21 days – the length of time it’ll take to complete the longest train journey in the world! The trip spans nearly 10,000 kilometers; starting from Yiwu, China, and ultimately concluding all the way in Madrid, Spain.
This route is part of the ‘New Silk Road’, a Chinese project to gain control over transcontinental cargo transportation between Asia and Europe, and is slightly longer than the previous record holder – The Trans-Siberian Railway, traversing around 9,300 km. The Chinese government is spending $40 billion in this bid to gain control of land-based transportation.
On Nov. 18, an 82-container freight train embarked on a landmark 21-day journey, from the eastern Chinese industrial city of Yiwu, and is set to arrive in Madrid by Decenber 10th. The train is carrying consumer products from China to Europe, and will return with expensive products, like luxury cars and other high-priced goods.
Yiwu is the largest wholesale center for small consumer goods in China, making it home to a curious mix of foreign businessmen and petty traders, including a large community of Arabs. Now it’s plugged into a far larger project: China’s zeal to deepen the links between its booming economy and markets in Europe.
As Chinese manufacturers move inland, getting their products to European markets has become more complex. The journey to the coast and then halfway around the world by sea can take up to 60 days – an eternity for the latest iPads and other time-sensitive ‘fast fashion’ products.
The Yiwu-Madrid line is one of a series of routes unveiled following Beijing’s new effort to revitalize intercontinental land trade. While most container-borne trade still moves by ship, the growing appetite of the Chinese market for European luxury goods means that Eurasian railway freight will catch up quick.