The train pulled in to Barking, east London after an 18-day journey from Yiwu, a wholesale market town in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.
It had passed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, finally crossing under the English Channel into Britain.
The consignment would have taken nearly twice as long to reach Britain by sea. The train brought in a cargo of small commodities including household items, clothes, fabrics, bags, and suitcases.
Run by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment, the Yiwu-London freight service makes London the 15th European city to have a direct rail link with China after the 2013 unveiling of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative by Chinese premier Xi Jinping.
Carsten Pottharst, managing director of Switzerland-based InterRail Group, the train’s operator, said he hoped there would be more such runs between China and Britain.
“This moment was important to show that we can run the train in less than 18 days to the UK,” he said. “It depends also on how much cargo we can get from the UK to China – if we can manage to get more trains eastbound, then there could be more.”
Oscar Lin, general manager at OTT Logistics, the local UK booking office for the train, said there had been good interest in the service.
“This is the first train for a test – we want to know what’s the reaction of the UK market,” he said. “But we’ve already received a lot of enquiries … 50 or 60 in just two weeks, without any marketing.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has said the relationship with China remains “golden” as she seeks to bring in billions of dollars in Chinese investment as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.