China-London trade switches tracks

News | 4 January 2017

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China’s first direct freight train to London departed 1 January from Yiwu, in the country’s eastern province of Zhejiang.

The 7,500 mile (12,000 kilometres) journey is expected to take 14 days and will make London the 15th European city to have direct freight services to China.

The new trade link is an important milestone in Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s grand ‘one belt one road’ (OBOR) initiative, which seeks to resurrect the ancient land and maritime Silk Road routes. 

“The new service has a very quick transit time with the first train departing Yiwu on the 1 January and arriving in London on 15 January. We believe this is going to change the way a lot of forwarders and shippers view their imports and exports for China,” said Mike White, group operations director at Brunel Project Cargo.

“Particularly with airfreight, as instead of 30 days import from China, there is now a rail option of just 14 days. Also, for any shippers who were booking seafreight, then turned to airfreight if goods were late in being manufactured, they will now have this rail option at 50% less costs and time.”

The 34-carriage train from Yiwu (it is widely reported the city produces 60% of the world’s Christmas decorations) is carrying fabrics, clothing, “light commodities and daily necessities”.

“In recent years, Sino-British economic and trade cooperation has maintained a stable development trend, bilateral trade volume has increased rapidly, especially Yiwu and British trade increased, and the conditions for the development of China-EU classes have matured,” said a statement from China Railway.  

“The opening of the Yiwu to London Central Europe classes strengthens China and Western Europe land interconnection, and is important for the promotion of Sino-British trade.”

The London to Yiwu service will be operated by Brunel Project Cargo and Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment – the latter has been running a direct service to Madrid since December 2014.  

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