This London station has a 7,500 mile direct train link to China

Barking Station in East London has trains direct to China – but they only run freight services (Picture: Google Maps)

You’d have to become a pair of socks if you wanted to catch a train all the way from Barking to China as a modern day version of Marco Polo.

But the 7,500-mile journey is possible from the unassuming concrete and glass station that would otherwise take you by Tube to Epping.

You just need the steel to survive an 18-day trip through some of the world’s dictatorships.

It’s like a live-action game of Travle where you select the shortest route between one country and another, rolling through the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and China.

The train from London to China covers nearly 7,500 miles in eight countries (Picture: METRO)
A freight train full of goods from China arrives at DB Cargo’s London Eurohub rail freight depot in Barking after completing its maiden voyage from Yiwu in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang on January 18, 2017 (Picture: NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images)

Launched in 2017 with 34 carriages of socks, bags and wallets for London’s souvenir shops, the service takes runs under the English Channel, across Europe’s lowlands and plains, and through the rugged Ural Mountains, smothered by snow in winter.

It then winds down across the Central Asian plateau, the deserts of northwestern China and the densely populated east of the country before finally arriving halfway across the globe at the trade hub of Yiwu near the Pacific Ocean.

The train makes stops at the industrial centre of Duisburg in western Germany and the multimillion metropolis of Moscow on the way.

You can just imagine the views you’d see if only the freight containers had windows.

The journey isn’t entirely unbroken for the goods being transported across the Eurasian landmass.

Rail infrastructure varies from country to country. You might have had to change passenger trains near the border with the Netherlands if you ever travelled from Germany before the rollout of new engines capable of running in both countries in 2022.

Likewise, many of the former Soviet Union states use a larger rail gauge than the EU, meaning containers must be offloaded and stacked onto new carriages along the way, the BBC reported.

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The 18 days the service takes from start to finish might seem a long time to be cooped up on a train, but a journey by sea can take at least a month.

Yiwu international trade city at night (Picture: Getty Images/View Stock RF)

Such an incredible feat connecting the world through trade is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative reviving the Silk Road as part of the rising power’s economic and political rivalry with the USA.

The Silk Road connected much of the ancient world from the China’s Han dynasty to the Roman Empire as early as 114 AD.

Caravan routes followed the path of the Great Wall of China, bypassed the Taklamakan Desert and flowed through the kingdoms and empires of the Middle East to the Mediterranean Sea where goods were loaded onto ships destined for Europe.

It’s responsible for words like ‘chai’ entering popular use in many languages like Finnish, Czech and Ukrainian.

Famous adventurer Marco Polo travelled much of the route from Venice, becoming a confidant of the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan.

The Silk Road’s importance fell as the Ottoman Empire and European powers jostled for control of land and trade, prompting Spain and Portugal’s search for routes across the sea that ultimately led to their conquest of the Americas.

That past is represented in the Belt and Road Initiative’s nickname – the New Silk Road.

Launched in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the ambitious collection of infrastructure projects involves investment in highways, railways, sea ports and special economic zones.

China hopes this will fuel its economy and increase international use of its currency, the yuan.

But the US, whose dollar remains the dominant currency for international trade, fears this is a scheme to expand China’s global economic in tandem with efforts to flex its military might among its neighbours, asserting its claims to the South China Sea and threatening the island nation of Taiwan.

In January, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said: ‘We determined that the PRC was the only state with both the intent to reshape the international order and the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.’

President Biden previously announced plans for a trade route to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative by linking India with the Arab Gulf states, and the Gulf with Europe, CNN reported.

However, for Barking, one of the UK’s most deprived areas, its link to China still offers hope of a brighter future.

Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Darren Rodwell, said it’s ‘the most powerful’ trade route to be linked into when he called for £10 billion to be invested into turning the area into an international trade hub in 2022, MyLondon reported.

He said: ‘We have a freight train terminus sitting there that’s not really being utilised – so already there’s goods.

‘So the socks we are wearing, 90 per cent of them come from Yiwu in China, they come on the train that comes into Barking. Which sounds a bit bizarre, but it does.’

Rodwell added: ‘They reckon by the end of the decade we will be linked to the whole of Europe, the whole of Asia and the whole of Africa.

‘Well that’s a pretty powerful trade route to be linked to, in fact I’d say the most powerful.

“You’ll be able to go from Barking, in effect, to Beijing in 36 hours.

‘I mean, that is not bad… We are the location that is connected to most of the world’s economies, and that’s got to be utilised. It’s greener, it’s cleaner and it’s quicker than shipping.”

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