China targets freight
China want to increase the number of freight trains between China and the UK, and is seeking HS2 involvement.
CHINA wants to increase the number of freight trains carrying goods between China and the UK, to help improve trading relations between the two countries.
Speaking exclusively to RAIL, Ma Hui, Minister of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the UK, said freight trains offer a viable option for moving goods between Europe and China.
“The idea is very much there to expand the number of freight trains as it sits between air freight and sea freight - it saves time and it saves costs, so it offers more options in terms of doing business between China and the UK,” he told RAIL.
“China has opened up many more freight services between Chinese cities and European cities, as China’s thinking is to improve the connectivity so it is easier and faster to do business.”
At present, one train a week runs between London and Yiwu, via Duisburg in Germany. RAIL understands it costs £4,500 to transport a 25-tonne container between the two countries by rail, compared with a cost of £1,900 to move it by sea and £23,000 by air. The rail service trumps the sea freight option, by taking approximately half as long as a large container ship to move cargo between the start and end points.
“The train can arrive in London in 17 days after going through many countries with different customs arrangements, changes of locomotives and railway gauges,” said Hui, who witnessed the departure of the first London-Yiwu service (operated by DB Cargo) from DP World London Gateway in April 2017.
“We have overcome many issues to get this far, so from our point of view we need to improve the trade connectivity and the facilities to trade between China and other countries.”
Hui also remained pragmatic for the route’s future once the UK leaves the European Union: “Brexit is the UK’s decision, so we have to make do with whatever the outcome is. The Chinese philosophy is we always see things in a bilateral way, so there may be some blessings in disguise. If Brexit opens up more economic and trade co-operation, then it will be a good thing.”
Maggie Simpson, Executive Director of the Rail Freight Group, welcomed Hui’s comments, but warned that more clarity is needed on what will happen once the UK leaves the EU.
“There is a clear opportunity for UK businesses to benefit from these new trade routes to China, both for importing and exporting goods,” she told RAIL.
“With many new services starting between China and other European destinations, we must make sure that we are not left behind and that the arrangements for through-services via the Channel Tunnel are enhanced to support this.
“This includes post-Brexit customs arrangements, looking at gauge clearance through Kent, and a renewed look at overnight freight via HS1.”
The first direct train between China and London ran in early-2017, and now the Asian powerhouse wants to work more closely with the UK regarding more trains. DB 92015 stands at Barking during the ceremony to mark the arrival of the first train on January 18 2017.