From China by rail – first train heads for UK

The first direct UK bound train from China left Yiwu  on January 1 and is scheduled to arrive at the Barking international rail freight terminal in London on January 18.

The container train is transporting a £4m assortment of clothes, bags and other household goods, and the service is managed by the Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Co, a Chinese cross –border trade provider. The UK agent is One Two Three Logistics.

The 7,500 mile journey is routed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and the Channel Tunnel. The containers will need to be trans-shipped twice en route due to changes between the standard 1435 mm and Russian/ex USSR 1520 mm gauges.

Yiwu is a manufacturing hub in China’s far eastern Zhejiang province.

Since 2013, China has been keen to develop the new ‘Steel Silk Road’ linking east and west. The UK is the eighth country, and London is the 15th city, to be added to this rapidly developing network.

As a general rule, rail freight charges on this corridor are competitive with air transport (which tends to cost twice as much) and with sea transport (which usually takes twice as long).

The inaugural run is expected to lead to a regular service between the UK and China, and is likely to be patronised by shippers of high-value premium products (such as electronics and component parts).


China places much faith in the new steel silk road. Apart from  the more direct southerly route through Kazakhstan some Europe bound services take the longer and more northerly Trans Siberian Railway, both of which are shown  here.



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