2011年3月，自重庆出发的首趟中欧班列从新疆阿拉山口口岸出境，标志着铁路开始成为海运、空运之外连接亚欧大陆的第三条运输大道。此后，在“一带一路”倡议的推动下，中欧班列进入高速发展期。2015年3月中国发布的《推动共建丝绸之路经济带和21世纪海上丝绸之路的愿景与行动》，明确将中欧班列建设列为国家发展重点。2016年6月8日起，中国铁路正式启用“中欧班列”统一品牌。截至2018年6月底，中欧班列已有近60条线路经新疆、内蒙古、东北三个方向出境，通往中亚、俄罗斯、中东欧、西欧等地，累计开行已突破9000列，运送货物近80万标箱，国内开行城市48个，到达欧洲14个国家42个城市，运输网络覆盖亚欧大陆主要区域。中欧班列作为“铁轨上的‘一带一路’”，架起了中国与欧洲、世界联系的桥梁，推进了中国与沿线国家的互联互通。它不再只是一条条开放的线段，而是已形成一张开放的网络 ；它不仅发挥着货物运输通道的功能，而且将承担更多的使命 ：吸纳全球资金、资源、技术、人才等产业要素，发挥全球产业衔接功能。
China Railway Express to Europe
The launch of a rail freight service from the Chinese city Chongqing via the Alashankou border crossing in Xinjiang through Central Asia to Europe in March 2011 ushered in a new era for freight on rail as an alternative to shipping by sea or air. China-Europe rail cargo transport has subsequently gained rapid traction, fueled by the rollout of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The importance of China’s rail link to Europe was highlighted in a white paper issued by the Chinese government in March 2015 entitled Joining Hands to Build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road – Vision and Actions. The name “China Railway Express” was formally introduced on June 8, 2016, for all Europe-bound trains.
By the end of June 2018, nearly 60 service lines were running through Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Northeast China border crossings to destinations in Central Asia, Russia, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe. More than 9,000 trains had made the trans-continental voyage between 48 Chinese cities and 42 cities in 14 European countries, transporting nearly 800,000 standard containers of goods. The network covers major regions on the Eurasian continent.
The “China Railway Express” service, seen as the “Belt and Road on rail,” helps boost connectivity between China and Europe and the rest of the world. An interconnected network has begun to replace uncoordinated individual cargo lines. In addition to offering freight transport solutions, it contributes to flows of global investment, resources, technology and skilled personnel, and facilitates global cross-sector collaboration.