The first goods train laden with whisky, baby milk, pharmaceuticals, and machinery has arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu after a 12,000km trip from London in the UK.
The return trip will also see many Chinese manufactured products, including printing consumables entering the lucrative UK and Eurozone markets.
The rail link has become the world’s second-longest rail route and passes through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.
The 20-day trip is the latest effort in China’s drive to strengthen trade links with western Europe along a modern-day ‘Silk Road’ route.
The UK is welcoming the initiative as it looks to other global markets following its Brexit move with traditional markets in Europe. London is the 15th city to be linked to a new freight network offered by the state-run China Railway Corporation, which says its services are cheaper than air transport and quicker than shipping.
The train provides more flexibility than shipping by sea allowing for multiple stops along the route. The journey is also 30 days faster than moving the goods by ship.
However, the train, named the East Wind, has much less carrying capacity—just 88 shipping containers compared to the 10,000 to 20,000 containers cargo ships can carry.
The new route is longer than Russia’s famous Trans-Siberian railway, but about 1,000 kilometres shorter than the record-holding China-Madrid link, which opened in 2014.