Whisky on first UK freight train to China

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Scotch whisky and baby food are just some of the products on the UK to China freight train
Scotch whisky and baby food are just some of the products on the UK to China freight train

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The UK’s first rail freight service to China is to start its 7,500-mile journey today, carrying British goods including whisky and soft drinks.

The train will depart from the DP World London Gateway rail terminal in Stanford-Le-Hope in Essex. It will travel through seven countries before reaching its destination of Yiwu in Zhejiang Province, eastern China on April 27.

The service leaves three months after the first freight rail service from China to the UK arrived.

According to operator DB Cargo, it is cheaper to send goods via train than by air and is faster than sea.

Cheaper to send goods via train

The service is part of China’s One Belt, One Road programme, which hoped to revive the ancient Silk Road trading routes with the west.

Chris McRae, The Freight Transport Association’s head of rail freight policy, said: “The new UK to China rail link adds another dimension to trading opportunities between the two countries, providing trading deadlines can accommodate the timescales involved in the lengthy journey. 

“It certainly provides importers and exporters with an additional option for provision of trade, but its long term cost efficiency may be hampered by the additional loading and offloading required en-route to accommodate the varying gauges through Europe.”

UK to China freight train – at a glance

  • Departing from DP World London Gateway rail terminal in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex on April 10.
  • Arriving at Yiwu in Zhejiang Province, eastern China on April 27.
  • The train’s cargo contains Scotch whisky, baby food, soft drinks, vitamins and pharmaceuticals.
  • Distance of 7,500 miles.
  • The train will travel through seven countries: France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.

DP World chief executive Ahmed Bin Sulayem said it was a significant trade occasion that would enable more trade between the UK, China and the whole world.

He told BBC News​: “DP World London Gateway, one of the UK’s largest logistics hubs, is designed and developed to ensure products can be both imported and exported from the UK via ship or train in a faster, safer and more reliable way than ever before.”

Below is a selection of posts from the social media site Twitter commenting on the new service.

World’s largest shipping lines

Meanwhile, five of the world’s largest shipping lines have announced plans to create more services to the UK.

Global container shipping consortium ‘The Alliance’ has announced that all of its mainline UK calls will be handled by DP World, the Dubai-based global ports and logistics services company.

The consortium of container shipping lines – which comprises Hapag Lloyd, K-Line, MOL, NYK Line and Yang Ming – will bring vessels on its FE1 , FE2 and FE4 services into DP World Southampton and those on FE3 and FE5 into DP World London Gateway, all of which link Asia and Europe.

What was the Silk Road?

The Silk Road was a network of trade routes, formally established during the Han Dynasty of China, which linked the regions of the ancient world in commerce.

Source: Ancient History Encyclopedia

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