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Transiting 12,000km across Asia, continental Europe and through the Channel Tunnel to the UK, the first China-London freight train has departed Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province and is expected in the UK capital in 14 days’ time.
Operated by China Rail Corporation, the overall 18-day service carrying garments, bags, suitcases and other items will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France and forms part of president Xi Jingping’s efforts to strengthen trade ties between China and Europe.
London becomes the 15th European city with direct trains from the Asian giant, following the unveiling of Mr Xi’s One Belt One Road initiative in 2013, which put transport links at the centre of efforts to create a modern Silk Road and boost commercial ties to global markets.
For rail operators, it will help boost their cause as it showcases the benefits of rail over sea, which takes twice as long, and air, which costs twice as much.
According to this story on Bloomberg, trade between countries along the China-Europe corridor could top $2.5trn in the next decade, with Mr Xi expected to pour a further $503bn into rail development by 2020.