The number of China-Europe freight trains dispatched in the first half of the year surged to 5,122, up 36 percent year-on-year, breaking the monthly record several times over, according to the China State Railway Group Co Ltd, the 21st Century Business Herald reported on Wednesday.

Five freight assembly centers — namely Zhengzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an and Urumqi — as classified by the National Development and Reform Commission registered 4,003 trains in the first half, accounting for 78.15 percent of the total dispatched trains in more than 50 cities in China where China-Europe freight trains are open.

Among the five centers, Xi’an was the black horse. In 2017, China-Europe freight trains dispatched from the city stood at 193. The number jumped to 1,235 in 2018 and 2,100 in 2019. In the first half of 2020, the number was recorded at 1,667. If the trend keeps going, Xi’an is likely to be the first city dispatching over 3,000 China-Europe freight trains in China.

Although neither Chengdu nor Chongqing saw its number of trains exceed 1,000 in the first half, the two cities started to move from eyeing an increase in quantity to emphasizing quality improvement. Data in many categories from the two places were in a leading position.

As of late June, 439 China-Europe freight trains had been dispatched in Zhengzhou. According to the plan released in April, the city aims to send out 1,100 trains this year, with local freight accounting for at least 18 percent of the total. To accomplish this goal, the city has to further expand the market in the second half to attract more cargo to be transported here from both within the province of Henan, where the city is located, and outside the province.

Urumqi, ranking the fifth among the five freight assembly centers in the first half, dispatched 47 China-Europe freight trains. The city needs to solve freight source problems so as to better function as a Belt and Road trade hub, said the 21st Century Business Herald.

The 21st Century Business Herald said China-Europe freight trains are an important driver to recover foreign trade. The total import and export value of Henan province stood at 228.04 billion yuan ($32.7 billion), up 7.7 percent year-on-year, and 10.9 percent higher than the national general growth rate, according to Henan’s customs body.

The business herald said, 2020 is a key window period to expand clients for China-Europe freight trains, but the market share of the trains in China’s logistics system accounts for merely around 1 percent. Potential still needs to be explored in market expansion and international cooperation.

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