UK landmark as first export train departs for China

The first London to Yiwu train, prior to departure. Credit: DP World London Gateway.

UK rail freight has achieved a significant landmark after the first export train departed from London for China.

Laden with British soft drinks, vitamins and pharmaceutical products, the train left earlier today (April 10) to begin the 7,500 mile journey to China’s Zhejiang province. Today’s launch comes just three months after the first import train arrived in the UK from China.

The consignment’s departure follows the triggering of Article 50 last month – the official mechanism for beginning Britain’s departure from the EU. The development of a rail freight corridor between the UK and China seems to reflect the British government’s focus towards strengthening international trade links.

Departing from DP World London Gateway, Essex, the DB Cargo locomotive will pass through the Channel Tunnel to France, Belgium and Germany, where InterRail will haul the train through Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and into Yiwu.

It changes wagons twice, once in Poland and once in Western China, to facilitate gauge changes. The containers will be lifted onto wagons waiting on an adjacent track.

OneTwoThree Logistics is organising the transportation and booking of the UK to China rail freight services. It is doing so in conjunction with Yiwu Timex Industrial Investments Co, which in turn is working with China Railway Container.

The first ever rail service headed for China leaves the UK. Credit: DBCargoUK.

The service, which is expected to take three weeks to complete its journey, is part of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ scheme, which aims to restart trade with the West along the ancient Silk Road route.

Greg Hands, Minister of State in the Department for International Trade, said: “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.

“It shows the huge global demand for quality UK goods and is a great step for DP World’s £1.5bn London Gateway Port as it also welcomes its first regular container ships from Asia.”

Chinese and UK regional and local government delegates attended a ceremony at DP World London Gateway to mark the departure.

Amongst the representatives were Rupert Soames, the UK Prime Minster’s Business Ambassador for Infrastructure and Transport; Liming Liang, vice governor of the Zhejiang province; Shi Wenzhen, the Mayor of Yiwu; and Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, DP World Group chairman.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said: “We are proud to be playing a key role in facilitating this significant trade occasion between the UK and China.

“DP World London Gateway, one of the UK’s largest logistics hubs is designed and developed to ensure products can be both imported and exported from the UK via ship or train in a faster, safer and more reliable way than ever before.

“We look forward to enabling and facilitating more trade between the UK, China and the whole world.”

As of yet there are no plans for the next journey but it is hoped it will become a regular service.


  1. The train did not leave from London. The London Gateway port and logistic park is 30 miles down river on the Thames at Stanford-Le-Hope in Essex. Pedantic I know – but the train was from Essex to China.


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