Night moves for new aggregates flow as Britain rebuilds

DB Cargo UK has launched a new bulk rail freight service with CEMEX as Britain makes early moves to strengthen economic recovery and development in the midst of the pandemic downturn. 

The mission critical credentials of the rail freight sector are very much in the spotlight. Many business commentators have likened the coronavirus crisis to a wartime economy. So, even as ‘hostilities’ continue, two familiar names on the British industrial landscape are collaborating to support economic recovery. A joint statement from the two companies involved, DB Cargo UK and CEMEX, called it “a positive boost to the UK’s rail freight sector with the launch of a brand-new service”.

Heavyweight mover

After loading in the early evening, and under cover of darkness, freight operators DB Cargo UK and aggregates and building materials specialists CEMEX inaugurated a new flow last weekend, serving the construction industry in the West Midlands of England.

Complete with a commemorative badge in respect of health workers, DB 66065 makes ready to depart for Birmingham

Weighing in at precisely 1,684 tonnes, the consist of 22 specialist MMA box wagons, hauled by a reliably ubiquitous “66”, left on Friday night from Peak Forest sidings at CEMEX Dove Holes quarry operations in Derbyshire to Small Heath yard in central Birmingham. The materials are destined for a number of projects underway in Birmingham’s construction sector, and the development of the HS2 railway, which will have a terminus in the city centre, on the site of the historic Curzon Street station.

Proud role for both companies

“The launch of the new weekly service at a time when the industry is experiencing a general downturn in traffic due to Coronavirus restrictions is being seen as a really positive sign that the future continues to look bright for rail freight”, added the joint statement.

The sleepy English hamlet of Birmingham remained undisturbed overnight as the inaugural train pulled in (Flickr / Cemex / Stavros Sotiriou)

“It’s great to be in a position to continue to offer our customers new opportunities in the current economic climate”, said Roger Neary, DB Cargo UK head of sales. “The construction sector has for a long time been a key market for DB Cargo UK and we are determined to do whatever we can to support our customers through these challenging times. The current crisis really has underpinned the important role DB Cargo UK and other rail freight companies have to play in keeping the country’s supply chains running in hard times. We’re proud of the role our people are playing.”

Rail makes a good neighbour

Although the industrial site is on the edge of the Peak District National Park, rail makes operations a good neighbour. The 70 mile transfer (114km) avoids disruptive road transport through communities on the way, and takes traffic away from the often congested M6 motorway.  

David Hart of Cemex UK is proud of the company’s environmental credentials and collaboration with the rail freight industry (Image: Cemex)

From a commercial and ecological point of view, Dave Hart, who is UK supply chain director with CEMEX, expressed his satisfaction with the contribution rail freight makes to their ambitions to be a responsible part of the economy and ecology. “We are very pleased to have added this new service to our aggregates supply chain, as it quickly and efficiently ensures our product can get where it is needed”, he said. “This is more important than ever during these difficult times as our materials are needed for vital infrastructure to keep the country going. Rail is an integral component of our transport strategy and we are planning to develop our portfolio further as we look to make our operations as sustainable as possible”.

Supporting future development

The service arrived on site in Birmingham early on Saturday. The current schedule calls for a weekly flow and both companies are monitoring progress. Demand for construction supplies in Birmingham remains healthy, with development and regeneration projects underway across the city. 

The belief is that, post coronavirus crisis, development work will be even more important to the UK economy. Government sources have already hinted at the importance of forward planning and infrastructure development. This will likely not be the only new flow upon which reports in the months to come.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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