As Beijing pushes westwards, the Atlantic century makes way for a new Eurasian age
July 2017

by: Philip Stephens - Financial Times

Among this year’s under-reported events was the opening of a new rail freight route.

A locomotive, pulling wagons loaded with Chinese manufactures, set out in early January from Yiwu in Zhejiang province.

Some 18 days and seven countries later it arrivedat a goods depot almost 7,500 miles away on the eastern edge of London.

The jury is out on the economics of this latest reincarnation of the ancient silk routes.

That is beside the point. The journey above allelse was a statement of China’s geopolitical intent.

In truth, it took several trains to complete the trip. The freight containers had to be switched at various points to take account of different track gauges, and then again for the last stretch through the Channel tunnel.

Similar routes opened a while ago to continentalcities such as Hamburg and Madrid. London, though, is a prize.

The trains, following the old silk road through central Asia, Russia, Belarus and Poland into western Europe are unlikely to have a decisive effect on present patterns of trade. The important thing is the psychological impact — a network of rail links reduces the distance between Asia and Europe.

Shipping giants seek control of ‘Silk Road’

Costas Paris The Wall Street Journal 
April 10, 2017

Workers use a mechanical hoist to perform maintenance on a ship in drydock as Chinese shipping companies spend billions in ports worldwide.

Chinese maritime spending.

Chinese state-run shipping companies are investing billions of dollars in ports worldwide to ease the movement of Chinese goods, as the ocean-freight industry emerges from as lump and Beijing becomes a vocal promoter of globalisation.

The moves are paying off financially for the likes of Cosco Group and China Merchant Holdings International, but the overriding objective, Chinese officials say, is to control one of the world’s busiest trade loops. Ports on the route, running from Asia through the Suez Canal to Europe, would give priority to Chinese vessels.

The so-called Maritime Silk Road, the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping, is part of One Belt,One Road, a $US4 trillion ($5.3 trillion) undertaking to connect China and Europe by land and sea. With the Trump administration looking askance at global trade deals, Mr Xi has become a champion of globalisation.

Rail freight and logistics / distribution facilities require specific and sustainable locations as both markets develop and refine.

Both rail freight terminals and large logistics and manufacturing sheds require mostly level land and in the case of rail, preferably straight sidings to aid container handling. With the need for 775 metre train access (probably more like 1,000 metres with links and junctions). 

SLE estimate that an efficient and sustainable terminal with sufficient contained handling and storage space (circa 20,000 teu’s awaiting seasonal markets) this will require a land area of about 60 acres. Logistics will take up at least another 100 acres.

Container size may be confusing as a generally quoted TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) though most commonly used now are 40’ and in some cases 45’ and even 50’ in length. A shipping container can be loaded with literally anything that will fit from computer parts to cars though limited to weight.

20th December 2016

The China-Europe container train departing from Yiwu is operated by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment Co Ltd and has been running the service to Madrid (Spain) via Duisburg (Germany) for over a year.

They now confirm the first container train to London will depart from Yiwu on the 1st January 2017 before returning to Yiwu afterwards. Yiwu Railway Station - London Barking Railway Station: 16 days.