China tar­gets freight

Rail (UK) - - Contents - Daniel Pud­di­combe Con­tribut­ing Writer rail@bauer­me­

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.

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