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China-Russia freight railway resumes service

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HUNCHUN, Jilin, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- A Russian coal freight train arrived at northeast China's border city of Hunchun on Friday, marking the resumption of freight railway service between China and Russia.

The 100-km Hunchun-Makhalino Railway links China's Jilin Province and Russia's border region of Primorskiy Kray. Freight service has resumed 9 years after it was halted in September 2004 amid disagreements among shareholders.

The Russian train that arrived on Friday carried 63 tonnes of coal to Jilin.

Chen Weigen, vice governor of Jilin, said the railway can help reduce the cost of transport expenses and time in cross-border trade.

The 81-km China stretch of the line is owned by the Jilin-based Northeast Asia Railway Group, while the 20.3-km length in Russia belongs to Russian company JSC Golden Link.

Constructed in 1999, the railway went into operation in 2000. However, only 52,000 tonnes of goods were transported on the railway before service was stopped in 2004.

"The line's early stage of operation was halted largely due to a lack of logistic flow," said Yu Xiao, an expert on Northeast Asia studies at Jilin University.

He attributed the problem to multiple factors, including disconnected expressway networks, a lack of customs facilitation and loose regional economic cooperation.

Currently, most of the logistic flow between Hunchun and neighboring Russia is handled via road customs.

Li Fengmao, chairman of the railway's China operator, said the line can shoulder "a more important role in boosting cross-border cooperation, especially in tourism and trade."

Figures from the Hunchun municipal government indicate that the city hosted 156,000 Russian arrivals in 2012, up 29 percent year on year. Exports that went through the city's customs authorities before arriving in Russia surged 25 percent to 500 million U.S. dollars in the same period.

"The Northeast Asian region needs to tackle its transportation bottleneck and build a land-sea-air transport network in order to tap its huge economic development potential," Li said.

The railway is expected to help landlocked Jilin take advantage of Russia's Zarubino Port and boost freight exports, he said.

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