Welsh timber is back on Welsh railways, and this time its here permanently. Following a successful trial in April, Colas Rail has agreed a permanent contract to move raw timber logs from the coastal town of Aberystwyth to the Kronospan processing plant at Chirk, just south of Wrexham in the north east corner of the Principality.
The freight team at Colas Rail UK have expanded their delivery portfolio with their long-time clients, Kronospan. The Company has announced the addition of a new service from Aberystwyth to Chirk, which they describe as “environmentally friendly”. The service has been made possible with support from Network Rail. The company says it is the first regular locomotive-hauled freight service to utilise the scenic Cambrian rail route in over 25 years.
Trials have led to a permanent contract
Back in April, discrete trials took place, with residents in Aberystwyth waking up to something unexperienced since the late 1990s. A series of trials – hauled by Network Rail locomotives old enough to have been around back then – took 800 tonnes of Welsh timber round logs – the industry term for freshly felled timber – on the 100-mile (160km) trip to Chirk. The success of those trials have led to a permanent contract being agreed between Colas and the timber processing company.
Bringing the timber traffic to rail is a direct modal shift, and helps to guarantee reliability in the face of a continuing road truck driver shortage in the UK. “The service removes sixteen heavy goods vehicles from the road, saving a quarter of a tonne in carbon”, says a Colas statement. “After a successful trial in late April, with Network Rail’s Class 97 fleet operated by our Freight team along with support from our Class 37s, the service was rolled out a to haul of timber from Aberystwyth through to the Kronospan manufacturing plant in Chirk, North Wales on a weekly basis.”
Great opportunity to expand freight business
Colas considers itself to be the specialists in timber transportation in the UK. It is a good position for the company, with a large latent market available. Many British plantations are reaching maturity and harvesting will be a regular part of the rural economy for decades to come. There are calls from all over Britain to relieve rural roads of the sight of convoys of timber trucks, and replace them with rail freight transportation. Other successful trials have been made, all the way to the far north of Scotland.
“This is a great opportunity to expand our freight business”, said Simon Ball, Colas Rail UK freight director, speaking at the time of the initial trials from Aberystwyth. “We lead the field in the transportation of timber by rail. We provide a sustainable alternative by operating on rail, reducing the number of HGVs on the road, especially during the shortage of drivers. Working with the client and Network Rail, I’m convinced that we can move forward and build on the success of the trial.”
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