Nippon Express, one of the five largest logistics companies in the world, inaugurated its first journey from China to Europe on December 20, 2018. This first freight train is expected to connect Xian in China to Duisburg in Germany in just 18 days.
This operation is only a test, but Nippon Express will offer this service on a regular basis from March 2019.
Although Japan has not officially joined the BRI, many Japanese companies, such as Nippon Express, are committed to the creation of the new Silk Roads, – in 2017, Nippon Express signed an agreement with the Kazakh railways-.
Tokyo is however interested in increased cooperation with Beijing in rail transportation. For example, in September 2018, Japan and China launched a committee to co-finance infrastructure abroad. Nippon Express is very motivated by this initiative. In October 2018, Nippon Express took part to a forum in Beijing to strengthen cooperation with the Chinese company Sinotrans which manages railway lines between China and Europe.
Nippon Express projects show that intercontinental rail transport is becoming a real alternative to other types of transport. Faster than maritime transport and cheaper than the plane, Europe-Asia railway is more and more attractive for Asian and European companies.
The increasing demand for this type of transport might reduce the latest non-tariff barriers between Europe and and Asian states and encourage them to simplify trade procedures.