Wednesday, January 25, 2017

FIRST TRAIN FROM CHINA TO ENGLAND IS NOW IN SERVICE

THE FIRST ORIENT EXPRESS ENDED IN PARIS AND CONSTANTINOPLE. TODAY'S TRAIN RUNS FROM CHINA TO LONDON

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First Orient Express poster by Jules Chéret, 1888 (Photo: Arjan den Boer)

The first freight train from China to arrive in London arrived January 18, 2017 requiring 18 days to complete the journey. The train had 30 specially designed shipping containers consigned to London recipients. China launched a direct rail freight service to London as part of its trade and development drive directed towards Europe known as "the New Silk Route". The arrival of this train in London isn't quite the mechanical marvel of a moon landing, but as a civil work it is one for the ages. In 2016 China's New Silk Route cargo rail train's trips into Europe numbered 1,702 which doubled the 2015 trip statistics. On January 18,2017 via the "Chunnel", London became the 15th city to be visited by this rail service.  

 America and Canada each had transcontinental rail service more than a century ago. Those were civil engineering marvels of their day but both nations occupied the entire service route from sea to sea. For the North American transcontinental lines only one rail gauge size was in use, and only one surface transportation governing body had to be dealt with. The New Silk Route is not just a modern civil engineering model, an update on an older theme but it is a wonder of administrative planning and soft power diplomacy. The real obstacles to the building of this service were political, administrative, and regulatory, as well as the challenge of until very recently a lack of common rail gauge size among many nations in Europe. The Chinese overcame all of that, for that historic train to pull into London. 

 China state run railways owns the service, but it is managed for them under contract by the private firm of Yiwu Timex Industrial Investments (YTII) . YTII claims that the freight rates are half that of air cargo and the delivery time cuts two weeks off of the sea route. 

 To read much more on this historical development check out the BBC article of January 18, 2017 

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