she is familiar with all relevant regulations and laws about China's exporting. She loves to share her experiences with people and has written many helpful articles.

A train consists of connected vehicles in series that run along a railroad track for transport purposes.

Generally, there are two types of trains; passenger trains and freight trains.

Passenger trains are used for human passengers whereas freight train is our today’s topic.

A Freight Train is basically used to transport cargo. These trains are also named as cargo trains and goods trains.

It consists of carriage wagons or freight cars drove by one or more locomotives on the railway track.

These trains transport your cargo from shipper to the intended or decided destination and act as a part of the logistic chain.

Cargo trains can transport intermodal containers, bulk material, specialized freight, general freight, and more.

Freight trains offer you many commercial advantages than other ways of transport. Various advantages include reliability, cost-effectiveness, and speed. It also comes with some social benefits as it reduces harmful congestion and emissions.

Goods trains are becoming a transportation option for many European importers day by day. It started in 2013, and now freight train provides services to many destinations in Europe, i.e., in Spain, Germany, UK, and Italy.

You can get your shipment in less than half of the time it takes in sea freight. And, it costs below than economy air freight.

If you are searching for a complete guide on freight trains, this article will help you a lot. We are going to talk about very valuable things in this regard.

Your Best Rail Freight Forward In China

How Does The Rail Freight Work?

Although it depends upon the country, almost every country has its regulatory body to operate this system.

For example, in Great Britain, the regulatory authority is the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR). The primary purpose of the authority is to safeguard the stakeholders’ interests.

These authorities are the industry’s safety and economic regulator. It is responsible for the protection as well as enhancement of the rail services and network for freight.

It also welcomes applications for the licenses of freight train operators.

These authorities afterward sign track access agreements with the service providers. In these agreements, the timing slots are finalized to run freight trains.

These are the authorities to whom appeals are made when a party has disputes concerning the agreement, price, or any other condition quoted in agreement.

It means the authorities are responsible for balancing the consigner and consignee’s interests.

Pros and Cons of a Freight Train

Freight trains offer various advantages to its customers, i.e., speedy delivery, cost-efficiency, reliability of transportation, and many more.

It does not mean this transportation method is without drawbacks. It would be best if you considered both sides before making this decision.

Therefore, I have tried to discuss all pros and cons related to the freight train in detail. I believe it will help and enable you to make a detailed decision.

1. Pros

The following are discussed some of the most critical advantages of freight trains.

These advantages let you prefer cargo trains over other mediums of transportation of your products.

  • Possible to Transport Huge Shipments at once: Freight trains consist of many of Lorries. Therefore, these are capable of taking a huge shipment compared with air or road transportation means at a particular time.
  • Lower Fuel Consumption: Lower Fuel Consumption makes rail freight more eco-friendly than road transport. Moreover, the trains emit CO2 76 percent less than road transports. Hence, it is both eco-friendly and environmentally friendly.
  • Low Price for Long-Distance Transport: Freight Train companies usually invest continuously to offer improved facilities. In the latest report, it is reported that they have increased payloads with tonnage per train up to 80 % in the last decade.

It means you can take your massive shipment for a long distance at a low cost. Hence, using freight trains, you can benefit yourself and society considering its environmental benefits.

  • Well-Organized Transportation: Freight trains are well-organized transportation, resulting in accurate rail freight quotes. The reason is, the regulatory authority does not ignore any of the customers’ and service providers’ benefits.
  • Delivery Time is not Influenced: Freight trains offer specialist services to maintain and track renewal teams. It helps to keep disruption to the network to a minimum. Hence, delivery time is not influenced by traffic, weather, or any technical issue.

Therefore, it is well-organized transportation means that your shipment will deliver at the right place at the right time.

  • Transport by Rail is the Safest Way: Freight trains operators achieve 97 % reliability on the services they provide to their customers. Goods trains can get higher speeds with heavy loads because of having better freight Lorries and locomotives.

Moreover, every cargo train removes almost 76 Lorries from the road. It results in 1.6 billion fewer HGV kilometers annually. Furthermore, by eliminating lorries from the roads, cargo trains prevent about 600 causalities per year.

Transport by Rail is the Safest Way

2. Cons

As discussed earlier, cargo trains are not without disadvantages. At a time, it looks like a pretty good way of transporting your products, but it may also encounter a loss from another angle.

In other words, these demerits initiate the importance of transportation by other means, i.e., by air and road. Therefore, most influential demerits of the goods train are discussed as under;

  • Slower Booking Process: Various booking formalities at cargo trains make the booking process complicated and slower. It involves more labor and time. Therefore, freight trains have a slower booking process when compared with that of transport by road.
  • Shipments by Rail cannot be Fully Door-to-Door: Cargo trains are tied to a specific track and route. Intermediate unloading and loading involves grater costs, more wastage, and wear and tear.

Freight trains need to integrate with other service providers to reach delivery addresses. Therefore, shipments by Rail cannot be fully door-to-door.

  • Low Flexibility: The cargo trains are inflexible. It is also a compulsion because they have to manage so many things on a single railway track.
  • Expensive for Short-Distance Transport: If you want to ship your goods and products on a short distance, do not ever use rail freight. The reason is it is more expensive for short distances. You should use road transport instead.

Hence, their timings and routes cannot customize as per your requirements. You have to abide by their schedules and routes.

Expensive for Short-Distance Transport

The Right Route to Import from China via Rail Freight

There are different train routes in China. It depends upon the province because different provinces have different lead times and solutions. Currently, 22 provinces in China are offering a train freight facility.

The Peoples Republic of China is a big country, and many provinces are offering freight train.

Therefore, you must know a different train route that connects your country of residence with China. Anyhow, the most important train routes are discussed as follows.

The “New Silk Road” Freight Train Route

A long time ago, China and Europe were linked by the Silk Road. The route started from Xi’an, passed through Central Asia, and reached Constantinople. Silk, paper, and iron are the main products that were transported through this route.

However, later on, by the opening of the sea freight, the silk route freight train lost its importance.

Jinping initiated the New Silk Road in 201. He was the chairman of the People’s Republic of China at that time.

The idea was to make a contract between the European Union and China to simplify the rules of cargo trains, i.e., SMGS convention.

Railway Shipping from China to Europe

The New Silk Road Freight Train is the revival of the ancient Silk Road route. The route of 7500 Miles (12000 Km) connects China and Europe.

This service provides an alternative to sea and air freight. It is getting popularity while shipping products from the East to the West.

The importers in the West use this medium who are not in urgent need of delivery and want to minimize their transit cost.

Therefore, customers who deal in capital-intensive and time-sensitive goods are more inclined toward the New Silk Road freight train.

The first cargo train service from Yiwu (China) to London (UK) had completed its journey in 18 days in 2017.

That train traveled through seven countries and reached freight depot in Barking. The service had delivered thirty-four containers of clothes and other high street goods.

The new Silk Road passes through, Kazakhastan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, and France and enters the UK through the Channel Tunnel. Different wagons and locomotives are used to make this journey.

The rail firms claim that this service is far cheaper than air freight and also faster than transporting goods by sea.

Railway Shipping from China to EuropeRailway Shipping from China to Russia

China and Russia are attempting to strengthen their strategic partnership. Therefore, both countries think trade and economic cooperation as the fundamental pillar in the relation.

Both countries have put economics at the center of the strategic relationship.

Therefore, to improve trade relations, both countries have tried to make train routes.

These routes enable the importer to import products at lower costs than sea and air freight. Some of the most renowned railway freight trains are discussed below.

  • The Trans-Mongolian Line: The Trans-Mongolian Line is a cargo train that follows an ancient tea-caravan route. This route connects Ulan-Ude (Russian City) with the Jining (Chinese city). Ulan-Ude is situated on the Trans-Baikal railway in Russia. In contrast, Jining is along the way of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.

Hence, it is called the Trans-Mongolian Line. Other important in-between are Sukhbaatar, Choir, Darkhan, and Zamyn-Uud. This line was started in 1949 and was completed in 1961. In Mongolia, it is mostly a single track, and in China, it is double track.

  • China-Kazakhstan-Russia Railway Line: The China-Europe shipment rail route that crosses Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Russia is becoming more popular. It is because of the efforts of the Logistic Company and the United Transport.

Kazakhstan is determined to help China in making New Silk Road vision a reality. Kazakhstani President in Plenary Government meeting said, “We need to build a railway line from the border of China to the seaport of Aktau.”

The China-Kazakhstan railway will compete Trans-Siberian. It means Kazakhstan is committed to finish various projects to its close ally Russia.

  • New Eurasian Land-Bridge: The Eurasian Land-Bridge is sometimes called the New Silk Road. It is the rail route for transporting passengers and freight overland among seaports in China, Russian Far East, and Europe.

The route, a rail land bridge, and the transcontinental railroad, currently includes the Trans-Siberian Railway. It runs through Russia, Kazakhstan, and China. It is often named as New Eurasian Land Bridge.

It is also called Northern East-West Corridor and Second Eurasian Continental Bridge

Railway Shipping from China to RussiaRailway Shipping from China to Central Asia

China is focusing on developing railway lines in Central Asia. It is not only drive by the price but also by the geopolitical calculations.

Both politics and economics were at the heart when officials from Central Asian Countries agreed to simplify tariffs.

They further agreed on border crossing regimes and construction of two railway line corridors from China to Europe.

The first of these two would pass from Serkhetyak (Turkmenistani city) to Serakhs (Iranian city).

Both two lines are under construction.

These lines will be able to link countries from Central Asia to the West and America but also China. Central Asian Countries will also connect with Iran but to a lesser extent.

Railway Shipping from China to Central Asia

How to calculate the Costs of Rail Freight?

There are multiple methods to calculate rail freight across the world. The regulatory authorities of the freight trains are the best source to calculate these costs.

Some websites also provide online calculators to solve this issue.

However, there is no hard and fast rule to calculate rail freight. Generally, the particulars of your products are the fundamentals of these calculations.

Some of the essential particulars of the shipment are discussed as follows.

· Dimensions

All major freight trains use a costing technique called dimensional weight to calculate shipping rates.

This dimensional weight is also called DIM weight. This method considers the size of the package or consignment to calculate the shipping cost.

Generally, DIM weight is determined by multiplying the width, length, and height of the package and then dividing by the standard DIM divisor.

The actual weight and DIM weight are calculated, and costing is done considering the greater value.

· Distance

As a general rule of thumb, the shipping cost is directly related to distance. However, this is not always the case.

Sometimes some countries are in a trade agreement with each other. Resultantly, shipping products to those countries come at a lower price than anticipated.

It means the cost of shipping consignment to two destinations of the same distances may not be the same. It depends upon the agreements between the governing bodies of the countries.

· Pick-up and Delivery

The way the consignee receives goods is also considered while calculating rail freight.

The reason is, a decision made on delivery mode can make a substantial impact on the cost of the cargo trains.

There are two ways in this situation. First is when the consignee himself manages to receive and collect the shipment. In this way, the consignee pays customer pick-up pricing (CPU).

The second way is the freight train also personally manages to deliver the goods to the consignee’s required destination.

The cargo trains usually do it with the allied services of other freight forwarding companies. In this way, the consignee is charged a slightly higher price.

· Type of Item

Before jumping straight to the calculation of the cost of rail freight, the classification of the item is necessary. Products are of different types, subject to their durability. It means rail freights are different for durable products and sensitive products.

It means the durable type of products are easy to handle and can be shipped at a lower cost. In contrast, sensitive types of products are handled with care hence shipped at a higher price.

Therefore, before calculating the cost of rail freight, products are divided into various shipping classes.

· Insurance

Insurance is an expense generally paid by the consigner while goods are in transit. Insurance is paid to safeguard the products from damage, loss, and theft.

If something terrible happens to your products, the insurance company is liable to pay the full or a proportionate of the amount.

Insurance companies also insure the goods according to the type of products. Therefore, the classification of the goods done earlier can also benefit here.

· Customs Clearance

Custom duties comprise export and import duties. Customs clearance charges depend upon the specific country’s regulations.

For example, China has adjusted custom duties, including temporary duty rates, MFN duty rates, conventional duty rates, etc.

These charges sometimes become substantial for particular products. Therefore, the type of products also matters while calculating customs clearance charges.

Suggested reading:Best Customs Brokers Services In Chia: Ultimate Guide

5 Situations are the Best Option to Choose Freight Train

A freight train is becoming very popular in transporting goods and services all over the world.

It is a powerful and most straightforward way to address transportation goods. Freight trains are a more significant part of any nation’s infrastructure.

In 2019, about $53 billion worth of goods were transported as freight trains in a day in the United States only.

However, before using this method, you must know the most suitable situations to use this option. The following are discussed the most important scenarios in this context.

1. When Shipping Inland from a Port

Sometimes the consignee has to transport his/her products from one corner of the country to the other. He has various options, like transportation by road and air. If he/she transport goods by air, it may be costly.

However, it is impractical to transport goods by road sometimes. The reasons can be the type of product, distance, carrier type, security, time constraint, and many more.

Therefore, Freight train in inland shipment from a specific port is an excellent medium.

Hence, if you want to ship your goods from a port of country to the distant corner in your country, you must consider this method.

2. When Shipping Large Quantities in Bulk

In freight trains, there are various types of railcars and cargo wagons. These are designed for a particular purpose or product. Freight trains can be used to transport either bulk cargo or containers.

When it is about consignment in bulk quantity, a hopper car is used. Here again, the utility of the hopper car depends upon the type of the products.

Hopper car is considered the best option to transport grains, ore, coal, fertilizers, sugar, and similar commodities.

Hopper cars can also be covered to save the cargo against various weather conditions. These can unload the cargo either from the sides of the freight car or doors on the bottom.

3. When Looking for Speedy Delivery over Long Distances

One of the fundamental challenges is the lead times when shipping goods by sea.

Rail cargo is a more reliable and faster mode of transport compared to ocean freight. Hence, this method has a shorter lead time too.

For example, it takes about seven weeks when transporting goods from China to Europe through ocean transports. In contrast, train freight shipping can do the same job in less than three weeks.

Thus, train freight shipping is beneficial for those doing business in fast-moving consumer products- especially those with high demands on short lead time.

Short delivery times also make it possible for you to forecast different business operations.

4. While Shipping Raw Materials Such as Metal Ore, Coal, Iron, Steel, etc.

Some products are considered to be transported in only authorized conditions. Certain recommendations and safety requirements are kept in place.

For this reason, most railway authorities implement the International Regulations on Cargo.

Hence, while it is about cautious products, cargo trains are the best medium of transport.

Cargo trains follow a series of standard procedures to guarantee the security of both products and the environment.

Therefore, while shipping coal, metal, ore, iron, steel, or similar products, you can not set aside the quality procedures of freight trains.

Moreover, transporting these kinds of products by other means can increase the cost considerably.

Raw Materials

5. When Looking For Shipping Alternatives than Road Transport

In various conditions, train freight is advantageous. For instance, a railway consumes nine times less energy per ton kilometer than a truck.

Trains can carry a bulk of cargo and hence is much cheap transport means. It emits 75% lesser GHG emission; it is environmentally friendly.

On the other hand, Trucks have flexible timing so you can predict their schedules. It is cost-effective if you want to transport goods for a short distance. It can provide you with door to door service.

In routine life, we face various situations where we have to select one option from two or more.

In these circumstances, we consider the merits and demerits of all the options. Then we take a prudent need-based decision that falls in the best quadrant of decision.

How Leeline Help You Shipping Goods from China by Freight Train

When it is about importing goods from China, you should not ignore Leeline.

Leeline has a vast and diverse experience in this field. Leeline provides professional services for small to medium business ventures.

Their services are comprehensive and almost cover everything related to sourcing in China. They have relations with millions of suppliers and carriers in China.

Hence, with their experienced and professional staff, you can find the best products in a short period.

They stand by their clients and use their highest standards to satisfy their customers. Their primary focus is to see you grooming your business.

In the previous two years only, they have assisted 2000+ happy clients. They can also help you in the following ways.

· Competitive Railway Freight Rates

Leeline has a decade-plus experience in the sourcing and logistics industry. Thus, they have good alliances with many carriers.

It makes them able to provide competitive railway freight rates. It also allows Leeline to offer you the most affordable freight forwarding services.

· Vast Experience in Railway Shipping Services

Leeline provides you complete sourcing services from China. They provide services from finding a suitable supplier to the shipment of your consignment. They are alliances with many carriers, freight rails, and airlines.

Since the emergence of rail freight, Leeline has a vast experience in Railway Shipping Services. If you find any problem regarding rail freight, Leeline can solve it efficiently.

· Assistance in Producing all the Necessary Documentation

To import goods from another country, you have to abide by some rules and regulations.

Necessary documentation is part of these. Hence, importing goods from China requires some paperwork.

Paperwork can be slightly different in different countries. It depends upon the country of origin, and your freight forwarder must provide relevant services.

Leeline can help you prepare various documents, i.e., Dock receipt, delivery order, bill of lading, Shipping guarantee, etc.

Suggested reading:Best Freight Forward Service In China: Ultimate Guide

Assistance in Producing all the Necessary Documentation

FAQ for Freight Train

In this article, we have also provided answers to some most frequently asked questions. Keep reading, and you will learn some more essential things.

1. Do Freight Trains have Schedules?

Freight Trains have tight schedules. It is the compulsion at the part of regulatory authority to maintain periodic schedules of the freight train.

It not only helps them manage these trains but also help the shippers to know the exact timings.

As compared to trucks, cargo trains observe strict timings and, therefore, make timely delivery possible.

However, strict scheduling of freight trains is also considered as a disadvantage of these when shippers need urgent shipping but cannot find freight train at hand.

2. Is Rail Freight Insured?

Yes, rail freight is insured, especially if the products high valued products. As regards the amount of the insurance, it depends upon the type of the product.

Some products are sensitive and need higher protection. Insurance companies charge more on these products.

However, some products are durable with having lesser chances of getting damaged. Therefore, insurance companies charge less on insuring these products.

Suggested reading:Best Cargo Insurance Service In China: Ultimate Guide

Freight Train

3. What are the most Common Products Transported via Rail?

Freight trains have the capability of transporting almost every product. As regards the most common goods that are being transported through Rail depends upon the region of the consignee.

The reason is, different regions have different demand according to a particular business.

For instance, the most common goods transported from China to Russia include textile, coal, medial apparatus, furniture, and computer devices.

Between Europe and China, mostly traded products are related to electrical equipment, computer parts, medical apparatus, precious metals, and organic chemicals.

However, train freight shipping is a suitable option to transport fast-moving consumer products with high demand in a short period.

4. Is it Cheaper to Transport by Rail or Truck?

If you want to transport your goods in bulk to a far distant destination, rail freight is cheaper than a truck. In comparison, Truck can benefit you for a short distance.

Therefore, as a rule of thumb, it is difficult to decide which option is cheaper.

5. How Fast do Freight Trains Go?

The speed of cargo train depends upon what product these are transporting.

The regulatory authority also sets the maximum speed. For example, in the USA, the maximum speed of freight trains is set to 60 mph.

6. Do trains go faster at night?

Mostly freight trains and passengers’ trains are driven on the same track.

At night there is little passenger traffic, and therefore, cargo trains can run more smoothly.

Furthermore, freight trains have fewer forced stops, so these can go faster at night.

Final Thoughts on Freight Train

Freight trains are a suitable method of transport for several reasons. These are cost-effective if you want to transport goods in bulk to a distant destination. It is a reliable and secure source too.

However, you must also consider the demerits which are previously discussed in this article.

Therefore, choosing among different transporting methods is difficult sometimes.

The best advice there is to consider your present situation. The reason is not every freight forwarder is suitable for every situation.