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First direct China-Madrid freight train arrives after epic 13,000km journey

The route is longest in the world and takes 21 days to reach the Spanish capital

The first China-Spain freight train reached Madrid on Tuesday after a 13,000km journey. Foto: Julián Rojas / Vídeo: ATLAS

The first direct freight train to connect China and Spain reached Madrid on Tuesday after a journey of around 13,000 kilometers that began 21 days ago in the Chinese city of Yiwu, on the east coast.

It is the longest rail route in the world – surpassing even the combined 12,250 kilometers covered by the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Orient Express routes. It is also the route that crosses the greatest number of countries, going through China, Kazhakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany and France before reaching Spain.

The route surpasses the combined 12,250km covered by the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Orient Express

At 11.11am, the freight train unloaded its 30 remaining containers at Spanish rail infrastructure manager Adif’s logistics facilities in Madrid, having already dropped off 40 containers in Belarus.

Spain and China want to encourage trade relations through rail transport and the new direct railroad line is viewed by both governments as a major international link between Europe and Asia. Public Works Minister Ana Pastor described it as “the greatest proof of [Spain’s] trade exchange.”

The convoy, which pulled a gross weight of 1,400 tons, switched engines every 800 kilometers and had to deal with track-gauge changes in the border towns of Dostyk (Kazakhstan), Brest (Belarus) and Irún (Spain).

Chinese officials underscored that the new transport link would reduce import and export costs as well as delivery times, while lowering CO2 emissions compared with trucking the goods by road.

The business attaché at the Chinese embassy, Huang Yazhong, said “the economic openness symbolizes an achievement in trade connectivity between [China] and Spain.”

Huang revealed that the train came loaded with stationery, handicraft and consumer products, and that it would return to China after Christmas loaded with wine, ham and olive oil.

“Right now the European Union is China’s largest trade partner, and Spain is China’s seventh largest trade partner within the EU,” added Huang. “The volume of bilateral trade in 2013 reached $24.9 billion [€20.1 billion].”