CHONGQING — Even though more than a decade has passed, Jiang Tong, an electric locomotive driver hailing from Southwest China's Chongqing municipality, still vividly recalls the surge of excitement he experienced during his momentous journey on the inaugural China-Europe freight train in 2011.
Jiang was the driver of the very first train to run on the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe railway, the pioneering China-Europe freight train route. The train commenced its journey from Chongqing's Tuanjiecun station, then a small stop with a workforce of under 30, nestled amid the farmlands in the suburbs.
At first, the station only saw about one China-Europe freight train a month, recalled Zhang Xin, then head of the station. Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, the annual number of China-Europe freight trains skyrocketed to 2,242 last year from 17 in 2011.
"The station has now become a first-class station with more than 600 employees," Zhang said.
The station's transformation exemplifies the rapid development of the China-Europe freight trains.
The number of China-Europe freight train trips this year reached 10,000 by July 29, 22 days earlier than last year, according to China State Railway Group Co Ltd, having transported over 1.08 million twenty-foot equivalent units of goods, up 27 percent from 2022.
"In the past, the trains from Tuanjiecun could only travel as far as Guangzhou, Guangdong province. It never occurred to me that our trains would one day reach Europe," Zhang said.
As its significance within the global railway network continues to expand, Tuanjiecun has been connected with Southeast Asian nations with the launch of the China-Laos Railway in 2021. This year, the railway route has facilitated the delivery of a fleet of new energy vehicles manufactured in Chongqing to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states.
Tuanjiecun is also an important station in the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, a trade and logistics passage linking western China and ASEAN. This corridor is one of the key projects under the BRI.
"Initially, we transported goods like laptops and electronic products. However, with the rapid development of the BRI, our trains now handle a diverse range of cargo, including agricultural products and automobiles," Jiang said. "Our operations have become much busier and I take great pride in witnessing this transformation."
"For the next phase, our focus will be on further refining our rail routes, creating seamless links between China-Europe freight train routes and other significant international logistics corridors," said Zhuo Biyuan at China Railway Chengdu Group Co Ltd, adding that this step aims to establish closer links with the BRI.