First freight train sets off for China from UK

First freight train sets off for China from UK
A train loaded with British goods, has started a 12,000 km journey from England to China, opening a regular direct service between the countries.

It pulled away from Stanford-le-Hope in Essex on Monday to arrive in China in three weeks.

Whisky, soft drinks, vitamins, pharmaceuticals and baby products are among the items in 30 containers carried by train.

The locomotive will travel through the Channel Tunnel, and then seven countries - France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan – before arriving on April 27.

The rail journey to China is cheaper than sending freight by air and faster than a voyage by ship, operators say.

The route is part of China’s "one belt, one road" program aimed at reviving the ancient Silk Road trading routes between the East and the West. In January, the first freight train from China arrived in the UK.

"This new rail link with China is another boost for global Britain, following the ancient Silk Road trade route to carry British products around the world,” UK International Trade Minister Greg Hands said, adding that the rail link "shows the huge global demand for quality UK goods.”

The freight service makes London the 15th European city to have a direct rail link with China.

"This is the first export train and just the start of a regular direct service between the UK and China,” said Xubin Feng, chairman of Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment which is organizing the service.

"We have great faith in the UK as an export nation and rail provides an excellent alternative for moving large volumes of goods over long distances faster," he added.

Restoring the Silk Road route was "an important and exciting initiative,” according to Feng.