China begins freight train service to Moscow

Reuters / David Gray
China has started a rail freight service linking the western Xinjiang region also known as a "core area" of the Silk Road economic belt with Moscow. It is expected to deliver $8.1 billion worth of cargo annually.

The rail authorities in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region on Wednesday announced the setting up of an additional train service westward, according to the Xinhua news agency.

The first train to travel the new route left the region’s capital Urumqi on Wednesday afternoon and will reach Moscow in about 10 days. Loaded with 1,300 tons of PVC (polyvinyl chloride resin), it will travel more than 4,000 kilometers and return with wood pulp from Russia.

The train will be able to transport $8.1 billion (50 billion yuan) of cargo a year, Vice Governor of Xinjiang Liu Jianxin said at the launch ceremony.

More than three freight trains will run between Xinjiang and the destinations in Russia and also central and western Asia per week by the second half of this year, the agency said.

READ MORE: China proposes economic corridor with Russia and Mongolia

Since last year Xinjiang has opened freight train services to Kazakhstan, Georgia, Iran, Turkey and the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

The new route is among a number of ambitious Russia-China projects. The two countries are currently developing the Moscow-Kazan railway which could further connect Moscow and Beijing. They also plan to start a 2-day high-speed train linking the capitals.

The projects will contribute to the revival of the Silk Road. In April, Beijing proposed building an economic corridor linking China, Mongolia and Russia as one of the key points in the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative.