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Two Generations of Train Drivers Witness Chongqing's Expanding Path of Openness

By CHANG CHEN|Jul 01,2024

Chongqing - In Chongqing's railway sector, the story of two generations of train drivers, Jiang Tong and his apprentice Lyu Sixiang, symbolizes the city's expanding path of openness. 

Jiang Tong was the driver of the very first train to run on the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe railway, the pioneering China-Europe freight train route. (Photo/Chongqing Locomotive Depot of China Railway Chengdu Bureau Group Co., Ltd.)

Jiang is a well-known locomotive driver hailing from southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, who drove the very first train to run on the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe railway (Yuxinou), the pioneering China-Europe freight train route.

Over the past decade, Jiang has witnessed the rapid development of the China-Europe freight train (Yuxinou) from less than 100 departures per year to over 2,000. He has also seen Tuanjiecun Station transform from a small station surrounded by farmland into a major railway hub in the western region.

With his hair turning grey today, Jiang continues to drive trains. He is gratified that his career has been passed on, and the path of Chongqing’s opening-up is widening.

The first China-Europe freight train

Jiang has been driving trains for over three decades. He considers the highlight of his career to be driving the first China-Europe freight train (Yuxinou) over ten years ago. 

Contrary to public belief, he did not drive the train all the way to Germany. The journey was divided into segments, each driven by different drivers. Jiang's task was to drive the train from Chongqing’s Shapingba District to Dazhou, Sichuan.

Jiang Tong is working. (Photo/Chongqing Locomotive Depot of China Railway Chengdu Bureau Group Co., Ltd.)

The journey was 242 kilometers, with 41% of the trip consisting of bridges and tunnels, requiring precise speed control. Jiang completed the task and arrived in Dazhou on time. This marked the first time inland goods were transported by rail to Europe, opening a new chapter for Chongqing.

Two roads of openness

As the number of China-Europe freight trains increased, more young drivers were needed. An experienced driver, Jiang passed his skills on to apprentices like Lyu Sixiang.

In 2013, Lyu joined and often accompanied Jiang, learning from his extensive experience. Jiang taught Lyu not only the key points of work but also detailed operational techniques.

Under Jiang's guidance, Lyu became a qualified driver and was assigned to the Chongqing-Huaihua line. In 2017, Lyu was among the first to drive on the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC), an extension of Chongqing’s opening-up channels.

Lyu Sixiang, Jiang Tong's apprentice, became one of the first train drivers to operate on the ILSTC in 2017. (Photo/Li Yuheng)

Today, the master and apprentice drive on two major corridors—one connecting Chongqing to Europe and the other to Southeast Asia, both contributing to Chongqing’s opening up.

A shared dedication

While their routes differ, Jiang and Lyu share the same dedication to their work. Driving trains is monotonous and requires a strong sense of responsibility and endurance. 

Changes in cargo types also pushed Lyu to continually improve his skills. The variety of goods transported has increased, requiring different handling techniques. For example, braking distances vary with the weight of the cargo, and delicate goods like automobiles need smooth driving to ensure safe delivery.

Master and apprentice drive forward on different paths, witnessing the expanding openness of Chongqing. 

The China-Europe freight train (Yuxinou) has made over 15,000 trips, transporting nearly 17 million tons of cargo, with a trade value exceeding 530 billion yuan. The success of the China-Europe freight train (Yuxinou) has inspired other routes, making the China-Europe freight trains a key component of the Belt and Road Initiative.

In 2023, Chongqing transported goods worth approximately 28 billion yuan through the ILSTC, marking a 16% year-on-year increase. This figure represents an 87-fold increase in value compared to when Chongqing first launched the ILSTC in 2017. Additionally, Chongqing has integrated the ILSTC with other logistics channels, substantially increasing intermodal transport.

(Li Yuheng and Yang Jun, Chinese reporters from Chongqing Daily, and Ren Xiaoyu, an intern, also contributed to this article.)


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