According to Bloomberg, China has now started a railway service departing from Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province, going all the way to London. The service, which crosses Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, will cover 12,000 km in 18 days, making it faster than the month-long trip required by a container ship.
While the train can carry about 200 containers, versus 20,000 on a large cargo vessel, the trip takes about half as long as a 30-day sailing between East Asia and northern Europe. That will make rail a competitive option when maritime shipments are held up or miss the booked departure, especially compared with airfreight, which costs twice as much, according to Michael White, operations director at Brunel Shipping, the U.K. booking agent for the service.
Brunel is also involved in the operation of a China-Madrid freight train that’s run for more than a year and ranks as the world’s longest rail service, ahead even of the Moscow-Vladivostok trans-Siberian passenger route. The Spanish train carries olive oil back to China, and White said in an interview that the U.K. operation, which will unload in Barking, east London, needs to tap a similar export flow, possibly of British designer goods.
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