China have begun using the previous Silk Road trading route to London as their latest freight service. China are opting to use rail which is half the price of air freight and takes half the shipping time. The first service was launched on New Year’s Day and is expected to take two weeks on average until it reaches the capital. After crossing the UK’s high-speed rail link from France, it will arrive at Barking in East London on January 18th after departing from China’s Zhejiang province at Yiwu Xi station. This freight service will ride along 12,000km through Asia and Europe before stopping at its eighth country and 15th city, London. The service is being provided by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment for a three to four month trial to assess the market and future opportunities. The Chinese company’s UK agent is One Two Three Logistics, which is being supported by Brunel Project Cargo. Yiwu Timex’s freight has already been delivering to Germany and Spain successfully since 2015. This extended passage is part of China’s vision to develop further trade and investment links with Europe.
Filled with over £4 million of goods, containers onboard the freight service will carry premium products such as automative parts, food, household items and electronics. These weekly trains will run via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and the Channel Tunnel. However, the different international gauges mean that a single train cannot travel the whole route and the containers need to be reloaded at various points. The list price for delivering a 40 foot High Cube container is $4,600 for the westbound journey. Additionally, there is a 21 day return journey for the discounted price of $2,500 as a result of the low demand in the eastbound direction.
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This part of the Chinese government’s incentive to boost its slowing demand for exports. Latest figures reveal that this has slowed by 6.9% in 2015 which is the slowest in 25 years. However, China have seen new potential in their British trading partners. China is one of the country’s largest trading partners where investment has doubled in the last few years.
"The new service has a very quick transit time", according to Brunel Project Cargo’s Group Operations Director Mike White. "We believe this is going to change the way a lot of forwarders and shippers view their imports and exports for China," as reported by the Railway Gazette.
This extended route dates back to the Silk Route which was popular during the 16th century onwards. However, as modern modes of transport were invented its use decreased. A prominent feature of the ancient Silk Road was cultural trade and an extension of cultural cooperation. Now China believe that reviving this line will also be a way of strengthening the railway infrastructure throughout China towards Russia for future Eurasian activity.
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