By Mete Erdurcan. Picture: RIA Motor
For years the most famous travelling route was considered to take you through-out Russia, however there is a route that outdates the Trans-Siberian Express; we mostly refer to it as the Silk Road trading route. China’s President Xi Jinping announced in Kazakhstan, in November last year, that there would be a $16,3 billion fund for investment in the infrastructure to revive the centuries-old Silk Road. The main goal appears to be for the poorer western regions of China to achieve more economic prosperity. Urumqi, the capital of western Xinjiang has a pivotal role to play according to Vice Premier Wang Yang. (Bloomberg News, 2014)
Now, a year later, the first train is on its way, from its starting point in Yiwu, in Eastern China, towards Madrid, Spain. The 82-wagon cargo train will take approximately 21 days; pass through 6 countries on its 9,978 km road. The route is approximately 724 kilometers longer than the famous Trans-Siberian railway; however the cargo will have to relocate to different wagons, because different countries have different track gauges.
The aim is to ‘reduce dependence on sea and air cargo transport’, according to China’s state press agency. It will also prove to be a proper alternative for transport from China, as it is faster than sea transport and cheaper than air travel. However, the costs are still higher than that of sea transport (approximately 20%), and some are concerned about the potential costs. The Chinese government seems more than willing to invest to make it more affordable, and believes that costs will drop in time; this is perhaps with the belief that ‘export and import values will increase’.
In the meanwhile, the ‘recipient’ side of the railway, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajov stated that this would ‘boost the cooperation between China and Spain’. (RussiaToday, 2014)
Will the new ‘Silk Road’ beat the Trans-Siberian railways, or will it prove to be too big of a project for only one country to be the major contributor of? Time will show if the new Silk Road will stand the test.