ANKARA – The first Chinese train which will go to Europe using the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad has entered Turkey’s eastern province Kars, Turkish daily Haberturk reported on Monday.
The freight train, called the China Railway Express, will be the first service of the Belt and Road project which will allow trains departing from Beijing to have uninterrupted access to London.
The China Railway Express, which has already entered Turkey via the eastern province of Kars, will reach Europe by passing through the Marmaray tunnel which connects Istanbul’s Asian and European sides beneath the Bosporus Strait.
Turkey’s Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Cahit Turhan told state-run Anadolu Agency that the train will go on to Prague, passing through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia.
The 850-meter-long service, made-up of 42 carriages capable of carrying 76-cubic meters of freight, will arrive in Ankara by Turhan at 2.30 pm on 6 November.
Turhan said that countries in the region had established significant cooperation for the effective use of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Line, which constitutes the main pillar of the Middle Corridor, which was put into operation on 30 October 2017 through a partnership with Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
China Railway Express, which will be the first freight train to reach Europe using the Marmaray, departed from the city of Xi’an in China and entered Turkey via Kars crossing Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The Belt and Road initiative, also known as the New Silk Road, is China’s ambitious infrastructure project that aims to link 152 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe via land and maritime networks.
More than 126 countries have joined the scheme since it was launched in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping to develop cooperation with countries in central, south and southeast Asia, as well as with East Africa, for the construction of infrastructures to promote development and facilitate trade with China.
Chinese direct investment into countries forming part of the New Silk Road, reached $14.5 billion in 2016, according to figures from the China Banking Association.
The project is due to be completed in 2046.