Direct Rail Services (DRS) has launched a revolutionary new service from PD Ports’ Teesport container terminal utilising a unique wagon that can transport high-cube boxes to areas of the UK previously inaccessible by rail.
The five-days-a-week service was launched on 10 October and operates between Teesport’s rail head at its fast growing container terminal in the UK north east and the Stobart Group’s Widnes Intermodal Rail Depot.
It operates using ultra-low wagons, named ‘SuperLow 45’ and manufactured by WH Davis, that are capable of carrying high-cube containers over non-gauge enhanced and height restricted routes, opening up almost the entire UK rail network to the larger boxes.
Previously, high-cube containers, which measure 9’6" in height compared with the standard 8’6", could be transported to such a wide area of the country by road only because of low bridges, tunnels and railway stations.
The service was initially set up to cater for containers being transported by logistics company P&O Ferrymasters, but it will also carry other customers’ traffic.
Sarka Oldham, DRS Head of Business Development, says: "As a leading rail freight operator in the UK, this new service demonstrates DRS’s ability to deliver innovative rail solutions to meet our customers’ needs as well as offering both economical and environmental benefits.
"The utilisation of the Super Low 45 wagons is the first of its kind and we are delighted to be working with Teesport and P&O Ferrymasters to spearhead this cross country rail service."
David Robinson, PD Ports Group CEO, says: "We’re delighted that the first rail service using these unique wagons will operate from our Teesport facility.
"High-cube containers enable customers to reduce their environmental impact and increase cost efficiencies thanks to the economies of scale offered by rail over road and the extra capacity offered by these larger containers compared with standard boxes."
Previously, the containers transported by P&O Ferrymasters on the new service were moved by road.
P&O Ferrymasters’ Director Asset Divisions Wim Blomme says: "Our main drive for this modal shift has been the continuous search to reduce our carbon footprint in the UK, and to provide our customers with sustainable environmentally friendly solutions.
"This project was initiated over two years ago and required a substantial investment from DRS in order to provide a technical solution for the carriage of our 9’6" palletwide containers on the Victorian rail network.
"We are glad they have made the decision by purchasing the special designed low-liner wagons, which enable us to transfer many thousand road movements from Teesport into Widnes.
"P&O Ferries operate daily* sailings between Zeebrugge and Europoort into Teesport, an ideal connection between European short-sea ports and the north east, offering a unique UK intermodal solution into the north-west of England.".
The service is capable of carrying up to 32 containers on each transport.
Regions now open to high-cube containers by rail from Teesport thanks to the wagon include north Wales, south Wales, south-west England, northern Scotland and the west Highlands.
The service is the second new rail operation launched from Teesport’s rail terminal in recent months, after logistics company WH Malcolm and DRS started a new link between Teesport and Scotland.
PD Ports has experienced significant growth in recent years. Teesport’s container terminals saw volumes increase by 45% in 2010 and capacity is currently being expanded from 235,000 to 450,000 TEU (twenty foot equivalent unit), the standard measurement for sea containers. The company’s overall strategy is to expand port wide capacity to at least 650,000 TEU.