A scheme to use converted passenger trains to deliver freight into the centre of towns was tested last week using Euston station.
Railways used to earn as much, if not at times more money from carrying freight than they did from carrying humans, but the rise of refrigeration killed off the need for last-minute deliveries into town centres, and the growth in road freight killed of most of the rest. Rail fright today, while still substantial, is mainly for aggregates and cargo containers.
Much of the goods shipped to UK retailers today though comes from regional hubs and delivered by van to the final destination – and this is where the trial of using passenger railways comes in.
A converted Class 319 passenger train can carry freight in the same “roll cages” often used by lorries delivering the retailers, and bring it right into the centre of cities, where the trains park on normal passenger platforms and are unloaded.
These could either be taken to stores by a local van, reducing the mileage on the road, or if carrying goods sold online, the parcels could be unpacked locally and then delivered by bike to their final destination.
As well as retail, the freight operation could transport other light goods needed rapidly by businesses.
Last Wednesday, Network Rail and distribution firm Orion showed how the concept works at Euston station.
In addition to reducing road traffic on the main roads between the warehouse and town centre, the trains can travel up to 100mph – twice the average speed as road traffic.
Some of the UK’s largest parcel carriers have expressed interest in using the new high-speed logistics service using the converted trains. The first will start running later this year between the Midlands and Scotland. More routes could be added in 2022 dependent on customer need and available train paths.
The converted train can operate in 4/8/12 carriage formations, and each carriage carries the same amount of cargo as an articulated lorry.