The first Chinese container train service destined for London has set off, as the One Belt, One Road initiative makes its maiden rail call to the UK.
The first train departed Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province on January 1, 2017, and will cover more than 12,000 km in 18 days before reaching London according to China Railway Corporation.
The service, carrying daily necessities, clothing, fabrics and luggage, will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France.
Along the route, containers will need to be reloaded at various points because of the different railway gauges involved, meaning that multiple trains are required to complete the journey.
The service can carry around 200 containers according to Bloomberg, saving half the journey time when compared to the maritime Asia – Europe freight route at a cost cheaper than air freight.
However, typically such services compare unfavourably with sea container transportation with regards to cost.
China has initially set aside US$40bn in a fund to finance roads and railways abroad under President Xi’s strategy.
In 2015, Yao Gang, the then vice chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission said that trade with countries along the corridor could reach US$2.5tn in a decade.