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In a feat previously thought of as impossible, the first direct train from Britain to China has set off on a journey spanning 7,500 miles.
The debut rail freight service to the Far East departed today carrying thirty containers stuffed with British goods such as whisky, pop, vitamins and assorted pharmaceuticals from Standford-le-Hope, Essex.
The DB Cargo locomotive will pass through the Channel Tunnel into France, through to Belgium before calling off in Duisburg, Germany.
The freight train from China approaching London. Image: PA
It well then travel through Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kasahkstan, finally arriving at Yiwu, eastern China, on April 27.
It comes three months after the first freight service arrived in London from China.
Seems a bit of an effort, a bit old fashioned, doesn't it? But the whole journey comes at a cheaper price than air freight, would you believe it. It's also faster than sea freight.
It's all a part of China's 'One Belt, One Road' programme seeking to revitalise the 2,000 year old Silk Road trading routes with the Western world.
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chief executive at DP World, said it was a 'significant trade occasion'.
"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," he added.
"We look forward to enabling and facilitating more trade between the UK, China and the whole world."
International trade minister Greg Hands also spoke wonders of the service, saying: "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 £1.5 billion London Gateway port as it also welcomes its first regular container ships from Asia."
The Silk Road was a network of trade routes established during the Han Dynasty of China. It was a revolutionary period for ancient commerce.
Silk Road map. Image: Ancient History/Shizhao
The terms 'Silk Road' or 'Silk Routes' were coined by the German geographer and traveller, Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877.
The routes were used regularly from 130 BCE, when Han debuted trade with the west, all the way to 1453 when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trading with the rest and shut down the network.
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