Europe-China Rail: Repair Works to Limit Capacity and Cause Delays

Europe-China Rail: Repair Works to Limit Capacity and Cause Delays

From March 2018 to April 2019, the Polish railway will undertake major repair works between the Malaszewicze and Brest rail freight terminals, which constitute a key border transition point between broad and normal gauge track on the Europe-China rail corridor. In addition to modernizing the rail tracks, turnouts and the traction network near Malaszewicze will be replaced. The transit time between Zhengzhou in Central China and Germany, which usually takes around 11-14 days, is now likely to be extended due to the repair works.

Rail operators reported that from March 11 to April 18, three lines with 1435 gauge and 2 lines with 1520 gauge will remain open at the Terespol terminal on the Belarusian side of the border crossing. At the same time, track 1 will be closed at Malaszwezwicze and only track 2 will be open for rail traffic from March 11 to May 11. From May 12 to July 12, about 50 percent of rail tracks including track 2 will be closed in Malaszwezwicze. From July 13, 2018 to January 13, 2019, another 50 percent of the rail tracks are scheduled to be closed, while tracks 1 and 2 will be reopened. At the Biala terminal west of Malaszwezwicze, about 50 percent of tracks will be closed between March 11 and May 26.

As a result, freight capacity on trains using the rail corridor between Western Europe, Russia and China are likely to be limited, further exacerbating the rail freight bottleneck on the Polish-Belarusian border. Nearly all containers sent by rail to Europe from China pass through logistics centers near the Malaszewicze terminal, a key border transition point where the containers are reloaded from broad onto standard gauge wagons. From there, they directly reach end markets in Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic or Austria. Due to the repair works, congestion is likely to occur in rail freight terminals between the Malaszewicze and Brest. Other potential impacts may include difficulties with rail connections between Western and Southern Europe and Malaszewicze as well as urgent rescheduling of trains to and from those destinations.

Due to the capacity bottlenecks at the Malaszewicze terminal, the Russian rail freight operator Far East Landbridge has recently opened an alternative route from China into Europe. A weekly service between Changsha, China, and Budapest, Hungary, will link both cities in 18-20 days via the border crossing in Dobra, Slovakia. This rail line will reportedly not be affected by any delays, but capacity may be limited due to a single weekly service.

Customers are advised to book capacity on alternative services well in advance and expect longer shipment times on rail freight shipments going through the Malaszewicze terminal on the Europe-China rail corridor for the foreseeable future.

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