04 January 2017

'One Belt - One Road' Adds Another Freight Destination as Train Departs China for London  

New Overland Route to Take Eighteen Days

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Shipping News Feature UK – CHINA – Following on from the China Railway Corporation announcement in November that they are now routing a freight train service to Bordeaux in France and Mazar-i-Shariff in Afghanistan comes the announcement that a new inaugural freight train service has departed from Yiwu in Eastern China to London. The 7,400-mile trip will take 18 days and marks yet another European milestone in China’s attempt to resurrect the ancient silk road trade routes as an alternative to sea transportation, the so-called ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative. Starting in 2013 there are currently 39 routes linking 16 Chinese cities to 12 European cities.

Though it has created some interest in its target European market the initiative still has some way to go before it really offers anything more than a novelty as a competitive option. Though slightly faster than deep sea routes, the quantities of freight carried are still negligible in comparison. In addition, the routing of the service through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before arriving in London, means that though things might run smoothly at the moment, there is a lot of territory and potential political potholes that the Chinese need to be aware of to keep the routes running successfully and to time.

With the Chinese economy also looking weaker and exports, though still positive, continuing to gradually shrink, it remains to be seen in President Xi’s ‘flag train’ project will become a viable logistics avenue or turn into a huge white elephant. Having said this the goal set by China Railways to run 200 block trains between Zhengzhou Railway Container Terminal and Hamburg was passed 58 days early in November 2016.

Photo: A China Railway Corporation shot of the re-entry Capsule of the Shenzhou XI Spacecraft at Shaliang Station en route back to Beijing in November.

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