The first freight train from China to Europe set off from Ankara on Wednesday after a brief stop over.
The train will cross to Europe using Istanbul’s sub-sea tunnel, Marmaray.
At a ceremony at the Ankara Station, Infrastructure Minister Cahit Turhan said that Turkey with its geographical location, history and culture has a great role in the economic and social development of Asian, European, Balkan, Caucasus, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Black Sea countries.
“With an investment of $754 billion, we have strengthened our transport and communications infrastructure and completed the missing links on international transport routes,” Turhan said.
He praised China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative project aimed at linking Europe, China, Asia and the Middle East with a network of roads and railways.
Turhan said that the China Railway Express, which made its first journey on the Baku-Tiblisi-Kars route, gave a new direction to railway transportation.
He said this railway line, which has been in operation since Oct. 30, 2017, has reduced cargo transportation time between China and Turkey from a month to 12 days.
Turkey has become a central link in a “middle corridor”, which extends between Beijing and London as well as the “Iron Silk Road” — a rail track between Turkey and Kazakhstan, Turhan noted.
Turhan said with the integration of Marmaray in the route, transportation time between Far Asia and Western Europe has been reduced to 18 days.
“When we consider the trade volume between Asia and Europe of $21 trillion, its importance will be easily understood.
“The Iron Silk Road, which benefits approximately 5 billion people and 60 countries, has become a new and very important alternative for global trade networks,” Turhan said.
China Railway Express that started its journey from Xi’an, China, carries an electronic product load equivalent to 42 tractors.
The train travels over two continents, 10 countries, two seas and 11,483 kilometers [7,135 miles] of road in 12 days with 42 container-loaded wagons.
Turhan said he hopes the train reaches its last destination Prague successfully with no disruption.
*Writing by Dilara Hamit
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