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The New Silk Road

China has launched a direct rail freight service to London to cut time and cost of shipping between the two countries.

This is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt – One Road” initiative (also known as BRI – the Belt and Road Initiative) which was launched in 2013 in order to connect Asia with Europe and Africa via the legendary Silk Road along which trade first flourished between China and Europe.

It pledged over a trillion dollars to bolster the development of transportation, energy and trade infrastructure between West China and the East of Europe.

This comes at a time when the Chinese government are looking to boost the economy due to the slowing down of exports with a new era of Chinese-Anglo trade links. London will become the fifteenth European city to join the strategy with the train arriving at the Barking Rail Freight Terminal, which is connected to the HS1 rail line to Europe.

The train’s name “The East Wind” is taken from Chairman Mao’s dictum:

The East Wind will prevail over the west wind.

Wade Shepard (contributor to Forbes), called the recreation of the ancient trade network, “one of the biggest infrastructural, economic and political developments happening in the world.”

It is a growing network that currently consists of 39 rail lines that directly connect 16 cities in China with 15 cities in Europe.

The east of China to the west of Europe covers a landmass of 60 countries, as well as 60% of the population, 75% of the energy resources, and 60% of the GDP in the world. It is estimated that within 10 years trade throughout this region could exceed $2.2 trillion annually.

The 10000-12000 kilometre journey takes around 12-16 days. The train can pull 34 40’ containers and an LCL service is available.

Costs are estimated to be half that of air freight, with journey time being half that of ocean freight. Trial journeys have been extremely successful and with the train heading back to China at the beginning of April, the new Silk Road looks to become an crucial part of the global import and export picture for years to come.

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