Operated by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment, the train will travel from Yiwu, Zheijiang province, in eastern China to London Barking freight terminal, and is scheduled to arrive on January 16. The train will return to China shortly afterwards, taking 21 days for the return leg.

Brunel Project Cargo says the service is 50% cheaper than the equivalent air freight journey, and takes half the time as sea freight. In addition, customs clearances including declarations and inspections will be completed together and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, saving time.

“We believe this is going to change the way a lot of forwarders and shippers view their imports and exports for China,” says Mr Mike White, group operations director at Brunel Project Cargo. “Particularly with air freight, as instead of 30 days import from China, there is now a rail option of 14 days. Also, for any shippers who were booking sea freight, then turned to air freight if goods were late in being manufactured, they will now have this option at 50% less cost and time.”