Rail freight returned to Hong Kong today for the first time in over a decade, with 50 tonnes of pandemic supplies rolling into the Lo Wu Marshalling yard from Pinghu in Shenzhen.
The pandemic wagon carried 18 containers of antigen tests and protective medical gear and will initially run as a daily service bringing medical supplies from the mainland.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam led a group of local and mainland dignitaries to welcome the train and watch the first transfer of goods onto a local truck. The service is supported by China State Railway Group, China Railway Guangzhou and MTR.
Replacing 18 trucks, the trip only took around 40 minutes with a small cross-border crew.
While the tonnage is relatively small relative to the 9,000 trucks entering Hong Kong from the mainland daily, the government says it may expand the service in the future.
“Subject to the demand and handling capacity of the freight yard, train operation will be enhanced progressively,” said a government press release.
Rail freight had all but disappeared from Hong Kong by 2010, but at its peak in 1987 the equivalent of around 200,000 of today’s 20-foot containers were shipped into the city.
But, as website Checkerboard Hill notes, by 2008 rail freight accounted for only 0.08% of the total freight throughput between the Mainland and Hong Kong, at around thirty 20-foot containers per day.
MTR exited the freight business in 2009.
In terms of environment, rail is much cleaner and more efficient than road transport. According to the American Association of Railwords, freight trains can move a tonne of freight 480 miles on one gallon of fuel.