The service will take two weeks to complete its 12,000 km journey from Yiwu to Barking and is said to be considerably cheaper than air freight and faster than sea freight.
London is now the 15th European city to boast a direct rail freight route to China as president Xi Jinping continues to strengthen trade ties between China and Europe as part of his new ‘Silk Road’ initiative.
The service could provide a huge boost to luxury British brands in particular, with overseas spending on luxury British goods soaring since Britain voted in favour of leaving the European Union.
Matthew Grandage is an associate for China affairs at Chamber International, a business dedicated to supporting British exporters, who previously worked in China for 15 years before returning home to the UK to take up his new role.
Speaking about the new service, he said: “It’s great to see the new network of freight rail routes between China’s east coast and mainland Europe now extending into the UK.
“Since 2013, cities already connected through the hub at Duisburg (including Hamburg and Madrid) have seen their number of weekly services grow with demand from European exporters.
“Rail’s green credentials, security and low costs are attractive, and China’s demand for quality Western goods is growing – a great opportunity for UK business.
“In addition, this “new Silk Road” opens up new doors for business in countries along the way such as Russia and Kazakhstan.
“From the point of view of those who export to or source materials from China, the new route from Barking to Yiwu offers a great alternative for high value shipments, as well as a healthy challenge to other freight service providers.”
The news has also been welcomed by Barking and Dagenham Council leader, cllr Darren Rodwell, who added: “This is great news and, along with the plans for Barking Riverside and a Made in Dagenham films studios, it’s another sign that Barking and Dagenham is an emerging powerhouse of the capital’s growing economy.”
Parveen Thornhill, London regional director at the Department for International Trade (DIT), said: “China is a major trading partner for the UK. As one of the world’s largest economies, China is the world’s biggest exporter – but it’s also the world’s biggest importer, and UK goods and services account for a significant chunk of that. China is now the UK’s sixth largest export market.
“Our exporting success in China can only continue to grow if we’ve got good routes into the country, and this is why the new rail link between Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province and Barking is welcome news."