WUHAN, April 23 (Xinhua) -- A freight train on Wednesday began a journey from central China's key city of Wuhan to Poland's Lodz, restarting the Wuhan-Xijiang-Europe rail route after it was suspended for technical reasons.
Its 15-day journey will pass along the Silk Road economic belt through major cities in central and northwest China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus before arriving in the destination.
The rail trip is about one month quicker than the maritime alternative, and costs a fifth as much as air freight, according to the Wuhan Transport Committee.
"It will greatly improve the competitiveness of exports made in Wuhan and nearby regions," said Yu Shiping, director of the committee.
He predicted that it will contribute to the realization of the Silk Road economic belt, the regional trade infrastructure proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The train is loaded with 41 40-foot containers holding goods valued at more than 12 million U.S. dollars.
Most of them are products made by Hon Hai/Foxconn, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer, which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia in its plant in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province.
Although railway transport is costly compared to maritime transport, it is a superior option bearing in mind how wildly electronic products prices fluctuate. They are more sensitive to the time-cost in transportation, according to the Foxconn plant in Wuhan.
In a month, the export value of one consignment of electronic products might devalue by about two percent, about several tens of thousands of dollars.
"The rail channel serves as a new logistic channel for Foxconn and other export-oriented enterprises. It also enhances the attractiveness of Wuhan to international companies and logistics giants," said Yu.
Wuhan is the largest city in central China and among the top 10 megacities nationwide. It has long been an economic, industrial and transportation hub for both the region and the country.
Wuhan and Hubei Province have both witnessed surging trade with Central Asian and European countries.
It will be much easier to bring in from Europe high-value-added products such as the mechanical and electronic equipment, entire vehicles and parts, as well as medical facilities, said Yu.
The Wuhan-Xijiang-Europe railway opened in October 2012, but it was later suspended due to problems with customs clearance and costs.
In Oct. 2013, Wuhan set up a railway port with customs clearance functions.
"The complicated clearance procedures were finally resolved. Export enterprises can declare their goods in the railway port. It greatly reduces their logistics costs and risks," said Xia Huanyun, deputy director with the Wuhan Transport Committee.
As the starting point of the rail route, Wuhan has the irreplaceable advantages of being a shipping center on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, one of the country's four railway terminals and a regional aviation hub.
"The international railway is expected to promote the industrial upgrade and strengthen the regional division of labor, as well as boost economic exchange along the way," said Song Ze, researcher with the Finance and Trade Economy Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
More wisdom and cooperation is called for to create a unified market and strengthen the economic and trade links alongside the operation of the new international railway, said Song.