Silk Road train sets off on first UK to China rail freight journey

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="">Silk Road train sets off on first UK to China rail freight journey</a>

A train loaded with British goods has set off on the first ever rail freight service from the UK to China, opening up a new international route for exports.

It pulled away from Stanford-le-Hope in Essex on Monday to begin the 7,500-mile journey to Yiwu, where it is due to arrive 17 days later.

The departure came three months after the first freight service from China to the UK arrived in London as part of the revival of the ancient "Silk Road".

Whisky, soft drinks, vitamins, pharmaceuticals and baby products are among the items on board the 30 containers being pulled by a DB Cargo locomotive at the start of their journey from Britain.

They are being transported via the Channel Tunnel on a route through France and Belgium to Duisburg in Germany.

From there, InterRail will pull the train through Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan before reaching its final destination in eastern China on 27 April.

The rail journey to China - the world's second biggest economy - is cheaper than sending freight by air and faster than voyage by ship.

Opening up the route is part of China's programme of reviving the ancient Silk Road trading routes between the East and the West.

Xubin Feng, chairman of Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Co, which is organising the service, said: "This is the first export train and just the start of a regular direct service between the UK and China.

"We have great faith in the UK as an export nation and rail provides an excellent alternative for moving large volumes of goods over long distances faster."

International trade minister Greg Hands said: "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."

Prime Minister Theresa May is looking to bolster relations with China - and other major trading powers - as the UK prepares for a future outside the European Union.