China launched its first freight train to London on Sunday, according to the China Railway Corporation.
The train will travel from Yiwu West Railway Station in Zhejiang Province, Eastern China to Barking, London, taking 18 days to travel over 7,400 miles.
The route runs through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, before arriving in London. The UK is the eighth country to be added to the China-Europe service, and London is the 15th city.
The railway is a major strategic development to assist Xi Jinping’s multi-billion dollar ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy, according to the China-Europe Freight Rail Development Plan released in October.
The strategy was launched in 2013 and is an infrastructure and trade network connecting Asia with Africa and Europe along old Silk Road trading routes.
There are currently 39 routes linking 16 Chinese cities to 12 European cities.
The returning journeys transported items such as German meat products, Russian woods and French wines.
The China Railway Corporation said the train to London will strengthen the connection between China and Western Europe and improve China-Britain trade ties.
China’s exports totalled $2.27 trillion in 2015, slowing down from $2.34 trillion in 2014.
Its economic growth slipped to 6.9 percent in 2015 from 7.3 percent in 2014, marking the slowest growth in 25 years.
The ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy is part of an effort to boost trade and economic growth.