New train launched to travel 7,500mile journey from China to London as ancient trading route is revived

The East Wind locomotive will pass through Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Poland, Belgium and France, before it pulls into Hackney Rail Freight terminal in London’s East End on Wednesday.

Bringing an array of goods in 34 carriages from the manufacturing town of Yiwu in East China, the train would have finished an incredible 16-day journey.

The trip will take it over mountain ranges, around deserts and across the vast Russian steppe.

The East Wind marks a revival in the ancient Silk Road trading route as well as a new era for UK-China relations.

In medieval times and even earlier, the route was used by merchants bringing their exotic wares to Europe from the Orient.

The East Wind trains are operated by China’s Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment, and will run once a week during a trial period.

They join a twice-weekly service to Madrid in Spain via the German city of Duisburg, which was launched more than a year ago.

Oscar Lin, manager of the new line’s UK agent Onetwothree Logistics, said: ‘This cargo train service highlights the important trade partnership between the UK and China post-Brexit.’

Due to the different rail gauges in each country, the same train can’t complete the journey.

But it will start with the East Wind – named after a famous quote from tyrannical Chinese dictator Mao Zedong: ‘The east wind will prevail over the west wind.’

The trip will be faster than a container ship and half the price of air freight, and will make London the 15th city to be directly linked to China.

On the journey back to Yiwu – which makes 60 per cent of the world’s Christmas goods – the carriages will again be laden with cargo such as timber, meat and wines.

Professor Magnis Marsden, from Sussex University’s School of Global Studies, told The Observer: ‘It’s a new economic geography.

‘It’s not the big corporates who will be using the train, so it’s very much in the tradition of the silk road.’