A DB CARGO locomotive left the DP World London Gateway rail terminal on Monday morning at 10.35am carrying vitamins, baby products and other goods as Britain seeks to burnish its global trading credentials for when it leaves the European Union.
After passing through the Channel Tunnel into France and on to Belgium, the train will call in Duisburg, Germany before InterRail pull the cargo through Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazahkstan and arrive at Yiwu, eastern China on April 27.
The 7,500-mile journey from eastern England to eastern China will take just over two weeks, around half the time needed for the equivalent journey by sea freight and will cost much less than the equivalent journey by air freight.
It is departing almost three months after the first freight service from China to the UK arrived in east London.
The service is part of China’s One Belt, One Road programme of reviving the ancient Silk Road trading routes with the West, initially created more than 2,000 years ago.
Britain is seeking to enhance its trade links with the rest of the world as it prepares to leave the EU in two years’ time and DP World chief executive Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said the first freight service from the UK to China is a ‘significant trade occasion’.
He went on: ‘DP World London Gateway, one of the UK’s largest logistics hubs, is designed and developed to ensure products can be both imported and exported from the UK via ship or train in a faster, safer and more reliable way than ever before.
‘We look forward to enabling and facilitating more trade between the UK, China and the whole world.’
International trade minister Greg Hands said: ‘This new rail link with China is another boost for global Britain, following the ancient Silk Road trade route to carry British products around the world.
‘It shows the huge global demand for quality UK goods and is a great step for DP World’s £1.5 billion London Gateway port as it also welcomes its first regular container ships from Asia.’
Run by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment, the Yiwu-London freight service makes London the 15th European city to have a direct rail link with China after the 2013 unveiling of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
‘This is the first export train and just the start of a regular direct service between the UK and China,’ Xubin Feng, chairman of Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Co., said.
‘We have great faith in the UK as an export nation and rail provides an excellent alternative for moving large volumes of goods over long distances faster.’