Rail freight benefits as economy restarts

A new intermodal cargo terminal is being constructed at Tinsley, Sheffield.

As the British economy starts to recover from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one good sign is the increase in freight being carried on the nation’s railway.

Network Rail’s Eastern region, which includes the East Midlands, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and the North East as well as the East Coast route from London to Scotland, has reported that there were 4,839 freight train movements in the latest reporting period, compared to 4,760 in the corresponding period for last year.

This rising demand for rail freight across various industries has led to a number of positive developments in recent months:

  • Waste management specialists Biffa has opened a new £4.2 million facility at Barking in Essex and will send 350,000 tonnes of waste a year by rail to landfill at Roxby Gullet near Scunthorpe;
  • Ward Recycling is close to signing a deal to replace the 4,000 tonnes of domestic scrap metal previously taken from Stanton Gate in Derbyshire to Immingham by 200 lorries per week with a rail freight service – a new trial service has already started running from Burton on Trent;
  • The route which connects the Sunderland Docks with Rotherham and Cardiff has re-opened for the first time since the service ceased three years ago, with ten trains carrying scrap metal expected to run per month;
  • A disused rail marshalling at Tinsley, between Sheffield and Rotherham, is being redeveloped by logistics specialists Newell and Wright Transport into a fully functional intermodal cargo terminal.
Kevin Newman, Network Rail.

Network Rail’s senior route freight manager Kevin Newman said: “The figures and these important recent developments highlight the vital role that freight has played in the country’s response to the COVID pandemic and how important it is to the recovery of the economy.

“We’ve seen an increase in demand across the iron and steel sectors and we are working closely with freight operators and the wider rail industry to make sure materials can be transported to where they are needed.

“Reopening routes, expanding services and gaining new freight end customers , as well as running longer, heavier trains, is helping to get more HGVs off the road and more freight onto the railway.”

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