Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Freight Trains Commence Trial London Service with a Glance Back at Past History

Low Carbon Emissions are the Target for Reinvigorating Services
Shipping News Feature

UK – Freight trains, carrying critical business supplies into major cities in the UK, may start rolling again for the first time in over 20 years, following a test train from Rugby to London’s Euston Station last week on June 5, which the operator claims delivers a faster service, and potentially saves thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions compared to that of road haulage. Euston Station was formerly a regular destination for freight, the 1963 mail train from Glasgow was Euston bound when it was famously robbed.

The trial, run by TNT Express, in conjunction with Colas Rail, Intermodality, Network Rail, and TfL, saw TNT deliver cages of products for customers Staples and Bristan, into Colas Rail's Rugby depot, taking only 20 minutes to transfer from road to rail. The train left Rugby to cover the 82 miles direct to Euston station, arriving on time at 02:38. Within an hour the cages were transhipped from train into a fleet of waiting TNT electric and low-emission trucks and vans, the road and rail vehicles being clear of the station by 03:49. Nick Gallop, Director of Intermodality, said:

"This trial has more than ever laid to rest the myths about rail freight and urban logistics - the overnight train ran to time, achieved a faster transit than by road, used an otherwise deserted main line station as a freight interchange, and significantly reduced emissions in the process. I am delighted that our sponsorship helped make it happen, reflecting our commitment to raise awareness and promote further innovation in the rail freight sector."

The project aligns with Government policy to encourage greater modal shift of freight from road to rail, as evident in Network Rail's recent 'Freight Market Study' which forecasts a potential doubling to 45.2 billion tonnes per year in rail freight traffic over the next 30 years. Ian Wainwright, Head of Freight and Fleet at Transport for London, said:

"During the 19th and much of the 20th century, the UK's rail network was the backbone of the freight industry, moving products and goods across all corners of the country. This new trial will help in understanding how major cities can re-integrate this delivery option along with the recent growth in rail passenger journeys, helping to shift freight back onto the rails and free up local roads while reducing emissions by using the cleanest vehicles available."

As well as delivering a much faster service to customers, with trains running at up to 95mph, moving an element of freight from road to rail will also significantly cut carbon emissions, with every tonne moved by rail saving around three-quarters of the emissions per kilometre compared to road haulage.

The logistics group claims future adoption of such rail services would enhance and build upon TNT Express' existing road network and capabilities, by which the vast majority of the company's transport needs would continue to be met, including onward delivery of freight moved by rail.

While the trial train originated from Rugby, TNT Express' long-term plan would be to consider developing high-speed, long-distance services from various regional locations, including its largest sorting hub at Kingsbury (Warwickshire), which already has direct access to rail sidings.

The trial is being sponsored by mode shift specialists Intermodality, which has been involved with the European Commission and other stakeholders in a series of projects to encourage greater use of rail and more sustainable city logistics options in moving freight.

Photo: The morning after the Great Train Robbery when the most famous Euston bound ‘Up Special’ was stopped and robbed in August 1963.