As one of the foreign participants in the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, InterRail Holding AG, a Swiss freight rail services provider, has been working closely with China Railway Corp's subsidiary China Railway Container Transport Group, and moved more than 100,000 20-foot equivalent container units from China to European and Central Asian destinations. Global Times reporter Chen Qingqing (GT) recently interviewed its director Michael Albert.
GT: How has your company engaged in the "One Belt, One Road" initiative?
Albert: Our group has had offices in China, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and European countries for many years. In 2012, InterRail participated in some of the first train projects from China to Europe.
Our original main business involved two-way services between the EU and the CIS, and between China and the CIS. Now, we can connect these areas and offer an intercontinental train product.
The "One Belt, One Road" initiative greatly contributed to train services in recent years.
GT: What are the challenges in operating freight routes?
Albert: The speed and reliability of trains and customs procedures have improved and are at a good level. Nevertheless, further advances, with a transit time target of 10 days from China to Europe, would attract even more cargo that now travels by air and sea.
The relative lack of freight from Europe to China compared with volumes from China to Europe, remains a challenge. Improvements would reduce freight expenses.
We understand that government subsidies will be phased out. So it is our goal to reduce transport costs and make the economics less dependent on subsidies.
GT: How would you describe the business in Switzerland?
Albert: Switzerland with its limited market size is still not the main target for many Chinese companies.
We consider the visit of President Xi Jinping will be intended to improve conditions for Chinese companies. Companies that are being active in e-commerce might find opportunities there.