Cargo railway between Mannheim and Chongqing commences operation

On the morning of 25th October 2018, the direct connection for freight trains from Mannheim (Germany) to Chongqing in China was officially put into operation. This is one of the key pilot projects of the Mannheim – Chongqing cooperation within the International Urban Cooperation (IUC) project.

Establishing a direct cargo railway line between Mannheim and Chongqing is an example of how local governments can work to implement the UN Sustainable Urban Development Goals and the European Union’s Urban Agenda at the local level. Moreover, it is an example of the way local authorities can effectively achieve their goals in partnership with key stakeholders – in this case with the local business community.

At the ceremony, Dr Peter Kurz, Mayor of Mannheim, expressed his gratitude to the European Union for the support to the pilot project. According to Mayor Kurz, the IUC Asia secretariat opened up political access to decision-makers on the Chinese side. He stated that the EU’s political support – as well as the IUC team’s contents and coordination support – was crucial during negotiations in China and Europe. Dr Kurz especially welcomed the IUC’s triple-helix approach, allowing the city authorities to involve key stakeholders from several local economic sectors.

Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Mr Charles White, Senior External Advisor of DG REGIO stated that: “Establishing a direct cargo railway line between Mannheim and Chongqing is a great example of how to implement the UN Sustainable Urban Development goals and the European Union’s Urban Agenda at the local level. Moreover, it is a classic European best practice example of the way local authorities can achieve these goals in partnership with civil society – in this case with the local business community.”

Mr White expressed his congratulations to Mannheim’s city administration under the guidance of Mannheim’s Mayor Peter Kurz and First Deputy Mayor Christin Specht. Mannheim’s international relations team made crucial efforts to realise the vision of linking Mannheim – a well-known European transport axis – with Chongqing, one of China’s most important transport hubs.

Mr White stated that this project shows that cities can be agents for change, by bringing concrete solutions to bear upon common challenges. He said that this is a pilot project which supports the local economy and achieves the reduction of both the traffic congestion and the CO2 emissions caused by traditional freight transportation methods.

Mr Wu Cunrong, First Vice Mayor of Chongqing City, stressed the importance of the Mannheim-Chongqing axis for closer connecting China and the European Union. He expressed Chongqing’s commitment to smoothing freight formalities alongside the route through dialogue with bordering countries. Mr Wu also discussed the possibilities of making Mannheim a hub for collaboration with Chongqing and South West China, including joint projects in other areas relevant for sustainable economic and urban development.

Mr Wang Shunqing, the Chinese General Consul in Germany, was present in Mannheim for the occasion. Mr Wang underlined the strong commitment of Mannheim authorities for making the railway connection with Chongqing a reality. He also acknowledged the vision and commitment of Chongqing authorities to involving relevant Chinese stakeholders in the project.

From the multi-modal port of Mannheim, the first freight train – containing 41 containers, each 40 feet in length – set off for China, a journey of around 11,200 kilometres.

As part of its journey, the train travels through Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. According to the logistics company Contargo, the transport time of goods between Mannheim and China will be significantly reduced due to the new train connection. The freight train takes about 17 days, significantly less than the 35 days required by ship. 

The city of Chongqing is located in the interior of the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. It is the start and finish point of the Trans-Eurasia Express, which connects China with Germany.


Mannheim and Chongqing joined the IUC Asia programme as pilot cities in 2017. Since the first exchange in June 2017, the two sides agreed to foster cooperation in areas including establishing a new railway connection. Within the framework of the IUC programme and through support from the programme team, the two cities have exchanged high-level official visits and maintained in-depth communication during the past year.

As early as July 2018, representatives of the City of Mannheim and representatives of a logistics company from Chongqing (Yuxinou Logistics Company Ltd) signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with the focus to “foster collaboration in the field of logistics and freight transport”.

Dr. Peter Kurz, Mayor of Mannheim, said that such a connection would benefit both cities enormously. He emphasised that Mannheim, as a “central transport hub for water, road and rail transport, is one of the most important logistics and business locations in Europe”.

Click here to watch the video of the train launch ceremony and interviews.

To browse images from the event, click here.

Credit: part of this article is sourced from SWR news