The world’s longest train route spans more than 8,000 miles, crosses through eight countries, and covers a greater distance than the diameter between the North and South pole.
The China-Europe Block Train begins in the east Chinese city of Yiwu and crosses through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, and France before reaching its destination 21-days later in the Spanish capital of Madrid.
Also called Yixinou, the route surpasses the world’s second and third longest routes, the Trans-Siberian railway (5,772 miles) and the Moscow-to-Beijing (4,340 miles) train.
In mid-November China launched the 82-railcar freight train from Yiwu, an important wholesale distributing hub near Shanghai, to Madrid.
The maiden convoy pulled approximately 1,400 tons and switched engines 16 times (about once every 500 miles) during the entirety of the journey, Spain’s El País reports.
And now it is sitting in Madrid, despite operators hoping the train would return to China in time for the country’s new year on February 19.
While the new train service is nearly 10 days faster than the traditional sea route, the cost is also 20-30% higher, El País reports. Another drawback of the marathon route stems from the variety of climates the cargo undergoes while in transit.
The harsh Russian winters of minus-22 degrees Fahrenheit cause serious problems for commodities like Spanish wine and jamón, increasingly popular products among China’s middle class, The Local Spain reports.
Consequently, the report adds, “thirty containers set to make the voyage to China remain empty in a Madrid warehouse.”
Yazhong Huang, the Director of Business at the Chinese Embassy in Madrid, told El País, that the European Union is currently China’s largest trading partner with Spain being China’s seventh largest partner within the EU. “The volume of bilateral trade in 2013 reached $US24.9 billion,” Huang said.
Here’s a visualisation of the train and its route: