Gigaplant means yet more traffic for North Blyth

You wait fifty years for good news on the local railway, and then two announcements come at once. Hard on the tail lights of the go-ahead for would-be passengers on the South Northumberland line comes a whistle-blast from GB Railfreight, about to kick-start a huge economic boost for the neglected region just north of Newcastle in England’s North East. The rail freight operator will be instrumental in delivering a huge ‘giga-factory’ project to North Blyth.

GB Railfreight has just announced that it will provide the logistics behind building an automotive battery plant that will dominate the industrial scene in North Blyth. The New service will hugely support the UK automotive industry as it shifts to electric car production. Before that, there was the not insignificant task of moving 315 kilotonnes of aggregate by rail to the site.

Shap to shore at North Blyth

In a significant cross-country materials move, London and Peterborough-based GB Railfreight (GBRf) has announced the commencement of a new service to move aggregates from Shap Summit Quarry in the rural northwest of England to Battleship Wharf in North Blyth. It’s good news for the line, which won approval for work to start reinstating passenger services last week, primarily saving the biggest settlement on the route at Ashington.

Setting out from Shap. There’ll be another load for you when you get back, driver. Image: GBRf

The aggregates are being moved for Breedon Aggregates and will be used for the foundations of the Britishvolt giga-factory at North Blyth. The plant is considered strategically important to the UK automotive industry and manufacturing in the latter part of the twenty-first century. On-shoring automotive battery production is also a designated key component in the drive to the UK achieving a mandated net-zero economy by 2050.

Follow Hadrian’s Wall

With no small measure of irony, the cross-country routes between Shap and North Blyth are not yet electrified. The most direct, the Tyne Valley Line, follows the path of Hadrian’s Wall – a Roman-built fortification which kept the unruly Celtic tribes at bay to the north. Now materials just like those used almost two thousand years ago are being moved in the same direction – just this time, it’s not legionaries and slaves but class 66 diesel workhorses that will be doing the heavy lifting.

“We plan to run one train per day until September”, says GBRf. “We will then run two trains per day until around March 2023. Class 66 locomotives with 22 MJA wagons [Greenbrier-built open box cars] will be used for this service, with over 315kt of aggregates being moved over the period of the campaign.” John Smith, the CEO of GB Railfreight, said rail freight has a vital role in supporting the economy and helping companies transition to a greener way of working. “The new service demonstrates how transporting material by rail, instead of by road, significantly reduces the environmental impact of important construction projects”, he said.

Network Rail announced a major electric vehicle charging point programme at major stations earlier this week.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

1 comment op “Gigaplant means yet more traffic for North Blyth”

bönström bönström|14.07.22|10:13

Electrification, a simple technicality, primarily shall be timely, thus safely providing for high quality service rendered to clients.
In fact current “down take” system was timely, when steam was shifted out…
Track, as well has to adopt.. Short heavy trains are better, than long, etc.
Quality pays, in particular within transports, where low risk handsomely is rewarded, by willingly paying clients.

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