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UPU helping Posts get back on track

In a world first, mail-only trains from China are helping to clear the huge backlog of mail destined for Europe and provide medical supplies.


The trains carry around 300 tons of mail and are the result of cooperation between China Post, Lithuania Post, Polish Post and railway operators.

Around 2,000 tons of mail is slated for rail transport from China in the next 2-3 months.

Many of the train journeys end in Lithuania, although other trains go to Poland. Trucks then take the mail to their final destination in more than 30 countries spread across Europe.

The first train, the "China Post" CR Express 1st block train, was unloaded in Vilnius, Lithuania, on April 14 carrying mail and two containers of medical supplies.

Speaking about the utilization of European and Asian rail networks, the UPU’s Director of Postal Operations Abdelilah Bousseta said, “Sometimes supreme challenges can lead to good ideas and produce simplified solutions. At present, given the current situation, the train network is one of the very best solutions for moving the huge volumes of mail.”

Transport takes between 12-14 days, but some challenges remain regarding electronic data exchanges between Posts and railways and simplifying customs processes.

One of the key objectives of the railway route is to meet the rising demand for small packets forming the bulk of the world’s e-commerce market.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce, especially online shopping has grown. 

The use of trains to deliver mail is a success for the Universal Postal Union’s Supply Chain Team, which has championed the rail network for the delivery of mail between Europe and Asia.

At present, the team is working with representatives from Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, among others.

In recent years, the UN specialized agency’s UPU-Rail Contact Committee has conducted a series of pilot studies to examine the viability of this form of mail transport.

Due to the cancellation of flights caused by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, UPU’s Transport Programme has worked closely with postal operators and railway organizations to turn the pilot studies into a viable reality.

The UPU is also working with Deutsche Post on the rail transport for mail from Europe to Asia that aims to complete the delivery circuit.

Noor Adan, the UPU’s Global Supply Chain Coordinator, said about the project, “The Universal Postal Union is proud to work with postal operators and railway operators to ensure that the international postal service continues during this crisis.”