The very first rail freight service from the UK to China set off today on a 7,500-mile journey from Essex, as Britain looks to bolster its trading credentials across the world in the lead-up to Brexit.
A DB Cargo locomotive left the DP World London Gateway rail terminal in Stanford-le-Hope for the city of Yiwu in Zhejiang province in eastern China.
Among the British goods being transported in the containers are soft drinks, vitamins, pharmaceuticals, baby products and whisky.
After travelling through the Channel Tunnel, the train will pass through seven other countries, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, before arriving on 27 April.
The journey is cheaper than air freight and faster than sea freight and marks a revival of ancient Silk Road trading routes with the West.
Greg Hands, minister of state in the department for international trade, said:
This new rail link with China is another boost for global Britain, following the ancient Silk Road trade route to carry British products around the world.
It shows the huge global demand for quality UK goods and is a great step for DP World’s £1.5bn London Gateway Port as it also welcomes its first regular container ships from Asia.
The service will be run by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment.
The company said it was "just the start" of a regular direct service between the UK and China.
"We have great faith in the UK as an export nation and rail provides an excellent alternative for moving large volumes of goods over long distances faster," the firm added in a statement.
Three months ago the first freight service from China to the UK arrived in Barking, East London.