First rail freight service to China leaves UK along ‘New Silk Route’

BISHKEK (TCA) — The first rail freight service from the UK to China departed on April 10, carrying 30 containers of British-produced goods along a 7,500-mile journey to Yiwu, China, Sputnik news agency reported.

Cheaper than air and faster than sea, the consignment will pass through the Channel Tunnel into France and on to Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, before finally reaching China on April 27.

During the trip, the train’s locomotives have to be changed due to different railway gauges in the countries, Xinhua reported.

The first freight service from China to the UK arrived in Essex in January, making the country the 15th to join Beijing’s rail link dubbed the “New Silk Route”.

The ambitious plan was originally unveiled in September 2013, by Chinese President Xi Jinping, as part of part of the country’s “One Belt, One Road” program.

Ma Hui, a senior official with the Chinese embassy in Britain, said the direct freight train service is “very meaningful and important” against the backdrop of slowing world trade and the rise of protectionism, Xinhua reported.

“The service injects fresh impetus into the joint efforts by China and UK in the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said. “The train carries not only goods, but also the bilateral confidence to score a win-win.”

Rupert Soames, British prime minister’s business ambassador for infrastructure and transport, said at the launching ceremony of the event, which he dubbed “historic”, that such a rail service helped provide jobs to his country.

Kevin Lam, general manager of the global management office with Kerry logistics which is a key custom for the freight train, told Xinhua that he is expecting to see more frequent direct freight between Britain and China.

“The cost for the current freight batch is almost the same as the sea transportation,” said Lam, whose company uses 10 out of the 32 containers, “But it is twice faster than through the sea route.”

He added that his company is willing to see the number of the direct freight service increase to once every week.