The first freight train linking China directly to the UK has arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu. It is part of China's drive to strengthen trade links with western Europe along a modern day 'Silk Road.'
The freight service, East Wind, that passed through seven countries before arriving in London, has now arrived back in China. To get to London, it set off on January 1 and covered a 7,500-mile (12,000km) journey.
It started out from Yiwu railway station in Zhejiang Province, China, and was loaded with £4 million’s worth of goods, including socks and suitcases.
The East Wind left Barking Rail Freight Terminal in East London on April 10, which is directly connected to the High Speed 1 rail line to the European mainland and passed through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan during its 20 days trip back to China, two days longer than expected.
Its locomotives and carriages had to be changed en-route because of the difference of gauge on railway tracks in the former Soviet Union. It carried 88 shipping containers loaded with whisky, baby milk, pharmaceuticals, and machinery.
London is the 15th European city that joined what the Chinese government calls the New Silk Route. It is part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy aimed at to expand trade and investment between China and Europe. China hopes that the new service will strengthen China-Britain trade ties and improve connectivity with Western Europe.
The ancient ‘Silk Road’ once helped in bringing goods from China to Europe through the 2,000-year-old trading route.
The new rail route is longer than Russia’s famed Trans-Siberian railway, but about 1,000 kilometres shorter than the famous record holder China-Madrid link that opened in 2014.