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First ever freight train from China to the UK arrives

Philippa Edmunds's picture
First freight train from China

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Manager is there to meet the first ever freight train from China.

A freight train carrying clothing and a range of consumer products will arrive at the DB Cargo Eurohub terminal at Barking, London, all the way from China at 1pm on Wednesday 18 January.

The 12,000km journey by rail took around 18 days, half the time sea transport takes. Rail, like sea, is a safer, more sustainable way to carry cargo than either air or road freight.  In fact rail, which is much cheaper than air freight, produces around 20 times less CO2 than air freight.

The train started in Yiwu in the eastern Chinese province of Shejian, going via Kasashstan, Brest in Belarus and then from Duisburg to Aachen, Calais and Barking. 

DB handled the train from Duisberg to the UK and has been collaborating with partners since 2011 operating weekly container trains from China to Germany along the legendary silk route. The train to London, which consists of 34 containers, is part of a trial which will hopefully continue.

Rail freight is much safer than HGVs, which were almost six times more likely than cars to be involved in fatal crashes on local/urban roads in the UK. Rail produces around four times less CO2 than HGVs. 

Rail is an important part of the logistics industry and is well placed to offer long distance traffic both internationally and in the UK as this story shows. A quarter of containers imported into the UK are then transported by rail. This traffic grew 7% in quarter 1, the highest level since 1998; and 4% in quarter 2 of 2016/17 compared to corresponding quarters in the previous year. Overall, it has grown by 30% in last 10 years.