Penmaenmawr Quarry Rail Terminal opens


In the UK the continued growth in demand for aggregates is fuelling expansion in the bulk rail freight sector. The latest addition to the roster is a little known quarry on the North Wales coast – Penmaenmawr. However, the site was headline news across the UK thanks to a visit from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who took the opportunity last week to see the development for himself.

Squeezed between a coastal highway and a steep cliffside, the railhead at Penmaenmawr is challenging to say the least. However, the owners and operators, Hanson – the aggregates conglomerate – have a stated commitment to reduce their ‘road miles’, and the reactivation of this quarry facility is a firm statement to fulfil that challenge.

The latest addition to the terminal fleet

The Penmaenmawr quarry site is the latest in a growing roster of bulk aggregates terminals around the UK. The growth is driven by the need to connect the construction boom in the south east of the country with the raw materials found in the north west and the south west of Great Britain. North Wales has extensive reserves of valuable aggregates. The area was once the world’s source for roofing slate, but now provides a wide range of mineral reserves.

Penmaenmawr location

Aggregates and quarry operators Hanson have interests in the region, including the Penmaenmawr Quarry, in the far north west corner of mainland Wales. The area is a popular holiday region, so the prospect fo quarrying – and quarry movements – are unwelcome on the adjacent A55 highway. The road is also the main route connecting to the port of Holyhead. Rail freight is therefore the chosen solution for Hanson.

Long term planning required says CEO

Visiting the site, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, along with the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, and member of parliament for the local constituency of Aberconwy, Robin Millar, saw first-hand how Hanson has invested in the site, allowing aggregates to be transported by rail, reducing vehicle movements and cutting CO2 emissions.

Boris Johnson (left) on site at Hanson’s Penmaenmawr Quarry with Hanson CEO Simon Willis (Hanson image)

“Securing planning permission for mineral extraction can be challenging at a local level but is essential to ensure a consistent supply of materials to enable the government’s low carbon construction and levelling-up ambitions,” said Simon Willis, the CEO of Hanson, commenting on the government policy of balancing economic growth across the whole UK. He went on to explain that the company and the economy at large needs sight of the government’s long-term plans (an issue also raised recently by the Rail Industry Association). “Industry needs visibility of the government’s pipeline of planned infrastructure projects to give us the reassurance which will allow us to plan and invest to secure the volume of minerals required”, he said.

One train a week to Liverpool

The first service, operated by GB Railfreight, transported stone from to Tuebrook depot near Liverpool, some 70 miles to the east (112 km). The aim is to load one train per week to deliver rail borne aggregates into markets in the north west of England.

The volume of material transported in each load will be dependent on its destination and the capacity of the network. Aggregates regional director Becky Murphy said: “The reopening of our Penmaenmawr railhead is the first step towards re-establishing the long-term economic viability of the quarry, which also underpins the supply of asphalt and concrete products and so supports a number of local jobs both directly and indirectly.”

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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