Varamis train on the platform at Birmingham International station

Carousel Logistics spin right round with Varamis Rail

Image: Varamis Rail

Carousel Logistics has joined forces with the UK’s first electric-only high-speed rail freight operator to develop a zero-emission cargo route between Birmingham and Glasgow. The partnership was formed in February after Varamis got their service on track. Following a successful trial, the electric route has partnered with Carousel Logistics’ pan-European delivery operations. Varamis Rail is utilising former passenger trains by converting them to carry cargo at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (160 kph) between the English Midlands and Central Scotland.

There’s no roundabout way to describe the link between Carousel Logistics and Varamis Rail. The direct overnight service along the West Coast Main Line, Europe’s busiest mixed-traffic route, adds an extra element to the light cargo options between Scotland and England’s biggest provincial cities. The service not only repurposes existing rolling stock and facilities, it repurposes rail as a viable platform for the long-distance, schedule-sensitive express logistics market. These night trains, crossing the border five times a week, could be the herald of a new sector for the rail industry.

Time-critical delivery services

The endorsement from the pan-European bespoke delivery operator has been an accolade for the recent start-up rail freight company. “The introduction of this zero-emission route out of Birmingham, our primary UK hub, is a real win-win for us”, said Andrew Lowery, Managing Director UK, Carousel Logistics. “Not only does this high-speed electric train drive our journey toward carbon neutrality, it is also faster than the diesel-fuelled alternatives. We look forward to expanding our partnership with Varamis Rail as they add more capacity to this route and sustainably connect more British cities.”

Portraits of Andrew Lowery, Managing Director UK, Carousel Logistics; and Phil Read founder and MD of Varamis Rail
Andrew Lowery, managing director UK for Carousel, and his counterpart at Varamis Phil Read. Image: © Carousel media centre.

The spark of initiative from Varamis Rail has seen the express logistics operator run the fastest point-to-point service on the West Coast Main Line, including prestige passenger expresses. The operator has been ramping up the voltage on their Birmingham International and Mossend service just outside Glasgow. The company is now frequently beating four hours, start to stop, on their nightly trips. “Carousel Logistics has been instrumental in helping us design a route that meets the needs of time-critical delivery services,” said Phil Read, Managing Director, Varamis Rail. “Like ourselves, [Carousel Logistics are] pioneers. Their team is innovative and exploring new, green alternatives in a bid to make cargo transport more sustainable. For this venture to be successful, it must serve the industry.”

Cost-effective, greener, viable

Carousel Logistics is now running freight out of Birmingham on Varamis Rail’s midnight service that departs just two miles away from the airport and pulls into Mossend rail hub terminal at around 04:00. A corresponding southbound evening service leaves Mossend at 18:30, just thirty minutes after the last call for cargo. The Varamis service, launched on 9 January, is fully electric and supports the achievement of the UK government’s net zero policy as an environmentally friendly alternative to road haulage.

Varamis Rail says the electric route will save 1,350 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year under the current schedule of a return journey between the cities five nights a week. “From the onset, we knew that our electric route had to be faster, more cost-effective, and greener to be viable. Carousel Logistics is helping us prove to the freight industry that we are all of the above,” added Read. The collaboration between Carousel and the all-electric Varamis service follows the logistics operator’s recent investment in Electron, a battery-run electric aircraft that will enable zero-emission, point-to-point air freight deliveries across Europe. Whether it can beat Birmingham to Glasgow in less than four hours is another matter.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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