February 2019

List of Countries with Freight Trains from China

In recent years freight trains from China have been capturing newspaper headlines by arriving in more and more countries.

Perhaps there is no more striking example of this then when the first China to Spain cargo train returned to Yiwu having covered a world record 16,156-mile round trip in 2015.

Read this article to learn about China's push for international rail cargo and find our which countries have already received freight trains from China.

Do Freight Trains from China go to your Country?

If you live anywhere in Europe, Central Asia or somewhere in between, the answer is more than likely yes!

In little more than a decade China built a hugely impressive domestic high speed rail network, with lightning-fast bullet trains and colossal train stations.

Now they are making huge strides in expanding their rail freight network internationally under their much vaunted 'One Road, One Belt' project.

Thanks to new infrastructure, international cooperation and generous Chinese subsidies, the railway container traffic from China to Europe increased almost tenfold from 25,000 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) in 2014 to 240,000 TEU in 2017.

So Chinese Trains go all the way to Europe?

Well actually, no. As this article in explains:

"There are no freight trains from China to Europe," was the somewhat surprising opening statement by Mr Ewe Leuschner, senior vice-president, business development Eurasia, with DB Cargo. He went on to explain that there are three independent groups of rail freight services: China on standard gauge, the 1520mm-gauge network covering Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Russia and parts of Eastern Europe, and standard gauge in the rest of Europe.

China is the driving force behind putting in place the infrastructure improvements and international agreements that are opening up these rail routes. And, significantly, they are providing the subsidies that encourage companies to use them.

However the freight itself is transferred between different trains on different lines at different sections of its journey west.

Why is China Doing This?

China sees rail as a viable alternative to costly air freight and slow sea freight, for transporting their wares to markets in Asia and Europe.

By reinventing the ancient Silk Road as a modern overland rail cargo route China plans to develop inland parts of the country located far from the coastal sea ports. Included in this is the establishment of many inland free trade zones.

These efforts are already starting to have a big effect, especially for high tech manufacturers in Chengdu, Chongqing and Zhengzhou who can now get their products to Europe in ~15 days by rail rather than ~45 days by sea.

Map of Countries with Freight Trains from China

The below map identifies countries where China freight trains either travel to or stop at en route to their destination.

Countries that have Received Freight Trains from China

We have identified that each of the below countries have received freight trains from China in recent years.

Note that not all countries have regular scheduled services, but at least have a documented case of receiving a freight train from China.

The following table identifies countries with international freight train services from China, starting with the closest - North Korea - and concluding with the country furthest away, Spain.

Country Capital City Distance from Beijing
(to Capital City)

Time Zones Difference

North Korea Pyongyang 809 km +1 hour Link
Mongolia Ulaanbaatar 1169 km Same Time Zone Link
Vietnam Hanoi 2332 km -1 hour Link
Kyrgyzstan Bishkek 3474 km -2 hours Link
Kazakhstan Astana 3655 km -2 hours Link
Pakistan Islamabad 3888 km -3 hours Link
Uzbekistan Tashkent 3940 km -3 hours Link
Tajikistan Dushanbe 4060 km -3 hours Link
Afghanistan Kabul 4177 km -3.5 hours Link
Turkmenistan Ashgabat 4943 km -3 hours Link
Azerbaijan Baku 5554 km -4 hours Link
Iran Tehran 5610 km -4.5 hours Link
Russia Moscow 5800 km -5 hours Link
Georgia Tbilisi 5852 km -4 hours Link
Finland Helsinki 6329 km -6 hours Link
Estonia Tallinn 6372 km -6 hours Link
Ukraine Kiev 6458 km -6 hours Link
Belarus Minsk 6475 km -5 hours Link
Latvia Riga 6524 km -6 hours Link
Lithuania Vilnius 6570 km -6 hours Link
Sweden Stockholm 6716 km -7 hours Link
Turkey Ankara 6841 km -6 hours Link
Poland Warsaw 6948 km -7 hours Link
Norway Oslo 7032 km -7 hours Link
Hungary Budapest 7349 km -7 hours Link
Germany Berlin 7366 km -7 hours Link
Slovakia Bratislava 7428 km -7 hours Link
Czech Republic Prague 7464 km -7 hours Link
Austria Vienna 7469 km -7 hours Link
Netherlands Amsterdam 7831 km -7 hours Link
Belgium Brussels 7971 km -7 hours Link
Italy Rome 8134 km -7 hours Link
United Kingdom London 8150 km -8 hours Link
France Paris 8226 km -7 hours Link
Spain Madrid 9233 km -7 hours Link

Future China Freight Routes Currently Under Construction

The main freight route currently under construction is the ambitious project to link China to Singapore through the Malay Peninsula.

Known as the Kunming-Singapore railway, if and when completed, this project will lead to freight trains from China also heading to each of the following South East Asia countries:

  • Laos
  • Myanmar
  • Cambodia
  • Thailand
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore

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