After an 18-day, 12,000-kilometre (7,450-mile) intercontinental journey, the first freight train from China arrived in Britain on Wednesday. The lengthy journey is the latest manifestation of China’s drive to strengthen trade links with western Europe along a modern-day “Silk Road” trade route. The yellow and red locomotive bearing a Deutsche Bahn logo arrived at Barking in east London, slowing down as it made its final approach.
It broke through a paper banner reading: “First Freight Train from China to UK – Jiwu to London – January 2017” and was showered with confetti. The train is filled with clothes and other retail goods in 24 containers – far less than ships which can carry between 10,000 and 20,000 containers.
The train left on January 1 from the industrial city of Jiwu, crossing Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before entering Britain through the Channel Tunnel. The train that arrived was different from the one that left China since the locomotive and the carriages had to be changed because of the larger gauge on railways in the former Soviet Union. London is the 15th city to be linked to a new freight network offered by the state-run China Railway Corporation, which is billed as cheaper than air transport and quicker than shipping. China, the world’s top trading nation, in 2013 announced a new “Silk Road” to strengthen trade ties throughout Asia, Russia and Europe.