Freightliner locomotive at Leyland Enterprise Sidings at night

In England a car factory is gone but the railway remains

Freightliner locomotive at Leyland Enterprise SidingsImage by Fox Group media department

After two and a half decades of almost compete abandonment, the sidings of the former Leyland Motor Works have found new life, in the burgeoning aggregates industry. Having been built for a Lancashire company, but having passed though the hands of consolidation and government ownership, and even into foreign hands, the sidings at Leyland are back in the service of a local company.

Fox Group, a Lancashire headquartered company, well known in the construction and road haulage sectors, has ventured into rail freight. The Blackpool based company has taken on the sidings at the former Leyland vehicle plant on the edge of the eponymous town, and turned them into a brand new aggregates terminal. The first train has already run and the new owners have given it a resounding thumbs up.

Last used to support an electrification scheme

Leyland was once a site that generated traffic for that busiest of mixed traffic routes – the West Coast Main Line. The vast vehicle manufacturing plant, that turned out everything from cars to double decker buses, has long since been given over to a truck assembly plant and a modern business park-  the latter incorporating some of the original administrative buildings. The sidings, which once carried in components and dispatched out finished road vehicles, have been alternatively abandoned, lifted, relaid, and abandoned once again. Now they’re back in use to serve a modern industry that’s growing by the day.

Leyland Enterprise Sidings at night with navigation lights on
Leyland Enterprise Sidings are ready for a new lease on life

The infrastructure agency Network Rail renovated and relaid the three sidings in 2018, to support an electrification scheme on the route to Blackpool North station. Since then the terminal has remained out of use, although still listed on the NR national register as an inactive logistics terminal with rail linked warehousing. According to local sources, the sidings were last used commercially in 1997.

Aggregates traffic for future flows

In January, Freightliner delivered a train carrying around 1600 tonnes of aggregates from Tunstead Quarry, a facility in Derbyshire, operated by Tarmac. It’s understood that Tarmac’s Swinden Quarry in Yorkshire (known within the railway industry as Rylstone Quarry) will also originate some future flows.

Night time image of mechanical shovel at Leyland Enterprise Sidings with Fox Group sign illuminated
A mechanical shovel at Leyland Enterprise Sidings receiving an aggregates train for load transfer

The takeover and opening of the railhead by Fox Group has been in the works for over two years. The company continues to work closely with Lancashire County Council, and Network Rail, who supported the company to get the railhead back to its intended purpose. Fox Group made headlines in June last year, when they deployed the UK’s first electric tipper wagons, which are also based at the company’s Leyland depot.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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