Monday, March 7, 2011

Drive Toward More Rail Freight Costs Haulage Jobs

Relocation as Distribution Hub Closes
Shipping News Feature

UK – Time was when there was a flood of TV adverts to tempt people to move to Milton Keynes, new homes, jobs aplenty but a move this week has demonstrated how times have changed. Tesco have announced the closure of the nearby Fenny Lock distribution centre with a potential for hundreds of redundancies at a time when employment in the area is at a premium, and the drive to move more freight by rail, rather than by road haulage, is a key reason behind the decision.

Tesco say the new centre they have planned for Daventry, around 30 miles distant, has full rail access with the ability to turn round a dozen trains a day plus completely upgraded and updated facilities around 60% larger than Fenny Lock.

The Stobart Group, Tesco’s logistics partner of choice of late, took over control of Fenny Lock late last year and promptly decided to shed 87 drivers from a staff of 111 saying they could ‘absorb the work into the Stobart operation’. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), which represents employees at Fenny Lock is complaining bitterly at the decisions and said the decision to move the grocery depot to a position adjacent to the Tesco clothing hub was ‘devastating’.

The union hope to relocate as many jobs as possible to the new site but in view of the pressure for more freight to switch from road to rail it seems inevitable that more of the larger distribution operators will follow suit where possible.

Just this week in a letter to the Secretary of State, Tony Berkeley, chairman of the Rail Freight Group (RFG) pressed the case for rail freight insisting that it was an essential component in the Government’s sworn intention to achieve its legally-binding carbon reduction targets. In his letter the RFG boss said:

“It remains clear that there is no viable solution to decarbonising long distance HGV movements, and that rail freight can and will offer a low carbon alternative particularly with greater electrification of the rail network.

Clearly achieving such a significant modal shift will not happen overnight, and not without support. However, it is time now to take a 25-30 year perspective on how this can be achieved. Polices such as planning, rail restructuring, capacity choices and electrification need now to support the long term goal and we would therefore urge DfT to consider now how this can be facilitated to ensure that the vital carbon trajectory is not missed."