All aboard the new silk route
The first direct train from China to the UK arrived today, 18 days after leaving Zhejiang Province. The 34-container freight service set off from Yiwu City on New Year’s Day and arrived in Barking, London just after 1pm.
Received by a bustling throng of journalists, politicians and local residents, its arrival heralds a new chapter of connectivity between the two countries and makes London the 15th European City to be linked to China by freight train.
Initially starting its journey hauling 44 containers, 10 of which were offloaded in Germany, the brightly coloured behemoth covered a staggering 7,456 miles (11,999km), the remaining containers were packed with over £4 million of goods including household items, cloths and bags.
The two and half week journey ran through nine different countries starting in China, then moved across Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, before arriving in Calais to make its way through the Channel Tunnel and into the UK.
The new service has been created as part of China’s One Belt, One Road plan, an initiative intended to help strengthen the country’s economy after slowing growth at home. Designed to follow the old Silk Road network of trade routes that was in use more than 2,000 years ago, the Chinese government hopes to re-establish connectivity and improve trade relations with the West.
Prior to a timetable being set, the train will run weekly in order to assess demand and is currently cheaper than sending goods by air freight and faster than by sea.