Move over Trans-Siberian: China launches 'world’s longest' train route
Dubbed Yixinou, the train left Yiwu, an industrial center less than 200 miles south of Shanghai, on Tuesday and is expected to reach Madrid in December after traversing Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, and France, reports the Local.se.
The newly operational route is 450 miles longer than the famous Moscow-Vladivostok connection. However, unlike the Russian line, goods on the Yixinou will have to be transferred to different wagons at three points during the trip because of incompatible track gauges in different countries.
China was eager to connect Yiwu, the world’s largest wholesale market for small consumer goods to Europe by railway. According to the European Commission, China is the EU’s biggest source of imports. The two entities currently trade over a billion dollars a day.
China’s state press agency noted that the new route “would reduce dependence on sea and air cargo transport.” Businesses in Yiwu also welcomed the new line, saying it was faster than sea transport, and much cheaper than air.
1st train of "Yixin'ou" cargo line linking Yiwu in east China’s Zhejiang & Madrid in Spain took off Tue. pic.twitter.com/mOnOOKlGl2
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) November 19, 2014
Test operations for the route, which began at the start of this year, left Yiwu and terminated in Central Asia, reportedly brought an additional $39 million boost to the coastal region’s export value.
China’s President, Xi Jinping, was optimistic about the future of China-Europe train connections when meeting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajov in Beijing earlier this fall.
”China looks forward to the West's proactive participation in building and operating the Yiwu-Madrid line that would help boost the level of cooperation between China and Spain," he said.
Others, however, are concerned about the potential operational costs of railway freight, with some calling for government subsidization. Currently, operational costs of the Yiwu-Madrid line are about 20 percent higher than the cost of using sea transport.
Huang Qifan, the mayor of Chongqing, a major industrial center in south west China which serves as the starting point of the Chongqing-Duisburg line, part of the expanding “New Silk Road,” believes there will be no profit unless the price of cargo per kilometer drops.
"If the cost remains high, the government should subsidize," Huang was quoted as saying in the Want China Times, a Taiwan based news website.
Meanwhile, authorities maintain that costs will fall as both export and import values increase.