First freight train from China arrives in London
The first container train travelling between China and the UK arrived yesterday at DB Cargo UK’s London Eurohub terminal in Barking. The train is operated by the InterRail Group, a multinational transport operator headquartered in Switzerland, on behalf of China Railway subsidiary CRIMT.
Various freight railways handle traction along the 12,000-kilometre route; and DB Cargo is responsible for the section from Duisburg to London via the Channel Tunnel.
The train originated in Yiwu in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. It reached London in around 18 days, making it twice as fast as transport by sea. The train was loaded primarily with textiles and other consumer goods. The 34'x40’ containers required specifically for the UK were loaded on to Deutsche Bahn’s container platforms at the Duisburg container terminal, which are specially approved for the Channel Tunnel.
The UK is just the latest destination added to the China–Europe rail link, with this train being treated initially as a test train. London is one more international connection for the InterRail Group, along with Duisburg, Madrid, Afghanistan and Riga, on the "One Belt – One Road" corridor, an initiative of the Chinese government.
DB has collaborated with partners since 2011 to operate weekly container trains on the world's longest rail line, which connects, among other cities, Duisburg and Hamburg to Wuhan, Chongqing and Harbin, and as of mid-2016, Hamburg to the Chinese province of Hefei. A record number of containers, around 40,000, were transported by train along the legendary Silk Road in 2016. The volume is expected to increase to some 100,000 containers by 2020.
The 10,000 to 12,000 kilometre journeys usually take 12 to 16 days and require containers to be unloaded and reloaded multiple times due to changes of gauge. The service is used in particular by customers with time-sensitive commodities, including special promotional clothing items, and capital-intensive goods, such as automotive parts and electronics.
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FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles
FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics.
The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener".
FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, going beyond more traditional applications of the technology in single-route movement of goods from A-B. Exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its broader experimentation in new autonomy solutions, Fed-Ex says, both in-warehouse and on-road.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, Vice President, Advanced Technology and Innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
The changing role of couriers
Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time.
But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse.
“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”
Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds.
Last mile's role in ESG
Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings.