LONDON: TNT Express is considering the feasibility of shifting some of its UK road traffic to rail following an overnight test from Rugby to London Euston carrying shipments on behalf of office retailer Staples and bathroom supplier Bristan.
The rail freight was sorted on the arrival platform then delivered to numerous stores and suppliers throughout London by a fleet of 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."
If TNT decides to go ahead with the modal shift, it will revive a rail-based BtB distribution channel that ceased over 20 years ago and mark the re-emergence of rail stations as key centres for moving large volumes of non-bulk traffic around Britain. The company says its long-term plan would be to develop 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.
Ian Wainwright, head of Freight and Fleet at Transport for London, commented: "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."
According to UK government data, a shift to express rail freight will significantly cut carbon emissions, with every tonne moved by rail saving around three-quarters of the emissions per kilometre compared to road freight.
Nick Gallop, director of consultants Intermodality that helped sponsor the test added: "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."
A recent study by Britain's Network Rail forecasts a doubling of rail freight traffic in the next 30 years to 45.2 billion tonnes per annum.