First UK Rail Freight Service to China
The first rail freight service from the UK to China departed last month from the rail terminal at DP World’s London Gateway port in Essex and has now completed its 17-day, 7,500-mile journey.
The first freight service in the opposite direction arrived just several months previously in what has been dubbed the revival of the ancient Silk Road, the primary trading route between China and the West that dates back more than 2000 years.
The train was transporting a wide variety of British goods including soft drinks, whiskey, vitamins and baby products across 30 containers. The operators of the freight service claim that the freight service is cheaper than transporting goods via air, and much quicker than shipping by sea. DP World chief executive Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem believed the freight service to be a “significant trade occasion,” a sentiment echoed by Xubin Feng, chairman of Yiwo Timex Industrial Investment Co. which organized the service. Feng sees restoring the Silk Road as a part of China’s “one belt, one road” programme as “an important and exciting initiative.”
On the way to its final destination, the freight train passed through seven other countries: France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russian and Kazakhstan. This freight journey is a shining example of the possibilities for distribution within the logistics sector, allowing goods to be more efficiently transported globally without the cost of air or the time delay of maritime shipping.
This freight link is also an exciting opportunity for the international cooperation of many distinguished corporations within the logistics sector. While Yiwu Timex and China Railway Container Transport Corporation organised the services, UK agent One Two Three Logistics handled the bookings, and DB Cargo and Switzerland-based InterRail Group coordinated the haulage.
As online shopping continues its growth, with many people buying abroad and shipping internationally, this could be a potential logistics solution to many companies with an international consumer base. It also demonstrates, as UK trade minister Greg Hands said, the “huge global demand for quality UK goods.” While only the first UK to China rail freight service, it seems very likely that this won’t be the last.