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China to London rail freight service launched

04 Jan 2017

INTERNATIONAL: An inaugural freight service carrying containers between China and the UK is scheduled to arrive at Barking in east London on January 18, having left Yiwu Xi station in eastern China’s Zhejiang province on January 1.

The service is being organised by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Co, which has offered a service from China to Duisburg in Germany and Madrid in Spain since 2015. The UK is the eighth country and London the 15th city to be added to the company’s China – Europe rail network. The Chinese company’s UK agent is One Two Three Logistics, which is being supported by Brunel Project Cargo.

The 12 000 km route runs via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and the Channel Tunnel. Containers are transhipped to and from the former USSR’s 1 520 mm gauge rail network at the China/Kazakhstan and Belarus/Poland frontiers. The inaugural demonstrator is expected to be followed by regular weekly trains for three or four months to assess the market.  

The list price for delivering a 40 ft High Cube container is US$4600 for the westbound journey. This is around half the price of air freight, while taking half the time of sea. A lower price of US$2500 is quoted for the 21-day return journey, reflecting lower demand in the eastbound direction.

The service is expected to be used by shippers of premium products such as automotive parts, electronics and food. It would also offer a more cost-effective alternative to air freight for consignments which miss a ship’s departure date owing to manufacturing delays in China but cannot be held back for another vessel.

‘The new service has a very quick transit time’, according to Brunel Project Cargo’s Group Operations Director Mike White. ‘We believe this is going to change the way a lot of forwarders and shippers view their imports and exports for China.’