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Dedicated Cainiao block train departs Zhengzhou for Liège

The “Cainiao Train”

Alibaba’s logistics network Cainiao is continuing to underpin its presence in Liège by expanding its trans-Eurasian railway service with operator Zhengzhou International Hub Development and Construction Co, Ltd. (ZIH) into a full-fledged block space agreement (BSA), Steven Verhasselt, vice president commercial at Liège Airport told Air Cargo World. The first dedicated block train has departed Zhengzhou and is expected to arrive in Belgium on March 11.

Cainiao began booking space on rail cars bound for Liège in late 2018, in tandem with its airfreight strategy of booking space on flights on airlines like Ireland-based ASL Airlines.

“We already have two trains per week between Liège and Zhengzhou and soon to be added to that will be two weekly scheduled services between Liège and Wuhan,” Verhasselt said. “They are already developing this multimodal approach. For us, it’s a learning curve for how it mixes and what [kind of freight] is being transferred by which mode.”

The news of Cainiao’s more permanent agreement with ZIH is another piece of the puzzle as we watch Alibaba’s international, multimodal expansion strategy unfold. Verhasselt said that so far, Cainiao’s presence at the airport has been well received by airport community members like forwarders and ground handlers.

“I think everybody is benefitting from it,” he said, adding that the he anticipates the first block train delivery operated by ZIH “will be received with a very warm welcome, just as the first flights have been.”

Last May, the Chinese e-commerce giant chose Liège Airport (LGG) as its European hub in its international expansion plan. Since then, it has been building infrastructure at the airport, facets of which are set to be complete in 2020 and 2021, while it works with global airlines and logistics companies to ramp up its commerce deliveries to Western destinations.

Those interested in learning more about cross-border e-commerce trends are invited to join us at Cargo Facts Asia 2019, to be held 15-17 April at the Langham Shanghai. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com. Discounted early-bird registration ends 1 March.

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