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Everything about Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport!

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      An International trade is a way to expand the business as much as possible, but once you have made your sale or purchase, you should look for shipping way from that country to your preferred destination. Quick access to products is essential to customer satisfaction and transportation is an important part of this process. Therefore, choosing the right method of transportation is also very important because choosing the wrong method will impose a lot of costs on the customer.

      International transportation means the transfer of goods between two countries. The two countries may have land, sea or air borders. Transportation and distribution play an important role in international trade. Companies need to choose the right shipping method to ensure the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their packages. There are several factors that influence a company’s decision about the type of shipping. These factors can be business needs and type of goods.

      Road, sea, rail and air are the four ways of import and export. As the first step, companies must consider some factors such as the size, weight and type of goods. For example, for transporting food or fruit, speed is very important and choosing the shortest and fastest route is vital. Shipping cost is another very important element, and it depends on the parties to the transaction. Destination, country law, value of goods and transport risk are other factors that need to be considered. Therefore, anyone who wants to do business with international transportation must evaluate the quality, cost, time and conditions in order to make the right choice!

      These days customers like to compare these ways such as Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, or Sea freight VS Air freight, or other ways! It will help them to know the difference better; therefore, they can decide better!

      This article aims to discuss Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport. At the end of this article, you will have comprehensive information!

      Rail freight from China

      The Evolution of Rail Freight and Air Freight in Global Trade

      Rail Freight has been a reliable mode of transportation since the 19th century, playing a significant role in shaping economies and contributing to the industrial revolution. Its impact is still felt today, with rail freight commonly used for the transportation of heavy and bulk goods across long distances. Technological advancements over time, such as the introduction of intermodal freight transport and automated loading and unloading systems, have greatly increased the efficiency and capacity of rail freight.

      On the other hand, air freight, though a relatively newer player in the logistics industry, has quickly gained prominence. Since the mid-20th century, it has transformed the dynamics of global trade, making it possible to transport goods across continents in a matter of hours. It was further revolutionized with the introduction of wide-body aircraft in the late 20th century, which significantly increased cargo capacity. Today, air freight is an integral part of global commerce, especially for industries that rely on speed, such as technology and fashion.

      Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport

      When it comes to talk about “Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport”, it is better to mention the features of each way. Then, a reader, with an open view, can understand the differences and similarities of them.

      Comparative Analysis: Rail Freight vs Air Freight at a glance

      Factors Rail Freight Air Freight
      Speed Slower - Ideal for non-urgent, heavy or bulk goods Faster - Ideal for time-sensitive, perishable or high-value goods
      Cost Generally cheaper for long-distance, heavy, or bulk goods More expensive due to speed and infrastructure costs
      Environmental Impact Lower carbon emissions per ton of freight, but potential noise pollution and soil contamination Higher carbon emissions but investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft and sustainable fuels
      Infrastructure Dependent on extensive railway network Dependent on airports and air routes
      Flexibility Less flexible due to predetermined railway routes More flexible due to multiple flight routes
      Transit Time Longer transit time Shorter transit time
      Efficiency High efficiency in terms of energy use and capacity High efficiency in terms of speed and delivery times
      Future Trends Embracing digitalization, automation, predictive maintenance Exploring drones, fuel-efficient planes, and sustainable aviation fuels

      The history of Rail freight

      In the discussion of Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, we start with the history of rail freight. By the Middle Ages, industry had developed so such that traditional modes of transportation were no longer responsive, and artisans were trying to find new and effective ways.

      It was in 1556 that a number of German engineers built small rails to facilitate the movement of coals to mines. Initially, the rails were made of wood that they did not have much strength. Hence, the wooden rails gradually gave way to cast iron strips, and this is how giant wagons were invented. Wagons that worked with the steam system and no longer needed manpower or animals to move.

      How is rail transportation done?

      In the discussion of Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, you should first know how rail transport is done! Transportation by rail is under certain conditions. Special freight cars are used to move goods, each of which has a unique function. There are different types of freight wagons in terms of appearance, that they are mentioned in the following section.

      Flat wagons

      Flat wagons are used in various types of rail transport. These wagons are used to carry heavy machinery and goods that are long. Goods such as iron parts and beams are transported by two-axle, four-axis or six-axis flat wagons.

      Wagons with roofs

      These wagons are designed in such a way that after placing the goods, the door is closed and sealed. This will keep the goods away from any damage. Some goods that are not resistant to sunlight, oxygen and moisture are moved through these wagons. Usually, these wagons are made in two forms, two-axle and four-axle.

      Short-edged and long-edged wagons

      These wagons are used in various types of rail transportation. Short-edged wagons are used to transport hardware and building materials, and long-edged wagons are used to transport minerals and industrial goods. These wagons are capable of carrying heavy loads and, in many cases, they carry several tons of load.

      Tank wagons

      Another wagon used in the rail transport industry is tank wagons. These wagons, like other wagons, are made in two types, two-axle and four-axle. These wagons are used to transport fuel and various liquids. Many traders faced many difficulties in transporting such goods, and f tank wagons has allayed their concerns about transporting liquid goods. These goods will reach their destination in the shortest possible time.

      Refrigerated wagons

      Other wagons used in various types of rail transportation (and it is essential to know them in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport) are refrigerated wagons that they are used to transport a variety of perishable materials such as dairy, meat and vegetables. These wagons have a professional cooling system and the refrigerator temperature is adjusted automatically during the trip.

      Rail transport rules and regulations

      Many countries have signed the international conventions on various types of rail transport, each of which addresses a specific issue.

      These conventions include:

      • The International Convention on the Carriage of Passengers and Luggage by Rail (217) 1916,
      • The Comprehensive Convention on International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) 1980,
      • The International Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Rail (CIM) 1961,
      • The Convention International Transport by Rail (FITOC),
      • Amending Protocol to the Comprehensive International Transport Convention by Rail 1990
      • The Amending Protocol to the International Transport Convention (FTTOC).

      These conventions are designed for international rail transport so that the member states can enjoy all the international facilities and capacities!

      Advantages of rail transportation, in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport

      When it comes to Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, it is a significant issue to point to the advantages of each way. Rail transport has unique advantages, the most important of them are mentioned below:

      • Less environmental impact: One of the most important benefits of rail transportation is the possibility of using non-fossil fuels. This saves fuel. Energy consumption on trains is about one-sixth less than other ways ( it is very vital factor in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport).
      • Less pollution: Noise pollution is one of the biggest problems in society and many other types of transportation have caused environmental pollution. Rail transportation does not involve any noise pollution because it takes place in the suburbs and even outside the city.
      • Reduction of stop time: One of the most important advantages of rail transportation is the reduction of stop time. Trains have the ability to run the routes completely without stopping. This allows the goods to reach their destination as quickly as possible (but they are not very fast, and in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, the air freight is the fastest!)

      What documents are required to transport goods by rail transport?

      One of the important factor in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport is to be familiar with the documents needed in each way. In order to transfer goods through rail freight companies, all relevant documents must be prepared and all required forms must be completed. In addition to the laws in the country which goods are transported, many transportation companies add a number of personal rules to the contract that must be signed, otherwise, the company will not send your goods to the destination. In general, relevant contracts include these factors:

      • Name
      • Product details
      • Sender and recipient address
      • Insurance

      These contracts specify all the amounts and conditions of shipment, and if the transport company does not comply with one of them, it will be obliged to compensate the damages.

      After the above contract is settled, a bill of lading will be exchanged between the parties. This form is a document and in case of loss, the transport company will not take any responsibility for your goods. In some cases, the shipping company has not paid any damages despite damaging the customer’s goods. Because the bill of lading has been lost by the customer and the company has taken full advantage of this opportunity to acquit itself!

      Disadvantages of rail transportation, in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport

      The disadvantages of rail transportation (in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport) are as the following:

      • Using this method, it is not possible to provide services to deprived countries (due to lack of services).
      • Mechanical problems may cause service problems.
      • Rail transport is not very fast (it is one crucial matter that must be taken into consideration in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport)
      • It is possible to damage the product.

      The history of air cargo

      Now it is time to talk about air cargo in the matter of rail freight transport VS Air freight transport.

      The first cargo flight took place on November 7, 1910, in the United States, between Dayton and Columbus, Ohio. Pilot Philip Erwin Parmelia piloted a Wright Model B plane 65 miles (105 km) with 200-pound silk packages to open a store.

      In that year, a newspaper quoted that the cargo flight covered Dayton and Columbus’s distance in 66 minutes, but that flight was officially recorded at 57 minutes, which was an excellent record in that time!

      Therefore, air freight became ubiquitous worldwide, and many people used this flexible way to transport their packages!

      The world’s first official airmail flight also took place on February 18, 1911, at a major exhibition in Agar and Owood provinces in British India. The aviation exhibition organizer, Walter Wingham, obtained a flight permit from the Gendarmerie General in India to provide airmail services to produce advertisements for the exhibition and raise money for charity.

      This was the first airmail flight by Henry Pique to fly 6,500 letters in 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) from Allahabad to Naini, the nearest Mumbai-Calcutta line station. On this occasion, the aircraft was a “Humber-Sommer” wireless aircraft with a power of about 37 KW, and it delivered letters by air within 30 minutes.

      In Britain, the first airmail service was on September 9, 1911, in the English suburbs of Handon and the Postmaster-General office in Windsor-Berkshire. This was part of the King George V’s Celebration Ceremony, at the suggestion of Sir Walter Wingham, who oversaw the successful airline flight test in India. The service was launched in less than a month and delivered 35 packages with 16 flights.

      In the early 1920s, aviation increased rapidly as employers and industry owners realized that aircraft could carry valuable, low-volume cargo faster than trains and ships.

      The first scheduled flight from London to Paris in 1919 had only one passenger, but it carried leather cargo for a shoe manufacturer and food for a restaurant in France.

      Besides, the movie industry was one of the first customers for air freight. The original version of the movies was flown to copying centers and then sent for distribution in European cinemas!

      All in all, air freight has become one of the most significant ways of transporting, and imagining a world without flights is impossible in this century!

      What is meant by air cargo in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport?

      In Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, it is better to know what exactly the air cargo is! Air transport plays a significant role in countries’ business, often as an economic growth indicator. The development of aviation has also made more significant progress today by improving cultural and social services, the expansion of economic activities, the increase of regional employment, and tourism development.

      The development of air transport depends not only on natural, economic, and social factors but also on political and legal decisions and applying financial and executive rules and regulations.

      For this reason, reviewing legislation and removing many restrictive administrative regulations has always been a factor in expanding the airline’s operations worldwide. The pace of change and advancement of aviation technology is inevitable with aviation industry technology development in infrastructure planning.

      Air cargo is transported by particular aircraft such as giant Beluga or Antonov 225 from country to destination. It can be the exact meaning of air transportation.

      Different Types of air cargo

      In rail freight transport VS air freight transport, we mentioned that there are different methods in rail freight, the same thing happened in air freight. The type of air transit is determined based on three critical factors:

      • Volume of goods
      • Delivery time
      • Price

      However, it is better to know that none of them is superior to the other. In other words, it can be said that each of them is used depending on the needs of individuals and provides the possibility of easy movement of goods or passengers.

      In principle, you should choose the best option for transporting your goods by knowing these methods’ characteristics!

      Besides, the costs and value of goods transported, their size and weight should be evaluated; therefore, if the product is gold or banknotes, you should choose the safest air transportation method.

      Charter flight (both passengers and goods)

      When all the seats on an airplane are given to one airline, it is called a charter flight. For example, when an airline charters a flight route such as China-Tokyo for a certain period, it is called a China-Tokyo charter flight. These flights are usually used for busy roads so that tickets can be booked at any time.

      This transportation method chooses the shortest routes to travel so as not to get stuck in air traffic. Of course, private and tourism agencies use charter flights, and other agencies such as sports clubs, government agencies, and offices can book this service for their staff. The most important advantages of the charter method are the following:

      • Cost savings
      • Shorter route than other types of air transport
      • Possibility of the group booking
      • Case of long-term reservation; for example, three months
        Lease the aircraft for a specified period
      Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport

      Commercial flight

      Another type of air cargo is the commercial transit method. In this method, only goods are moved, but their transportation has unique rules and principles determined by ICAO International Airlines. Transportation of goods is done in two ways:

      • Cargo
      • Ferrite

      The first method is more cost-effective.

      In cargo ( a commercial method ), the goods are shipped on masse, and people can send their low loads to the destination and other shipments. This method is performed by special cargo planes, and it is done under safety standards.

      Ferrite is also used to transport goods that are intended for long-distance travel and are not commercial. For this purpose, they must use aircraft that can carry their cargo in this way. Usually, most passenger planes can take goods by ferrite, and there is no need to worry about this.

      Dangerous goods by air cargo, in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport

      As we mentioned before, in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, some dangerous goods can be transported by rail. But there are some limitation in air freight.

      Dangerous goods are items and materials that endanger the health of the aircraft. Carrying such things must be based on the guidelines of the “International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)” and the “Association of Airlines (IATA).”

      Hazardous materials and goods must be packed according to unique and international conditions and rules of airfreight. This packaging must be of high quality and with a safe structure to prevent leakage in the conditions of temperature humidity changes, pressure, and vibration.

      Each package must have a suitable label, a relevant logo, and it must have symbols such as:

      • The international number for hazardous substances UN number
      • Businesses requesting for transporting of dangerous goods and DGR

      The customer is obliged to provide the following international documents for the freight forwarder for dangerous goods by airfreight:

      • Certificate for the safe transport of goods
      • Certificate of origin
      • Material safety data sheet

      How to transit our goods by airfreight?

      One of the important matter in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, it the transit way in each of these methods. All you have to do for air freight is to go to one of the airline agencies and send your goods to the relevant destination by filling out the application form and paying the fee. This method is very safe and very efficient.

      Assessing Transit Time: Air Freight from China

      Transit times for air freight from China can vary based on several factors, but it generally takes between 1 to 5 days for goods to reach their destination. These factors include the specific origin and destination cities, the type of cargo, the air freight company’s schedule, and customs clearance times.

      For instance, air freight from Beijing to New York typically takes about 2 days, whereas air freight from Shanghai to London can take around 3 days. This relatively short transit time makes air freight a preferred choice for businesses that require fast, reliable delivery.

      Factors Impacting Air Freight Transit Times from China

      There are numerous factors that can impact the transit time of air freight shipments from China. Weather is one key factor; severe conditions can delay flights, slowing down the overall transportation process. Another significant factor is customs clearance. This process can be time-consuming, especially if there are issues with the shipment’s documentation or if inspections are required.

      Airport capacity and operational efficiency also affect transit time. Some airports can handle cargo more quickly than others, and congestion at busy airports can lead to delays. Finally, the freight forwarder’s efficiency and the shipping method chosen (direct flight or transshipment) can greatly impact the transit time. Understanding these factors can help businesses better plan their logistics and manage their expectations regarding delivery times.

      The advantages of air cargo, in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport

      The essential advantages of air cargo in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport are:

      • Transit cargo to all parts of the country and the world
      • Cooperation with most freight and airline companies
      • Enjoy high speed in intercity service and transportation
      • Provide door-to-door serviceCalculate the cost of cargo based on the weight and size of the goods, which saves costs
      • Inquire about the status of the load via SMS and email

      What package size is vital for air freight service?

      If you want to choose this way in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, it is essential to know all the detailed information. Air cargo are ideal methods for these conditions:

      • When goods are under 200 kg
      • When goods aren’t in bad shape

      It is better to remember that in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport , air freight is not suitable for super large cargo. In airfreight, goods can transport in the Express or Classic method. In Express, all goods arrive between 1 to 3 business days at the destination, but it takes 4 to 8 business days in a second way.

      • All you have to do is go to one of the airline agencies and send your goods to the relevant destination by filling out the application form and paying the fee. This method is very safe and very efficient.

      Future Trends: The Future of Rail Freight and Air Freight

      Technological advancements, shifts in global trade, and environmental considerations are shaping the future of freight transportation. In the rail freight sector, developments like digitalization and automation are leading the way. The use of sensors and big data for predictive maintenance is already helping to preempt mechanical issues and reduce delays. Autonomous trains, while still in development, show great potential for enhancing efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the long run. For air freight, drones and unmanned aerial vehicles are seen as potential game-changers, particularly for last-mile delivery in hard-to-reach areas. Additionally, research into fuel-efficient planes and sustainable aviation technologies holds promise for making air freight more eco-friendly. Nevertheless, as the global focus on climate change intensifies, both the rail and air freight sectors are under increasing pressure to lower their carbon emissions and reduce their environmental footprints.

      Environmental Footprint: Rail Freight vs Air Freight

      Rail freight, known for its fuel efficiency, generally has a lower carbon footprint per ton of freight moved compared to air freight. This is due to trains’ ability to move heavy loads over long distances with less fuel. Nevertheless, rail freight is not without environmental concerns, such as noise pollution in areas close to railway lines and potential soil contamination in the event of a spill.

      On the other hand, air freight is recognized as one of the more carbon-intensive modes of transport. However, industry changes are underway, with investments into more fuel-efficient aircraft and research into sustainable aviation fuels. These efforts aim to significantly reduce the carbon emissions associated with air freight, thereby improving its overall environmental impact.

      In Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, which way is cheaper?

      One of the most frequent question in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport is what is the cheaper way. As you know, the air freight is the most expensive way among all methods of transportation (although for small packages, it is the best way).


      Dear customers

      If you need an impressive rate and competitive offer for Door to Door Rail and Trucking service from China to European countries, please contact our Sale Team.

      in Rail freight transport VS Air freight transport, which one is the best?

      It depends on the situation you have. if your goods are not very heavy the air freight is the best way, but if they are heavy, it is better to choose the rail freight.

      Embracing Future Trends with DDPCH

      In an increasingly complex global logistics landscape, the choice between air freight and rail freight can make all the difference. As a prominent freight forwarder, DDPCH provides expertly tailored solutions, managing everything from air freight transit times from China to intricate rail freight logistics. We’re not just about moving goods; we’re about selecting the optimal path that balances speed, cost, capacity, and environmental considerations.

      Keeping pace with future trends, DDPCH is committed to integrating sustainable practices and digital innovations into our services. Whether through leveraging predictive maintenance in rail freight or pursuing greener alternatives in air freight, our aim is to offer reliable, efficient, and sustainable logistics solutions. With DDPCH, you gain a partner dedicated to driving a more sustainable and efficient future of logistics.


      Rail freight transport involves the conveyance of goods using railroad transport. It is typically used for long-distance transport of heavy or bulky goods.

      Air freight transit from China generally takes between 1 to 5 days, depending on the destination, cargo type, air freight company’s schedule, and customs clearance times.

      Generally, rail freight is less expensive than air freight, especially for long-distance transport of heavy or bulky goods. However, the specific cost can vary based on the shipment’s size, weight, distance, and other factors.

      Future trends in rail freight include the use of digitalization, automation, and predictive maintenance technologies to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

      Rail freight generally has a lower environmental impact compared to air freight due to its greater fuel efficiency per ton-mile. However, both modes of transport have environmental impacts, such as noise pollution (rail) and high carbon emissions (air).

      Yes, air freight can handle heavy and bulky items, but it may be more expensive than rail freight due to the increased fuel consumption and handling requirements.

      Rail freight is typically used for transporting heavy or bulky goods, such as machinery, vehicles, construction materials, coal, and agricultural products.

      Yes, rail freight is typically slower than air freight, but it’s often more cost-effective for long-distance transport of heavy or bulky goods.

      Both air freight and rail freight can transport hazardous materials, but strict regulations and safety protocols apply. The specific type of hazardous material, its packaging, and handling requirements can determine whether it’s more suitable for air or rail transport.

      Both rail and air freight have weight and size restrictions, but these can vary widely. Generally, rail freight can accommodate heavier and larger loads than air freight. Specific limitations depend on factors such as the type of railcar or aircraft and the regulations of the transportation company or country.

      Severe weather can cause delays in both rail and air freight. For rail freight, heavy snow or flooding can impact the tracks. For air freight, conditions such as fog, strong winds, or thunderstorms can lead to flight delays or cancellations.

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