QUICK IMPLEMENTATION: On Oct. 6, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, during her visit to Kazakhstan, agreed to support the launch of the Lithuania-operated shuttle cargo train Saule connecting China with the EU. On Nov. 10, Saule, with its cargo for Belgium, arrived in Lithuania from China.
VILNIUS - On Nov. 10, Lithuanian Transport Minister Eligijus Masiulis as well as the ambassadors of China and Kazakhstan celebrated a historic day for the EU and Asia at the railway station in the Lithuanian town of Kena: the first shuttle cargo train, which is operated by the Lithuanian company VPA Logistics, arrived from Chongqing city in China. The train was carrying 41 containers of computer equipment. This cargo’s final destination was the Belgian port of Antwerp.
On Oct. 6, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, during her visit to Kazakhstan, agreed to support the launch of the Lithuania-operated shuttle cargo train named Saule (the name means “Sun” in the Lithuanian language and, interestingly enough, “Ray” in the Kazakh language), connecting China with the EU. Saule goes via the territories of China, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus. The latter three countries have a customs union, which makes such transportation quicker and cheaper.
Until now almost all goods transported between the EU and Asia have been done by sea. Now there is an attractive alternative. It takes some 40-45 days to transport cargo by sea, while the train route cuts delivery times by more than half, though, of course, a train can carry less cargo than a ship. In addition, the train route is certainly much cheaper than air transportation.
Lithuania is the most suitable EU country for such transit of goods. The former USSR territory is covered with the Russian railway gauge of 1,520 mm. Lithuania has one of the few northern ice-free seaports in the eastern Baltic - Klaipeda - as well as a section of European-standard railway gauge of 1,435 mm going towards Poland, along with Lithuania-based companies’ big fleet of cargo trucks for further delivery of Asia-produced goods throughout the EU. It will not be just one-way transportation from Asia to Europe because there are already large numbers of wealthy people in the Kazakh and Chinese societies which are interested in expensive EU-made goods.
“The train reached Lithuania from China through Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus in a very short period of time, just 13 days,” Kazakh Ambassador Galymzhan Koishybayev said. Another six days were needed to transport these goods to Antwerp.
The ceremony in the Kena railway station was disturbed by four Lithuanian pro-Tibetan activists shouting “Free Tibet!” They were quickly detained by the police for the duration of ceremony due to the well-known China’s attitude to this kind of protests. Lithuanian Transport Minister Masiulis expressed his mixed feelings about this police action as well as the pretext chosen by pro-Tibetan campaigners for such protest. “It is a Lithuania-operated train,” he emphasized.