Austria’s OBB Deepens Link with China’s Silk Road

“In 2017 we had only 16 trains between Europe and China, while in 2018 we had 400 trains, mainly departing from Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Hefei and Shenzhen,”

 (Xinhua) — Austria’s national railway company ÖBB is constantly striving for international business opportunities, and China is one of its most important growing logistics markets, said the CEO of the company.

“ÖBB Rail Cargo Group (RCG) is currently working in 18 countries with a clear focus on shuttle services from and to international harbours that are already part of the Silk Road,” said Andreas Matthä, the CEO, during an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

RCG, the freight transport division of ÖBB, is the second biggest rail freight company in Europe, after Germany’s DB Group, with a turnover of 2.2 billion euros (about 2.51 billion U.S. dollars), more than half of which coming outside of Austria, according to its website.

With the booming rail transport to and from Asia via the new Silk Road, RCG has been intensifying its transport operations on the Sino-European axis since 2017, offering end-to-end logistics services between the two continents, the company’s website read.

“In 2017 we had only 16 trains between Europe and China, while in 2018 we had 400 trains, mainly departing from Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Hefei and Shenzhen,” Thomas Kargl, board member of RCG, told Xinhua.

RCG is currently operating 600 trains to and from China per year, and planning to considerably increase this amount within the coming years, noted Matthä, CEO of ÖBB.

The first train from China to Austria was sent on its way from Chongqing in southwest China on April 12, 2017, crossed Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia and arrived in Vienna in 14 days and two hours.

Current transit time from China to Europe is still 14 to 16 days, but the goal is 10 days or less with the support of digitalization, so that it would be more or less the same as air transportation timewise but much cheaper, said Kargl.

The goods transported by these trains are various, from graphite to textile to high-tech products such as laptops, hard disks and automobile spare parts, he said.

In the future, with better temperature control, these trains are expected to transport frozen food and other farm products.

“We see a lot of growth opportunities in both directions, from China to Europe and vice versa,” said Kargl.

“What’s fascinating for me is that China is going with very high speed in attracting business, and Chinese business people create strategy, pack it into a plan and follow the plan in very straightforward way,” he added.

“There are two mentalities clashing in the middle, not in the negative way,” he noted. “Here in Europe the EU (European Union) has been discussing for many years about how things might or might not be, while in China for example immediately 30 percent of every production is Ecar.”

Different from the Europeans, who tend to follow the old way, Chinese people are always eager to find the faster way, the cheaper way and the better way, and both sides have to learn to find the golden middle, he said.

RCG is planning to open operational offices in China in the near future, he said.

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