STANFORD-LE-HOPE, England (Reuters) - The first freight train to run from Britain to China departed on Monday, carrying goods like vitamins, baby products and pharmaceuticals as Britain seeks to burnish its global trading credentials for when it leaves the European Union.
The 7,500-mile (12,000 km) journey from eastern England to eastern China will take three weeks, around half the time needed for the equivalent journey by boat. The first freight train from China arrived in Britain in January.
The bright red train left a depot at Stanford-Le-Hope in Essex for Barking in east London, hauling dozens of containers.
From Barking, it will pass through the Channel Tunnel into France and on to Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan before ending up in Yiwu in China.
Britain is trying to enhance its trade links with the rest of the world as it prepares to leave the EU in two years’ time.
“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,” said Greg Hands, a British trade minister.
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,” said Xubin Feng, chairman of Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Co.
“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.”
Reporting by Peter Nicholls; Writing by Alistair Smout; Editing by Stephen Addison