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Alibaba train from China to Liège

Image: AWEX
Image: AWEX

We recently reported on the state of the Belgian logistics industry, where real estate is concerned. Within this report, the importance of Liège Airport was cited. However, it is not just for its airport that the Walloon city is vital in terms of its logistics, but for its railway connection. We are not talking here of a few goods trains making the trip to Charleroi or Antwerp, but of the mammoth voyage to China. E-commerce giant Alibaba has just inaugurated a freight line which will link Liège to Zhengzhou, with a train service set to operate twice a week. This service is astonishing enough in itself, but is accompanied by the news that Alibaba may be planning to open a giant logistics hub of some 380,000 m², close to Liège Airport, in the coming years. This may create up to 900 direct jobs. In terms of the utility of this service, the following facts are relevant. The train service takes around eight days, but is substantially cheaper than air cargo. Eight days obviously has an impact on the type of goods that can be shipped. A traditional cargo service by ship takes around one month from, for example, Hong Kong to (typically) Rotterdam, but is by far the cheapest option. Finally, the fact of Alibaba choosing Liège for its hub speaks volumes about the importance of Belgium in terms of a logistics hub for Europe. Alibaba could presumably have selected any one of a number of locations in Europe such as Rotterdam itself, the Ruhr Valley…
Tim Harrup
08-03-2019


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