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Schenker trials European sized freight trains in UK

Folkestone: UK: DB Schenker Rail (UK) successfully tested a European-sized freight train on Britain’s high speed railway line last Friday

The trial was to assess the signalling systems that had been installed inside the locomotive enabling the larger freight trains that operate in Europe to be conveyed direct into London via the Channel Tunnel on the high-speed line.

These trains represent a significant new market for rail and unlocks the ability to increase modal shift from road to rail for cross channel freight.

The class 92s can operate on three different infrastructure systems; the UK’s High Speed 1, Network Rail and Eurotunnel. Schenker plans another trial with loaded European sized wagons before regular European-sized freight trains will be introduced to operate to and from London.

Alain Thauvette, chief executive of DB Schenker Rail (UK), said: “This is a very significant milestone. The success of this trial opens up the reality of these larger freight trains travelling from anywhere across Europe on the DB Schenker Rail pan-European network direct into London for the first time.

“This is the significant key that will unlock modal shift between road and rail on cross Channel operations. I congratulate everyone involved and look forward to the success of the loaded trial, followed by the introduction of regular services.”

• Temperature controlled transport by rail in the UK is gaining in popularity according to Cold Chain News. It reported food wholesaler Brakes has become the latest company to sign up to logistics company, Eddie Stobart’s Rail Freight link from Spain.

Brakes is using the service from Valencia via the Channel Tunnel to Dagenham to transport fresh produce for its subsidiary Pauleys.

Sean Negus, Brakes’ product supply director, says that although the operation from Spain to the UK is still a weekly service he hopes that the service will increase to three trains per week in the near future.

As soon as that happens Brakes has committed to increasing its produce volumes to at least three trucks per week (on certain days there may be an option for more than one trailer per day).

“We are actively looking at the possibility to expand into other temperature regimes as part of the increased number of trains,” says Negus. “Currently the product transported is salad crops which is transported at a temperature of c.5 degrees Celsius. We also have a supply of frozen (-20 degrees) product coming from Spain that we will look to incorporate onto the rail link.”

Negus says that, along with exploring other product categories for expansion, Brakes is in the process of investigating the possibility of using rail movements between the company’s French-based primary consolidation platform, which is situated on a multi-modal distribution park in the Lille region.

Brakes is also investigating the opportunities of moving ambient and frozen containers from the Midlands to Northern Scotland.

So what are the benefits of using rail?

Negus points to speed and reliability and the fact that the journey is less affected by external influences such as bad weather and general ferry and road delays.

The other key advantage, says Negus, is the fact that the container temperature can be monitored via the web, in real time so in the event of equipment failure it is possible to recover minor faults remotely without the train having to be stopped. This means that Brakes is able to monitor the temperature and therefore the quality of fresh produce across the entire supply chain.

“Historically temperature controlled logistics has largely been a “road only” model,” says Negus. “In recent years air freight has dramatically increased as the UK “shopping basket” has become more global. However, rail freight has really been the area of most innovation with ambient food containers expanding in the last ten years.”

Chris MacRae, FTA’s rail freight and global supply chain manager, says there is a lot of potential for cross border temperature controlled transport on rail freight services through the Channel Tunnel.

“Obviously if it can be operated as a one-stop-service than it’s ultimately quite an advantage,” says MacRae. “Certain retailers are very keen to exploit rail freight services because of the obvious green credentials and rail can certainly be a lot quicker than rail. The one caveat is that the cost of using rail has to be neutral at least.

MacRae believes that more rail freight routes will open up and other countries in Europe will become more accessible – DB Schenker for example which operates the Eddie Stobart Rail service from Spain also has routes in France and Eastern Europe such as Russia.