Rail Transportation

What is rail freight transportation?

Rail freight transport is a means of shipping cargo via train. Railway transport encompasses freight service in three general categories: unit trains, carload freight, and intermodal freight.

Types of cars used in the freight transportation industry:

There are hundreds or even thousands of different types of cargo being shipped every day, and many of those require specialized cars to accommodate them. The most common types of cars which are used in rail freight shipping today are as follows:

  • BOXCARS (used most often for consumer-packaged goods, auto parts, paper reams, canned goods, bagged products)/li>
  • HOPPER CARS – can be open-top or covered (designed for loose, unpalletized commodities, such as coal, sand, grain and wheat, corn, sugar, salt, etc.)
  • FLATCARS (designed for carrying unusually large, long, or irregularly shaped cargo, such as oversized machinery or equipment, long poles, pipes, logs, lumber, steel plates, beams, wind turbines, etc.)
  • TANK CARS (designed for liquid and gas commodities – oil, chemicals, petrol, etc.)
  • GONDOLAS are higher-density bulk cargo such as scrap metal, steel plates, gravel, etc.)
  • COIL CARS – a kind of gondola cars, carrying steel coils, copper coils, and plastic tubing.
  • REFRIGERATOR CARS keep the cargo at a particular temperature and suits for carrying frozen meat and fish, fresh produce, milk, beer and what not.
  • SPECIALITY CARS – in case the cargo is large, fragile, or unusually shaped, there is a specialized rail car.
    The majority of the cargo transported by rail is handled as bulk cargo – transported unpackaged in large quantities.
  • Railway transport: containers and freight trains

    According to ISO regulations, the industry standards are 20 feet and 40 feet container types. To increase the rail transport capacity, sometimes double stack containers are used, this implements carrying two layers of intermodal containers, this is mainly used in the USA.
    There are also Piggyback trains. They are referred to where a transportation unit can be carried on the back of something else. For instance, road vehicles such as semi-trailers or truck-trailer combinations can be loaded onto trains with the help of ramps or by crane.

    LCL shipping by rail freight

    LCL Shipments can be easily shipped by rail. Agora Freight ensures seamless supply chains. We offer a special service with our consolidation service for LCL (less than container load) in China. Our LCL-groupage shipments move regularly to Europe and Russia from China. You can find out more about our warehousing and consolidation services in China on the dedicated webpage.

    When to choose rail transportation?

    Rail transportation is a good choice when an accurate delivery time is required, it is a really punctual means of transport. Weather conditions are unlikely to block the operation of rail freight shipping. They say it is twice as quick as ocean freight and 8 times cheaper than air freight, thus rail services can move cargo to the final destination in half the time of that of a ship and is a lot less expensive than air freight.

    Railway freight transportation is cost-effective. When considered in terms of ton-miles or tonne-kilometers hauled per unit of energy consumed, rail transport can be more efficient than other means of transportation. Rail has lower fuel costs compared to road transport, especially when shipping a high volume of freight. Rail transport is suitable for various kinds of goods and is famous for its multimodal shipments. The containers and trailers used are compatible with both road and rail freight – often called multimodal transport. This means that there is no need to unload and load at transit points; the container or trailer is simply lifted from train to truck as required.

    As for its environmental benefits, using railway shipping helps to reduce exhaust emission as trains burn less fuel per ton mile than trucks. A high level of security is another benefit of rail transportation. GPS tracking which are widely used in the trains guarantees the safety of cargo during rail freight shipping.

    Problems you might face

    The major drawback of rail freight transportation is lack of flexibility. Sometimes the place of destination is out of reach of the railway. In this case, the cargo will arrive at the nearest rail had and then be moved via road to the destination.

    Approximate range of rates, what they depend on

    When choosing rail transportation, be aware that there are the following costs:

    • station prices
    • operating prices
    • service prices and additional railway equipment prices.

    To get the rate for the rail services immediately, visit Agora Freight Calculator. All you need is to choose the station за departure and destination, insert the basic parameters of your cargo and hit Search. Agora Freight clever algorithms, our worldwide agency network, API integrations and a simply designed interface help us give you real-time prices.


    Shanghai, China


    Mala, Poland

    Cargo type



    20000.0 KG

    The cost from 12 452 USD


    Chengdu, China


    Minsk, Belarus

    Cargo type



    20000.0 KG

    The cost from 8 877 USD


    Xiamen, China


    Bely Rast, Russia

    Cargo type



    20000.0 KG

    The cost from 11 110 USD

    Agora Freight provides rail freight transport as either full-container loads (FCL) or less-than-a-container loads or groupage cargo (LCL). The routes covered may be from China to European countries including Russia and Belarus, Central Asia and vice versa, as well as within the Russian Federation, especially used to or from the Russian ports where the distances are prohibitive for overland trucking.

    In the field of domestic and international cargo transport by rail, we offer:

    • optimal routes for cargo delivery by rail
    • multimodal container transportation, including door-to-door delivery
    • liaison with the shipper in respect of the details for the shipment prior to railway transportation, namely: cargo readiness and container stuffing dates, options for placing and securing cargo, documentation, delivery of loaded containers to the departure railhead, customs clearance, etc.
    • shipments from port of discharge terminals on block container trains
    • coordination of rail transport (rail waybills) and other documents
    • 24/7 cargo tracking and notifications

    We can offer either cargo transportation by rail, for example, from China to the Russian Federation, or a comprehensive logistics service, including:

    • railway transport services
    • organization of customs clearance in China, Russia and EU countries
    • cargo insurance covering all risks
    • survey and other services

    How it works


    Enter the route, weight, and dimensions of cargo.


    Choose the most suitable options for the shipment of your cargo.


    Submit your booking which will be immediately assigned to one of our specialists who will manage everything from there.


    Track your cargo in your personal area, automatic e-mail or sms notifications on status changes may be switched on.