Freight train to China leaves London

Somewhat later than the rest of Europe, the first ever freight train direct from London to China began its 7500 mile journey from London Gateway to Yiwu this week.

Goods on the container train to China include soft drinks, pharmaceuticals, vitamins and baby products.

The train went through France and Belgium to Duisburg in Germany, pulled by a DB Cargo locomotive. An InterRail locomotive will take it through Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan before entering China. The first ever China – UK shipment by rail arrived three months ago.

The container operator OneTwoThree Logistics has overseen the transport and booking of cargo on the UK – China train route, in conjunction with Yiwu Timex Industrial Investments Co that is running the service along with China Railway Container.

This route, along with many other EU – China rail freight routes, is part of the Chinese government’s One Belt, One Road programme that is reviving the old Silk Road trading route.

Rail service providers argue that the overland route is cheaper and less restrictive than air freight and faster than sea freight.

Xubin Feng, chairman, Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Co, said: “Restoring the ancient Silk Road as a means by which China, North Europe and now the UK can exchange goods is an important and exciting initiative. This is the first export train and just the start of a regular direct service between the UK and China. We have great faith in the UK as an export nation and rail provides an excellent alternative for moving large volumes of goods over long distances faster.”

Ms Liming Liang, vice governor of the Zhejiang province, joined Rupert Soames, the prime minister’s business ambassador for infrastructure and transport, DP World Group chairman and chief executive, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the Mayor of Yiwu, Mr Shi Wenzhen, and Xubin Feng joined other Chinese and UK regional and local government delegates, customers and staff to see the train depart on Monday, 10th April.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said: “We look forward to enabling and facilitating more trade between the UK, China and the whole world.”

Kerry Logistics has also been involved in the project. Group managing director William Ma said: “We are extremely excited to be the first Asia-based global 3PL to move eastbound freight from Europe along the One Belt One Road trade route, turning part of the roadmap into reality.”

Davies Turner says it has had a strong response from the market for its fixed-day, weekly rail service for LCL cargoes to the UK from the Chinese rail terminals of Wuhan and Hefei. The transit time from Hefei to the UK is 23 days and from Wuhan, 21 days.

Philip Stephenson, chairman of Davies Turner said: “The big selling point is that the cost is around 70 per cent less than shipping the cargo by air and 16 days quicker than getting it to destination by sea.”  
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