GB Railfreight trials express commuter trains to transport vital freight
GB Railfreight hopes to utilise commuter trains not currently being used to help transport vital medical supplies to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit: GB Railfreight
GB Railfreight (GBRf) – one of the UK’s largest rail freight operators – has successfully trialled using former commuter trains for the express delivery of parcels. A trial service was operated into London Euston station in early April 2020 using a 100mph Class 319 EMU train, which, until recently, was providing commuter services in the West Midlands.
Managing Director of GB Railfreight, John Smith, said: “We are committed to continuing to help the UK get through this period by ensuring that vital supplies are delivered. Rail freight has the advantage in being able to efficiently move very large volumes of goods in a safe and reliable way.”
GBRf’s trial proved that the trains could successfully be loaded and offloaded with standard roll cages at most mainline stations across the UK and, when seats are removed, the carriages can carry significant volumes of parcels.
This is the first time that a successful trial of using a converted commuter train has been undertaken in the UK, and GB Railfreight is in discussion with the UK government about how the service could play a role in helping with the logistical challenge of delivering supplies to hospitals across the country.
John added: “This successful trial shows how the railways can play their role in helping the speedy delivery of vital supplies, and we are keen to be able to do our bit to help the NHS meet the logistical challenge of keeping our hospitals supplied during this period of huge demand. Post-crisis, these services could play a role in reducing air pollution and carbon emissions associated with parcel deliveries.”
The railway network used to be extensively used for parcel deliveries between stations, but, apart from specially designed trains used by the Royal Mail between dedicated terminals, parcel delivery by train was made redundant decades ago.
As well as strengthening supply chains during the current COVID-19 crisis, a return of parcel delivery services to mainline stations would provide online retailers with a more sustainable and reliable option for overnight parcel deliveries, bringing deliveries into the heart of major cities as demand skyrockets.