Freight returns to Euston for second night-time trial

Overnight freight returned to London Euston on June 4/5, for a second trial (two years after a similar venture – RAIL 705) to demonstrate a concept identifying underused infrastructure at the central London terminus.

TNT delivered roll cages by road to Colas Rail’s Rugby depot, where the transfer of express parcels and perishable products from road to rail took 20 minutes. 

After an 82-mile trip, the train arrived at Euston at 0238. The goods were then transferred in under an hour to a fleet of electric and low-emission road vehicles (owned by TNT), for onward distribution in central London for customers Staples and Bristan.

The train was operated by Colas Rail using ex-First Great Western Motorail vehicles suitable for carrying goods in roll cages. The same train had previously been used for a trial with Stobart in 2012, delivering perishable food for six Sainsbury’s stores.

Hauled south by newly overhauled 60087, the latest trial had been organised by consultancy Intermodality in conjunction with TNT Express, to demonstrate the feasibility of using rail for “high-speed, low-carbon deliveries into the heart of towns and cities”.

Intermodality Director Nick Gallop said the trial “more than ever has laid to rest the myths about rail freight and urban logistics”. 

He added: “The train ran to time, achieved a faster transit than by road, used an otherwise deserted main line station as a freight interchange, and reduced emissions by at least two-thirds.”

TNT is understood to be looking at introducing a regular overnight train each way between London and Glasgow, avoiding the need to route traffic through its road distribution hub at Kingsbury. 

Although Network Rail has expressed concern that night operations at Euston might be difficult after 2016, when the station is due to be rebuilt to accommodate HS2 services, the outer platforms of the station are designed for easy road and freight access. 

For operational reasons, several platforms have to be set aside - Platforms 16-18 were used for the most recent exercise, while 1-3 were used for the 2012 trial. Both were specifically designed in the 1960s, with road access for use by 71⁄2-tonne vehicles carrying newspapers and parcels traffic.

“It worked really well,” said NR Head of Freight Development Guy Bates. He told RAIL that the trial had made good use of the road access points from street level, providing suitable vehicle access, with no need for any product sorting on the platforms. 

Bates added that the NR freight team is “fully engaged” with the Euston station redevelopment project team. 

The latter has been encouraged to incorporate this type of freight into the design of the new station, which has yet to be finalised.

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