A freight train carrying 123 brand new Volvo cars made in northeast China arrived in the Belgian port of Zeebrugge Friday afternoon, marking a milestone in the history of cargo transport between the two countries.
The train was welcomed by government officials, diplomats, business representatives and journalists from both countries after a journey of 9,832 kilometers, which took some 20 days, passing through Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany.
The shipment carried the S90L, Volvo’s flagship model, manufactured in the company’s Daqing plant in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province.
A staff member from the car manufacturer at the site told Xinhua that all the cars have been reserved and will soon be distributed across Europe from the port.
“If we ship the cars by sea it will take up to 60 days, now we can save over 40 days. We also managed to find a balance between saving time and controlling shipping costs,” said Yuan Xiaolin, senior vice president of Volvo Car Group attending the welcome ceremony.
Following the arrival of the first train, the Volvo rail cargo service will continue to run at least once a week, and eventually reach the goal of four to five weekly round trips.
Every year the trains are expected to bring 30,000 to 40,000 new Volvo vehicles to Zeebrugge, an open seaport handling over 40 million tons of cargo annually, and ferry Belgian products to China on their return journeys.
Belgian deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters, who visited the Volvo Daqing plant during his visit to China in May, hailed the arrival of the train as an example of “concrete results of the Belt and Road Initiative”.
The initiative aims to build a trade, investment and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road.
Peeters stressed that Belgium is demonstrating strong willingness to participate in the Belt and Road initiative as a partner.
“The 21st Century Silk Road marks a new era for trade and cooperation between Belgium and China. As we see today it provides great opportunities for countries to deepen cooperation,” said Peeters.
“We firmly believe that strengthening train connectivity and investing in excellent infrastructural links will be a crucial aspect of Europe’s future relations with Asia,” he added.
Qu Xing, Chinese ambassador to Belgium, believes that the potential of this new train service is tremendous.
“Belgium has great advantages in carrying out cooperation with China under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative,” said the ambassador, underlining that Belgium boasts three of the 10 biggest ports in Europe.
As of early June, over 4,000 cargo train trips have been made between Chinese and European cities since the start of the direct rail freight services six years ago, according to Chinese national operator China Railway Corporation.