The first China-bound cargo train carrying British products left London on Monday for an eastern Chinese city, highlighting another historic moment in the China-initiated Belt and Road Initiative.
The cross-continent freight, loaded with 32 containers carrying products including milk powder and soft drinks, left from east London's DP World gateway for the Chinese city of Yiwu amid cheers and applause.
The front of the red locomotive was seen with a sign board that reads “First London-Yiwu Train.”
The 12,000-km journey will pass through nine countries in 18 days. During the trip, the train's locomotives have to be changed due to different railway gauges in the countries.
Ma Hui, a senior official with the Chinese embassy in Britain, said the direct freight train service is “very meaningful and important” against the backdrop of slowing world trade and the rise of protectionism.
“The service injects fresh impetus into the joint efforts by China and UK in the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said. “The train carries not only goods, but also the bilateral confidence to score a win-win.”
Rupert Soames, British prime minister's business ambassador for infrastructure and transport, said at the launching ceremony of the event, which he dubbed “historic”, that such a rail service helped provide jobs to his country.
Kevin Lam, general manager of the global management office with Kerry logistics which is a key custom for the freight train, told Xinhua that he is expecting to see more frequent direct freight between Britain and China.
“The cost for the current freight batch is almost the same as the sea transportation,” said Lam, whose company uses 10 out of the 32 containers, “But it is twice faster than through the sea route.”
He added that his company is willing to see the number of the direct freight service increase to once every week.
Jacob Gan, operations manager of the local branch of the YXE International Container Train, operator of the direct rail service, told Xinhua that his company will monitor the operation of the service and evaluate when more such service could be provided.
London is the 15th European city on an expanding map of destinations for China's rail cargo.The first Chinese freight train arrived in London in January.