Freight puts a smile on Santa’s face

A team of little orange helpers on the UK West Coast Main Line is helping Santa put smiles on faces across Britain this Christmas. Increasing demand for his services means Father Christmas can no longer rely entirely on his sleigh, elves and reindeer to deliver all his Christmas presents – so naturally he has turned to rail freight for help.

A team from John G Russell, one of Scotland’s leading logistics companies, supported by ‘orange army’ colleagues at Network Rail, are shifting toys, chocolate and champagne up and down the country in time for 25 December. Their main route is the West Coast Main line, the busiest mixed use – freight and passenger – and line in Europe.

Key despatch points

John G Russell’s volume by rail in December equates to 322 orders, each delivered to key despatch points across Britain every day with Christmas goodies ready for collection. Network Rail helps the firm run 17 return freight journeys each week between Coatbridge, just outside Glasgow, and Daventry in Northamptonshire.

Father Christmas, speaking from Lapland, said: “My job is getting millions of gifts delivered to all those lovely people, young and old, wherever they may be. With demand increasing I am immensely grateful for rail freight, which keeps Christmas on track for me these days. On Christmas Eve, Mrs Claus and I now have time to relax by the fire with a glass of sherry. Without rail freight, we’d be up until daybreak making those drop-offs. I’ve got my Christmas back.”

Rail freight volumes in the UK have increased by more than 70 per cent in the last 20 years, and this is expected to continue growing. The value of goods carried today is estimated to be in the region of 30 billion Pounds (35 billion Euros) annually. Railway freight journeys currently contribute 1.6 billion Pounds (1.8 billion Euros) annually to the British economy.


As well as a cost-competitive way to shift goods, the rail freight sector is also the eco-friendly transport option: one freight train takes the loads of 76 lorries. This helps cut carbon emissions and ease congestion on Britain’s roads. Rail freight transport produces 76 per cent less carbon dioxide on average than road haulage. A gallon of fuel is able to move a tonne of goods 246 miles on the railway, but only 88 miles by road.

Ken Russell, commercial director for John G Russell, said: “It’s absolutely vital for our operations to have a reliable service, and we are working hard with Network Rail to deliver this every day. Most crucially, we have a big uplift around Christmas, moving goods across the UK and beyond, so having a reliable network makes the job a lot easier.”

David Hunter, West Coast Main Line senior route freight manager for Network Rail, said: “Rail freight gets consumer goods and commodities from A to B day in day out, and in vast volumes. It’s Britain’s unseen economic heartbeat. When the wrapping paper comes off on Christmas Day, the chances are the journeys those gifts took to get under your tree included a freight train.”

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a journalist for - a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

Add your comment

characters remaining.

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