In an effort to strengthen trade links with western Europe, the first ever freight train departed from London and arrived in the Chinese city of Yiwu after covering over 12000 km, making it the second-longest route in the world.
The freight train loaded with cargo - whisky, baby milk, pharmaceuticals, and machinery, departed from London on April 10th and passed through seven countries - France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan during its 20 day trip before arriving in Yiwu, in the eastern Zhejiang province.
Although the new route is shorter (about 1000 km) than the record-holding China-Madrid link, it is longer than Russia’s popular Trans-Siberian railway.
The provincial government had said that the journey should be 30 days faster than moving the goods by ship, reports NDTV. However, the first run took two days more than the expected 18 days.
Moreover, as compared to the 10,000 to 20,000 containers which a cargo ship can carry, the East Wind (name of the train) has much less carrying capacity - only 88 shipping containers.
The state-run China Railway Corporation said that the services provided by the train are cheaper than air transport and quicker than shipping. However, it’s not certain how much the venture costs and some experts are doubtful whether this project makes any economic sense.
“The train is in some aspects more convenient and flexible,” said He Tianjie of Oxford Economics Hong Kong. “It can make multiple stops, allowing for the pickup and offloading of cargo along the way. Rail transport is also less affected by adverse weather conditions. Therefore, there may be a role for such long-haul rail links.”
China already has a regular direct freight train service to Germany, the largest economy in Europe. There are routes that connect China with some of Germany’s most important cities.
As freight train services face technical and bureaucratic hurdles, an estimate of 80 percent of global trades is carried by sea.
Information source: ndtv
Title image: itv