Freightliner not messing about

From critical imports at the busiest ports to refuse removal from the busiest urban locations. The UK operations of Freightliner cover the spectrum of economic activity around the country. Like every operator in the rail freight sector, the American-owned business continues to provide critical services and is helping to keep the country running during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is no news that the world-wide supply chain has become and entangled mess thanks to the disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis. Shortages as well as bottlenecks have built up all over the globe, and the UK is no different. Rail freight has the capacity to keep the country moving, and Freightliner is playing its part.

Working with industry and government

“We have established business continuity procedures to cover a variety of situations and threats, including pandemic flu outbreaks”, says the company in their latest statement. “We are currently working closely with both our employees across the various platforms as well as industry bodies, including Network Rail and Department for Transport, to ensure action to prevent the spread of infection across our workforce and supply chain, put in place mitigation actions to support continuing operations as a critical infrastructure supplier and to ensure recovery actions as and when required”.

Given the portfolio of operations, that means a wide-range of responses, as mirrored across the industry. For example, at Felixstowe, the largest container terminal in the UK, Freightliner operations include facilities capable of storing over 8000 TEUs, and intermodal rail flows around the country, as far north as their own terminal at Coatbridge in central Scotland.

Insight from an insider

Freightliner driver John Smillie, who has a popular social media presence, gave an insight recently to his followers online. A rare driver’s eye view, prior to a departure to Peterborough, brought positive comments. “That’s probably the cleanest shed cab I have seen for a while”, said one impressed follower. “Glad to see they are taking driver safety and health seriously with everything going on”. Smillie’s post even grabbed the attention of head office. “Our fabulous frontline colleagues are ensuring vital supplies are delivered throughout the UK. We’re grateful to you all”, tweeted Freightliner’s social media team.

Recycling in Runcorn. Freightliner takes Manchester’s domestic waste to an energy and recycling facility near Liverpool (Image Freightliner)

Keeping it clean extends beyond the cab too. Freightliner has been cleaning up the mean streets of Manchester for a while now. Three times daily, the company has been moving around 1,500 tonnes of domestic waste, collected from around the city, to the energy-from-waste plant in Runcorn, near Liverpool, where it is recycled into raw materials and renewable energy. With local authorities stretched to keep all sorts of services running, the trains have never been more important.

Customer and corporate statement

Mike Nuttall, from the customer company, SUEZ, says that Freightliner is a vital partner in their operations. “Everyone in the waste industry is working hard to make sure we are able to maintain essential services for residents across the country during these extremely challenging circumstances. Freightliner is one of SUEZ’s key partners in the north west, and they are a vital link in the management and transportation of domestic waste in Greater Manchester. We rely on the Freightliner team every day to move tons of material from our waste handling and processing facilities across the region to the energy from waste plant in Runcorn, ensuring we are able to maintain the provision of key services to communities and local authorities across Greater Manchester”.

Ready to depart after a quick visual check over. Felixstowe bound intermodal (John Smillie)

Freightliner’s corporate parent, Genesee & Wyoming, has also said it is cooperating with the UK effort to combat the Coronavirus situation.“G&W UK Senior Leadership team are monitoring and reviewing the situation daily in what remains a dynamic situation and will continue to adapt to the changing environment including guidance from the UK Government, NHS and feedback from customers and suppliers”.

As Smillie advises to all followers, there is plenty more than just virtue and pride in a tidy working environment. “Stay safe folks! Only go out if necessary”. Delivering the supplies that the country relies upon certain falls into the latter category.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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