Sugar sweet success for DC Rail

DCRail Class60 locomotive

After a few bumps along the way, independent UK operator DCRail and East Anglian road haulier Rory J Holbrook work together to bring a new bulk flow to the railways. Even though it’s a foodstuff that benefits, DCRail and Holbrook are using a terminal better known for aggregates traffic. The partners collaborate to get a key raw material for sugar production – limestone – back on the rails.

By working together, the two independent bulk haulage specialists on rail and road have designed a solution that uses rail haulage from the Peak District in the north of England to Holbrook’s depot at Brandon, Suffolk. From here, the material is moved by road the final few miles to the sugar production plants. Rural communities and road networks characterise both areas, so the partners and residents welcome the use of rail. Plans will see around 6,000 tonnes per week moving by rail, removing the need for over 200 long-distance lorry journeys.

Beating the road driver shortage

“Each year, sugar production requires significant quantities of pure limestone to capture and remove impurities from the rendering of sugar beet”, said David Fletcher of DC Rail. “125 kilograms of limestone is used to produce one tonne of sugar. This year it looked like the industry would need to rely on road transport to deliver the essential commodity.”

David Fletcher of DCRail with one of the company’s class 60 power units.

Thanks to this collaboration, the need for long-distance road transport has been alleviated. Given the current and choric shortage of long-distance truck drivers in the UK, the joint venture cannot have come at a better time. DCRail is already experienced in using both terminals, so they were the apparent rail partner for the venture.

Rail and road collaboration vital

DCRail’s Fletcher says his company is excited by the prospect of working with all parties to return this traffic to the rails. “The train planning and material handling maximise the use of assets with each train completing a cycle in 24 hours”, he said. “With powerful Class 60 locomotives and a fleet of new high capacity wagons, each train can carry over 1,800 tonnes of sugar stone. Not only does this mean that customer demand can be satisfied, but it allows rail to compete despite the need for final road delivery. The environment benefits, and Holbrook’s fleet can focus on local deliveries that only road can undertake.”

Although it may appear to be a simple solution, there were many challenges to getting sugar stone back on the rails. Fletcher offered a note of thanks to everyone involved in working so hard to get this service operational in just a few weeks. The new traffic builds on the successful reintroduction of rail services to Brandon earlier this year, supplying aggregates for use in the booming East Anglian construction market.

Featured image by John Hennis showing class 60 ‘Ben Nevis’ approaching the end of the journey passing the Cambridgeshire brickworks.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

3 comments op “Sugar sweet success for DC Rail”

Bill Siviter|27.11.21|19:52

If only Beeching hadn’t had his way the roads wouldn’t be as crowded as they are now

Daniel Stonehouse|29.11.21|19:50

This traffic was exactly what Beechi g wanted on the railway .. this traffic flow was rail borne until the 1980’s

Daniel Stonehouse|29.11.21|19:51

This traffic flow is exactly what Beechi g wanted on the rails … This was a rail borne flow until the 1980’s

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