Chinese goods are coming to London by freight train for the first time in history in a 7,400-mile journey along an ancient trading route.

A diesel engine has set off from the manufacturing town of Yiwu in east China bound for Barking in London with 34 carriages and £4million of socks, clothes, bags and suitcases in tow.

And the goods will finally arrive in Britain via the Channel Tunnel in a fortnight, after crossing seven countries.

It is part of China's One Belt, One Road initiative, aimed at reviving the fortunes of the ancient Silk Road.

In medieval times and even earlier, the route was used by merchants bringing their exotic wares to Europe from the Orient. 

The trains are operated by China's Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment, and will run once a week during a trial period.

They join a twice-weekly service to Madrid in Spain via the German city of Duisburg, which was launched more than a year ago.

Oscar Lin, manager of the new line's UK agent Onetwothree Logistics, said: 'This cargo train service highlights the important trade partnership between the UK and China post-Brexit.'

The train will eventually arrive in Britain via the Channel Tunnel, alongside the daily Euro Tunnel services ferrying passengers ro and from France

It starts with a locomotive – East Wind – named after a famous quote from tyrannical Chinese dictator Mao Zedong: 'The east wind will prevail over the west wind.'

But the goods will have to be moved on to a selection of different carriages en route due to several changes in the gauge of the railway.

The trip will be faster than a container ship and half the price of air freight, and will make London the 15th city to be directly linked to China.

On the journey back to Yiwu – which makes 60 per cent of the world's Christmas goods – the carriages will again be laden with cargo such as timber, meat and wines.

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