The first ever direct freight train service from China to the UK has arrived in London after an epic 17-day journey.
The East Wind service departed Yiwu City in China’s Zhejiang Province on 3 January and crossed ten countries on its 7,456-mile trip, before pulling into Barking rail terminal in East London on Wednesday afternoon.
It crossed China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before finally reaching Britain.
The train, which is operated by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investments, arrived carrying 34 containers packed with £4 million worth of clothes and other goods and was greeted by a group of officials and local residents.
The Chinese and British governments hope the new route will increase trade between the two countries. Transporting goods by rail is cheaper than air freight and quicker than by boat. The service will run once a week for several months in order to gauge demand. If successful the rail link could be made permanent.
The link reopens the old Silk Road route that was previously used to transport goods between Europe and Asia.
London is the 15th European city to be added to the list of freight rail services from China. The expansion is part of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” plan to improve the country’s trade links and revive the ancient Silk Road route. China is now the world’s biggest exporter, with an annual exports totally £1.85 trillion in 2015.
Different types of rail track in different countries mean the same train cannot travel the whole route and so the containers have to be removed and reloaded onto different carriages at several stages of the journey.
The train’s name derives from a saying by former Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, who said: The East Wind shall prevail over the West.