Canada Wood Today | The Canada Wood Group

China’s Freight Rail Expansion Undergoing Upgrades

Edward Zheng

By Edward Zheng

Business Development Manager, Canada Wood China

December 19, 2016

China’s freight railway network is undergoing continual upgrades. The development of rail transportation aligns with “The Belt and Road” initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping. This initiative will improve trade ties between China, Russia and Eurasia. Russia relies heavily on the railway to export its wood into China[1], so any improvements to freight rail capacity would provide an advantage to Russian wood exporters.

China’s freight-rail network

China’s freight-rail network

The total length China’s land border is approximately 22,000 kilometers. The railway network covers Northeast China, Central China and Southwest China; it has 11 international connector lines in 5 countries include Russia (3 lines), North Korea (3 lines), Mongolia (1 line), Kazakhstan (2 lines) and Vietnam (2 lines). Railway transportation is more cost-effective than trucking over long in-land hauls. The railway connections between China and the lumber industry clusters in Siberia and the Far East of Russia are vital to the wood trade.


  • Wuhan Asia-Europe (hereinafter referred as WAE) International Rail Freight Transport was opened since 2012 and officially shipped their first cargo on April 23rd, 2014. WAE represents the spirit of “The Belt and Road” and plays an important role in the Asia-Europe Economic Corridor. The WAE railway line starts from Wuhan City China, goes through Manzhouli/Alataw Pass to Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, and Czech Republic ending in Hamburg / Duisburg in Germany. This line will enable increased transportation of Russian wood to Central China.
  • The very first dedicated train for wood furniture started on May 28th, 2016 from Nankang Station to Ganzhou port. This dedicated line for wood furniture is 3.8 kilometers long. While it is a short line, it is significant as it helps connect Ganzhou port to the Yangtze River, providing access to many developed regions in China including Beijing, Hebei and Shandong.
  • China has relatively few intermodal terminals, however there are plans for expansion. A joint venture by CRIntermodal and the China Railway Corporation has plans to build 18 new intermodal rail terminals across China to create integrated railway lines with ocean ports and freight trucks in order to enhance the logistics network.
  • The standard railway gauge in China is 1,435 mm but Russia uses 1,520 mm. According to an official Chinese newspaper[2] Moscow has proposed to build a railway line using Chinese gauge standards to connect Huncun City in China and Zarubino in Russia. Huncun is part of Jilin Province’s plan to expand a local wood processing industry. Gauge difference in different countries may not be an issue in the future.
Reloading in Manzhouli to fit different gauges

Reloading in Manzhouli to fit different gauges









[1] Quote from Liu Yehan, one of the speakers from Qingdao International Wood Supply Chain event.

[2] Reference News or Can Kao Xiao Xi (2016)