2011年3月，自重慶出發的首趟中歐班列從新疆阿拉山口口岸出境，標誌著鐵路開始成為海運、空運之外連接亞歐大陸的第三條運輸大道。此後，在“一帶一路”倡議的推動下，中歐班列進入高速發展期。2015年3月中國發佈的《推動共建絲綢之路經濟帶和21世紀海上絲綢之路的願景與行動》，明確將中歐班列建設列為國家發展重點。2016年6月8日起，中國鐵路正式啟用“中歐班列”統一品牌。截至2018年6月底，中歐班列已有近60條線路經新疆、內蒙古、東北三個方向出境，通往中亞、俄羅斯、中東歐、西歐等地，累計開行已突破9000列，運送貨物近80萬標箱，國內開行城市48個，到達歐洲14個國家42個城市，運輸網路覆蓋亞歐大陸主要區域。中歐班列作為“鐵軌上的‘一帶一路’”，架起了中國與歐洲、世界聯繫的橋梁，推進了中國與沿線國家的互聯互通。它不再只是一條條開放的線段，而是已形成一張開放的網路 ；它不僅發揮著貨物運輸通道的功能，而且將承擔更多的使命 ：吸納全球資金、資源、技術、人才等産業要素，發揮全球産業銜接功能。
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.