A train loaded with Lenzing fibers, which left Vienna, Austria, on Aug. 20, reached its destination, the Xinzhu station in Xi’an, China, after only 16 days. The train, which carried 41 containers of Tencel™ Lyocell and Modal fibers with a total value of €1.8 million, covered a total of 10,460 km through Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and China. Compared to sea freight, the rail express can reduce the transport time between Europe and China by half and is considered an integral part of climate protection.

Lenzing is not the only company testing the global rail system for the transport of raw materials or finished goods. We have already reported on Decathlon using rail transportation to ship goods from China to one of its distribution centers in France. A brand of sustainable children’s outdoor clothing and accessories, Isbjörn of Sweden, decided at the beginning of the year to transport its range of products by rail to Sweden from the bluesign®-certified factories with which it works in northeastern China. Here also, the switch to train freight means a travel time of only four weeks compared to the two months it previously took by ship. This will also put an end to last-minute air freight in the event of last-minute delays. Air freight is responsible for around 69 percent of the carbon dioxide released during transport, while rail transport is 16 times less.

Rail transportation can be a viable alternative right now because of serious bottlenecks being encountered at this time in conventional container transportation by boat. However, DB Schenker has chosen instead to establish new air freight connection from Beijing, Shanghai, Zhenzhou and Hong Kong to Chicago and Frankfurt ten times a week to overcome this problem. The big German-based shipping company is taking advantage of a drop in passenger air traffic to fill aircraft with merchandise. It had already set up a dedicated Covid-19 Airbridge earlier this year, providing 1,190 cargo flights to overcome shortages of products among its clients.