In November 2014, China expanded an old cargo train line that linked Germany to China to transport car components to Spain, creating a 13,000 km railway with the aim of increasing exports from China and bringing Spanish food to Chinese consumers. The trip takes 18 days, crossing France, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan.They're still seeking their J. Edgar Thomson, E. H. Harriman, or James J. Hill.
It is part of the massive “One Belt, One Road” commercial and military initiative launched by China in late 2013. OBOR, as it is known, includes a maritime route that would link Asia with East Africa and Europe through the Suez Canal; and an inland route following the old Silk Road that would cross Central Asia to Europe.
The problem is, there’s really no need to use trains to increase commerce between Europe and China. Sea cargo transportation is much cheaper, and companies already rely on it. More than 19,000 containers can be placed on a single cargo ship, and they only take 30 days from Europe to reach China.The advantage of rail is in the speed, if the carriers are capable of moving the trains. Why else would Prince Rupert or Seattle exist as container ports in addition to those at Oakland or Los Angeles - Long Beach.
The railway’s cost is only getting more prohibitive as sea shipping rates go down, thanks to an ongoing glut of shipping capacity.
It helps, also, that the western transcontinentals still run trains through territories with some respect for the rule of law.
Yes, the railway is faster than a shipping container, but is also riskier because it goes through a few unstable countries and can be interrupted by extreme weather, terrorist attacks, and politics, [University of Hong Kong economist Chenggang] Xu said. “The Russian government is not very happy about the Central Asian link,” he added. “In their view they should dominate Central Asia.”What, for all his mob ties, Tsar Vladimir isn't able to come to a modus vivendi with the local bandits?
As far as those extreme weather interruptions, I offer Kicking Horse Pass or Donner Pass. The trains get through.