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First Turkey-China freight train reaches destination in historic trip

ANKARA, Turkey: In a major milestone, the first train carrying goods from Turkey to China reached its destination on Saturday, Turkey’s transport and infrastructure minister said.

“Announcing Turkey’s power in logistics to the world from every city it passed through, the China Export Train is our victory in rail transport,” Adil Karaismailoglu wrote on Twitter.

The train set off from Istanbul on December 4 and covered a distance of 8,693 kilometres (over 5,400 miles) across Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea, and Kazakhstan to reach China’s Xi’an city.

It followed the Trans Caspian East-West Middle Corridor via Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, according to a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement at the time of departure.

The journey included more than 2,300 kilometres (over 1,440 miles) in Turkey, 220 kilometres (some 135 miles) in Georgia, 430 kilometres (over 265 miles) in Azerbaijan, 420 kilometres (some 260 miles) across the Caspian Sea, 3,200 kilometres (nearly 1,990 miles) in Kazakhstan, and 2,100 kilometres (over 1,300 miles) in China.

Rail Cargo Group (RCG) already operates several regular intermodal train connections between Europe and Asia via the regular route of the New Silk Road. By connecting two European destinations to Turkey, it expands the possibilities of the Middle Corridor, which runs via Georgia and Azerbaijan, crossing the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan.

The TransFERs

The TransFER Curtici–Istanbul provides a direct connection of one round trip per week from the Romanian terminal to Halkali, the most important international freight terminal in Turkey. This new TransFER connects the economic regions of Turkey and Romania with a transit time of 66 hours.

The TransFER Budapest–Köseköy connects the Asian part of Turkey with Europe – with a transit time of just under five days. With this weekly round trip, RCG is expanding its network and logistics services between Asia and Hungary together with its partners TCDD and Pasifik Eurasia.

“This extension to the RCG network provides improved connections to economic hubs across the entire Eurasian region”, the rail freight operator said. “The chance to link Anatolia and Central Asia mean that all of Western Europe’s economic centres are also connected via the logistics hub of Budapest. This in turn means the entire Eurasian region can tap into the RCG network.”

Mamaray Tunnel

In Turkey, the trains run through the Mamaray Tunnel underneath the Bosporus – the strait between Europe and Asia. This tunnel was previously only open to passenger trains but was opened for freight traffic in October last year. This decreased transit times on the Middle Corridor significantly, as the train journey from Baku to Europe can now be carried out without a single stop.

The Mamaray Tunnel plays a key role in this non-stop connection”, says RCG. “Freight trains on this route use it to provide a seamless underground connection between the Asian and European parts of Turkey.

The first intermodal block train for one of our customers loaded with 36×45-foot containers of white goods as well as car spare parts travelled non-stop through the tunnel on its way from Arifiye in Turkey to Sopron in Hungary. This proves that rail transport is not only efficient but above all competitive and is becoming an increasingly attractive mode of transport.”