High capacity wagons for UK industry

Specialist UK manufacturer WH Davis has supplied a rake of repurposed and reengineered bulk carrier wagons to support construction materials specialist Aggregate Industries and leasing agent VTG Rail UK. The rake has been commissioned to fulfil a leasing agreement and to enhance AI’s rail business case to clients with higher capacity wagons. The rolling stock will improve the commercial appeal, reliability and profitability of bulk rail freight.

VTG Rail UK is working with Aggregate Industries to supply 62 high-capacity HYA hopper wagons, deployed primarily in the East Midlands and North Kent. Servicing depots in London and Sheffield, they will operate in sets of 20 delivering fourteen per cent additional payload per train. The HYA wagons are repurposed coal wagons and have been converted to an efficient aggregate wagon through shortening. The conversion was carried out in the UK workshops of WH Davis Ltd. The enhanced wagon fleet displaces a less efficient, lower capacity hopper wagon type and runs on track friendly TF25 bogies meaning reduced maintenance downtime as well as lower noise and track wear.

High specification for reliability

The wagons are constructed in corrosion resistant materials and are fitted with enhanced door seal arrangements, which accommodate the transport of marine sands in addition to other aggregate types. They are discharged via pneumatically operated doors utilising the locomotive air supply, which removes the need for mechanical devices or shoreside air supplies that the outgoing wagons required.

Leading construction materials supplier Aggregate Industries and VTG Rail have built up a long-established relationship. AI has some 200 sites and 3,700 staff across the UK, and works closely with the rail, construction and infrastructure industries, producing and supplying aggregates, asphalt, ready-mix concrete and precast concrete products, among others.

Rail essential to business development

Aggregate Industries state their intention to play a significant role in the reduction of carbon emissions in the construction sector. “Rail will play a key role in helping us achieve those goals”, said Simon Blake, their general manager, midlands rail. “Aggregate Industries’s business plan is to decarbonise and sustainably source construction materials. Rail is central to many of AI’s supply chains and is exhibiting annual growth. The repurposed wagons have transitioned into service over the course of 2020 and fit well within a strategically and diverse wagon fleet of owned, freight operator owned and lessor sourced.”

Simon Blake of Aggregate Industries is committed to rail as part of the company’s green agenda – and is also a board member of the representative Rail Freight Group in the UK.

The construction and aggregates sector has proved to be among the most resilient parts of the UK economy. The domestic focus of the business – with raw materials sourced locally and projects onshore – has helped avoid the worst of the problems associated with Brexit. The nature of construction work has also helped the sector maintain productivity in the face of coronavirus restrictions on movement.

Decarbonising commitment

VTG, who currently have more than 94,000 wagons under lease, plus rail and tank container logistics operations throughout Europe, have been involved with the UK construction sector and the Aggregate Industries company for some time. Ian Shaw, VTG Rail UK’s sales and marketing director, was happy with their long-standing relationship with Aggregate Industries, and hoped to continue to help AI to enhance the efficiency of its rail freight operation. “With the ability to increase the payload carried in the same length of train by around 14 per cent, the higher capacity wagons are perfect for increasing rail’s business case for companies in the construction sector who are looking to decarbonise their transport operations”, he said.

AI’s parent company LafargeHolcim recently became the first construction materials company to sign the government-sponsored Net Zero Pledge.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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