Welsh timber working between Aberystwyth and Chirk made permanent

Aberystwyth timber train (Colas)

Welsh timber is back on Welsh railways, and this time its here permanently. Following a successful trial in April, Colas Rail has agreed a permanent contract to move raw timber logs from the coastal town of Aberystwyth to the Kronospan processing plant at Chirk, just south of Wrexham in the north east corner of the Principality.

The freight team at Colas Rail UK have expanded their delivery portfolio with their long-time clients, Kronospan. The Compnay has announced the addition of a new service from Aberystwyth to Chirk, which they describe as “environmentally friendly”. The service has been made possible with support from Network Rail. The company says it is the first regular locomotive-hauled freight service to utilise the scenic Cambrian rail route in over 25 years.

Trials have led to a permanent contract

Back in April, discrete trials took place, with residents in Aberystwyth waking up to something unexperienced since the late 1990s. A series of trials – hauled by Network Rail locomotives old enough to have been around back then – took 800 tonnes of round logs – the industry term for freshly felled timber – on the 100-mile (160km) trip to Chirk. The success of those trials have led to a permanent contract being agreed between Colas and the timber processing company.

Network Rail class 97 locomotives (refurbished from class 37 diesels first introduced in the 1950s) haul heavy timber trains out of Aberystwyth. Double heading helps cope with the tough route across the mountains of Snowdonia). Image Colas Rail

Bringing the timber traffic to rail is a direct modal shift, and helps to guarantee reliability in the face of a continuing road truck driver shortage in the UK. “The service removes sixteen heavy goods vehicles from the road, saving a quarter of a tonne in carbon”, says a Colas statement. “After a successful trial in late April, with Network Rail’s Class 97 fleet operated by our Freight team along with support from our Class 37s, the service was rolled out a to haul of timber from Aberystwyth through to the Kronospan manufacturing plant in Chirk, North Wales on a weekly basis.”

Great opportunity to expand freight business

Colas considers itself to be the specialists in timber transportation in the UK. It is a good position for the company, with a large latent market available. Many British plantations are reaching maturity and harvesting will be a regular part of the rural economy for decades to come. There are calls from all over Britain to relieve rural roads of the sight of convoys of timber trucks, and replace them with rail freight transportation. Other successful trials have been made, all the way to the far north of Scotland.

Keep off the log stacks, but keep logs on the train tracks. A resurgence in rail freight timber could be on the cards in the UK with plenty of raw materials coming to maturity (Image Alan Peters at Colas Rail).

“This is a great opportunity to expand our freight business”, said Simon Ball, Colas Rail UK freight director, speaking at the time of the initial trials from Aberystwyth. “We lead the field in the transportation of timber by rail. We provide a sustainable alternative by operating on rail, reducing the number of HGVs on the road, especially during the shortage of drivers. Working with the client and Network Rail, I’m convinced that we can move forward and build on the success of the trial.”

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

3 comments op “Welsh timber working between Aberystwyth and Chirk made permanent”

Michael Sharp|05.08.22|14:10

We need more of this to fully utilise the railways.

bönström bönström|06.08.22|02:09

When “eta” not is important, but simply “JIT”… is sufficient, then current railway standard still is acceptable.
However, for majority, that has shifted to “On Demand, now On Time, high quality, is requested – accordingly handsomely rewarded – and vice versa…
For making railways “great again”, now a timely “old railway”, basics, is requested!
Broken rails…, now the most frequent cause of fatal, etc., derailments, is Symtom.
(Higher speed and utilisation suddenly has revealed bottlenecks.)

Geoff Isaac|01.09.22|17:42

Very good news that Aberystwyth is going to be used permanently for log transfers. What about the Welsh Government looking in to using the hart of wales line for the same purpose that part of wales has plenty wood lands with logs transported by road every day

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.