The first freight train from China arrives in the U.K., ushering the revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route. (Photo : Getty Images)
The first freight train that traveled China to the U.K. departed from Yiwu, from the eastern Chinese city earlier this month. It was inaugurated as a direct freight train service between the two countries and was due to arrive at the east London's Barking terminal Wednesday.
It crossed Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, and France. Total travel time was two weeks and ran a distance of 7,500 miles. The final leg was through the Channel Tunnel between France and the U.K.
Upon arrival at London, the train was welcomed by a banner that stated, "First freight train from China to the U.K.-Yiwu to London."
The freight train pulled 34 carriages filled with commodities worth $5 million from manufacturers in Yiwu.
The final leg of its intercontinental trip was under the sea, in the Channel Tunnel.
China's freight system will be reaching 20 states in total and the U.K. is the 15th European city reached by rail. The freight service is operated by the state-owned China Railway Corporation, and it is operated by the Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Company.
"For us, a service which is quicker than sea and cheaper than air is a great middle ground," said Jody Jacobs, a British exporter.
"This is the first train for a test - we want to know what's the reaction of the U.K. market," said Oscar Lin, general manager at OTT Logistics. The logistics company is the British booking office for the train.
He added, "But we've already received a lot of inquiries . . . 50 or 60 in just two weeks, without any marketing."
Darren Rodwell, the leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: "This is great news for the borough and London. It's a sign of Barking and Dagenham being at the epicenter of the capital's eastward shift. You could say it's the rising east meets the far East."