Deutsche Bahn to start direct China route

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German rail operator Deutsche Bahn looks set to start a regular railfreight service linking Europe and China

Berlin -- Rail freight trains will be running regularly this year between Germany and China following a successful test in January, state-owned German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) said Monday.

DB spokesman Gelfo Kroeger said the test, which terminated at the port of Hamburg at the end of a 10,000-kilometre journey, had shown that a journey time of 15 days was possible.

"We aim to have a regular freight service this year, and if it can be achieved sooner, so much the better," Kroeger said. A German news report said the aim was to have the service running within three months.

DB also has an 8-per-cent stake in China United International Railway Container Transport, which is currently planning a total of 18 rail freight terminals in China.

DB chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn said in January the aim was to cut the journey time to 10 days.

The trip is complicated by the fact that Russia and Belarus have different track gauges than those used in China and Western Europe. During the journey the wheel sets on wagons have to be changed twice. A similar technique is already used on the Berlin-Moscow overnight passenger service.

While rail cannot compete with shipping on cost alone, it can potentially deliver more quickly, as sea freight often takes five weeks.

Despite being a state owned company, Deutsche Bahn is one of Europe's biggest and most ambitious transport and logistics operators. It is rumoured to be considering a direct Frankfurt to London passenger service using its flagship ICE high-speed trains which would make the journey in under five hours.

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