The Journal of Commerce reports that a new freight train service to Europe from China is available. The service will take about 18 days to reach Hamburg, shorter than a sea voyage. Container by rail is only slightly more costly than container by ocean shipping, and has a smaller environmental footprint, measured in carbon or particulate. At sea the pollution is discharged in no jurisdiction, whereas rail discharges where people might live.In the vast expanses of western Asia, the effects will not be politically harmful. So this line could indeed be competitive.
There will be 14 trains a year, or about one each month, so it won’t be the frequency of liner shipping.