New rail connection links Czech Republic with China's Yiwu



The first freight train between Prague and Yiwu, the famous commodity distribution hub in China's Zhejiang province, left the capital of the Czech Republic on July 19.

The inauguration of the freight link has been hailed by both Czech President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka as another important milestone in bilateral cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. They hailed the project on Tuesday at the annual China Investment Forum, where Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, delivered a keynote speech.

Officials from Yiwu say the landlocked Czech Republic has great links to European countries all around it.

"The Czech Republic has its special geographic advantage, and within 1,000 kilometers, nearly the whole of Europe is covered," said Lin Yi, the mayor of Yiwu.

On Wednesday, Lin introduced a cooperation blueprint between his city and the Czech Republic in the presence of provincial governor Yuan Jiajun and Chinese Ambassador to the Czech Republic Ma Keqing.

Lin said his city aims to boost the frequency of the freight trains.

"Ideally, we hope everyday there will be a train leaving respectively from Prague and Yiwu for each other," Lin said.

Wednesday's train had more than 80 containers of crystal products, auto components, and beer. It will take 16 days to reach its destination."The duration is much shorter compared with shipping at sea, though the cost will be higher," said Lin. "Now, more and more auto producers have started this way of transport, to distribute components in China."

With support from the provincial government, Yiwu plans to build a huge logistics center in the Czech Republic. Lin said the project will generate about 3,000 jobs.

Zeman, a strong supporter of the Belt and Road Initiative, said he expects the freight express between Prague and Yiwu to boost the export of Czech agricultural products.

Since the Belt and Road Initiative was launched in 2013, freight trains have been running between many Chinese and European cities.

Before Yiwu explored the geographic importance of the Czech Republic, some cities in Germany and Poland played a bigger role in the increased freight movements.