TNT has publicised details of an overnight trial of the rail network for deliveries into Euston Station, that it says is the first time rail has been used a business-to-business freight channel in the UK for over 20 years.
During the night of 4/5 June, a specially-commissioned train carrying tonnes of supplies from retailer Staples and the manufacturer Bristan was delivered from the Midlands to destinations in the capital.
The trial was run by TNT Express, in conjunction with Colas Rail, Network Rail and Transport for London. Intermodality, a Sussex-based consultancy on rail freight services and terminals, and self-confessed "railheads" sponsored the operation.
TNT Express sorted the goods on the platform side, then delivered to hundreds of stores/suppliers throughout the capital using its fleet of waiting electric and zero-emission delivery vehicles.
Simon Harper, Director of Operations, TNT Express UK & Ireland, said: “We are very keen to understand whether, by potentially supplementing our core road network with selected rail services where feasible, we may be able to better support our customers and their businesses with an even faster and more reliable service.”
Laying to rest myths about rail freight and urban logistics
Intermodality has been involved with the European Commission and others in a number of projects designed to encourage greater use of rail and more sustainable city logistics options in moving freight.
Intermodality stated that TNT delivered 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. Filmed by camera crews from ITV and TNT, 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."
Helping understand how cities can re-integrate rail freight
TNT said that the project aligns with Government policy to encourage greater "mode shift" of freight from road to rail, as evident in Network Rail's recent 'Freight Market Study' which forecasts a potential doubling to 45.2bn 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.”
TNT added that, 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 (according to DEFRA statistics).
TNT Express considering rail services from regional locations
While the trial train originated from Rugby, TNT Express' long-term plan is 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.