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Lafarge’s £15 million rail expansion supports South East supply

Cement company takes delivery of rail wagons built to unique design. Lafarge, the UK's market leader in cement manufacture, has taken delivery of 48 bespoke, 'environmentally-focused' rail wagons at its Hope Works, in Derbyshire, as part of a £15 million rail expansion programme to supply its customers in the South East.

The wagons will be used to extend the company's rail distribution operations for transporting cement to the South East following the end of clinker production at its Northfleet Works in Kent earlier this year. The development means that, each year, Lafarge is able to replace 50,000 long distance lorry journeys in the UK by rail freight, using its network of 10 rail connected depots to provide 'short-hop' lorry journeys to final destinations.

The move is being supported by improvements at its West Thurrock depot, where new rail sidings were installed as well as discharging and loading equipment. Much of the product received by West Thurrock will be packed in waterproof plastic packaging that can reduce product wastage by over 10 per cent, bringing cost and environmental benefits.

In addition to increasing the amount of cement moved by rail from Hope to around 1 million tonnes each year, the new rail wagons have been developed with up-to-date technology to reduce noise and impact on the surrounding environment. Taking product out by rail will replace an estimated 6,800 lorry loads around the Hope Valley, with only one additional train journey a week required to carry the extra tonnage. Existing rail stock will continue to be used to transport cement and other materials, including product addition such as Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA), which supports the development of more sustainable cementitious products.

Dave Burley, Lafarge's supply and distribution director explains: “The arrival of these new wagons marks a significant landmark for two of Lafarge Cement business priorities. It is the final piece of the jigsaw for our major project to supply the South East, enabling us to ensure the reliability of supply to our customers in this busy market, following the end of clinker-making at Northfleet.

“The development also demonstrates our commitment to a more sustainable supply chain network, reducing CO2 emissions from transport and removing vehicle movements from UK roads. This is in addition to our dedication to operate to highest standards by developing bespoke rail stock built to reduce noise and friction between the wagon's wheels and the rail-line.”

The new stock has been built to a unique design, able to carry over double the load (nearly 80 tonnes) of the 320 existing wagons in the Lafarge UK fleet. Their prime role will be carrying cement in 22-wagon loads from Hope Works to depots in the South East, although their increased capacity means that over 100 fewer train journeys are required, offering further environmental benefits.

The wagons are built to the most technologically advanced standards. The body is manufactured from aluminium and fully enclosed with all controls replicated on both sides to ensure operational flexibility. The suspension systems on the wagons have been specifically designed to minimise noise and tension on the rail-line. Loaded, the wagons will be pulled at speeds of around 60 mph, and cement can be discharged at rates of up to one tonne a minute, ensuring high levels of efficiency and keeping customer delivery times to a minimum.
Extensive infrastructure improvements were required at Hope in order to receive the new wagons, including a revamp of rail loading and marshalling operations with the construction of five new sidings, new storage silos and loading heads and the moving of the works and logistics offices to make room for the development.

Dave adds: “The development of our rail network and bringing these new wagons on line is a clear demonstration of our commitment to maintaining South East supply in an efficient and environmentally-aware way. It also consolidates our position as the only UK cement manufacturer with true national coverage, distributing cement from over 20 manufacturing points and depots across the UK, including Northern Ireland.”

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