From the Chengdu-Vienna diary

19. 04. 2018

15 April 2018. Entry from the travel journal: We have already covered 3,500 kilometres, and there are 6,300 still to go. Today, we are at the Chinese-Kazakh border crossing Korgas. We are already leaving China behind, while five countries still lie ahead of us. Here is a first look back at initial experiences and at the upcoming kilometres.

It all starts in the capital of the Chinese province of Sichuan at the Chengdu railway container centre. At China’s largest railway hub, smaller quantities of goods are bundled in single-wagon transport and then driven to Europe as block trains. This also applies to our first train, which we sent from the Chinese metropolis of Chengdu to Vienna on 12 April. China is an important market with tremendous economic growth and huge potential for European companies. Last but not least, China is the world’s largest exporter. Particularly in the fields of electronic devices, lighting fixtures, and electric motors as well as the textile and footwear industry, China is the exporting country par excellence and currently dominates world trade more than any other nation. Besides the USA and Japan, important export destinations are mainly European countries. Loaded with 44 containers that hold electronic components, lighting materials and household goods, our train has been underway for seven days.

The first part of the journey took it across China. After 3,500 kilometres, our train arrives at the first important stop, the Sino-Kazakh border town and transit point Korgas. Due to different gauges between China (gauge of 1,435 millimetres) and Kazakhstan (with a broad gauge width of 1,520 millimetres), the containers are handled here for the first time. By means of a gantry crane, they are loaded onto a new train and, as a result, onto the broad gauge railway. From now on, the train is in our hands, and we will be accompanying it through another five countries.

An outlook on exciting travel experiences

Across Kazakhstan, we continue on the broad gauge railway through Russia to the Ukraine until we reach the Ukrainian-Slovak border. In Dobrá, a new turnaround takes place and, therefore, a change from the broad gauge to the standard gauge. From Dobrá, it then continues on standard gauge through Slovakia to Austria. At the reception terminal, the Vienna South freight centre, our train will finally reach its destination after a long journey across six countries. The container train will have travelled a total of 9,800 kilometres and experienced a wide variety of cultures. It has and will continue to become familiar with the most varied climatic zones. In the beginning, there were extreme weather contrasts in China. Now, it can expect blooming deserts of the otherwise monotonous landscape in Kazakhstan, continental climatic conditions in Russia as well as temperate climates in Ukraine, Slovakia and Austria. But not only the atmospheric conditions and extreme weather events will be challenges for us and our train. Apart from the language barriers and the lack of harmonised shipping documents resulting from non-standardised customs systems, the train also travels through different time zones. One thing is for sure: On this trip, our specialists will make the seemingly impossible possible, according to the motto “there is no such thing as ‘can’t’”! In any case, let’s keep our fingers crossed for the last few kilometres so that we can welcome our train on time at the Vienna South freight centre on the night of 24 to 25 April. Stick around!