The first train to make a direct journey between China and Latvia arrived in Riga on Saturday afternoon, inaugurating the first regular direct freight route between China and the Baltic States.
The train covered 11,000 miles in 17 days, leaving the city of Yiwu, south of Shanghai on 20 October after crossing the whole of Russia. It arrived in Riga’s central station to a reception committee made up of a brass band, spectators, government officials, rail workers and journalists.
Politician from both countries cut a red ribbon with golden scissors.
The first delivery from China consisted of 84 containers of commemorative souvenirs and decorative items, which were sent on for distribution in Germany, Poland and Scandinavia.
The freight service will be carried out under the livery of China Railway Express, a company set up to run direct freight services between the far east and far west of the Asian landmass. Â
The idea of making Latvia a "gateway to Europe" was agreed in July during a visit to China by Uldis Augulis, the Latvian Minister of Transport. He told the crowds in Riga station: "Every success story begins with an idea to try. China and Latvia made a decision to try something unprecedented, and now it has been realised. A lot of hard work has been put into it."
Also present was He Lifeng, deputy head of China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission. He said that the trans-Eurasia container trains were a "new organisation model of international cargo transport".
Since the One Belt, One Road initiative began in October 2013, more than 2,000 trains have passed from China to Europe along some 40 lines. The first scheduled service began in 2013 with the link between Chengdu and Lodz. Traffic between the two continents is expected to reach 42,000 containers in 2016.
Image: Since June, all trains from China to Europe carry the China Railway Express logo (China Railway Express)