Welsh timber returns to the railway for carbon-cutting test run

For the first time since 2005, a freight train carrying Welsh timber left Aberystwyth as part of a trial that could see regular freight traffic return to the Cambrian line.

The successful trial, aimed at exploring the feasibility of transporting timber by rail to reduce carbon emissions, opens up the possibility of removing hundreds of large lorries from the rural roads of mid Wales.

Two Network Rail Class 37 locomotives were used for the trial

The timber, which came from the forests of Ceredigion and Powys, was loaded onto a Colas Rail freight service at Aberystwyth on Friday 29 April, ready to be transported to the Kronospan manufacturing plant in Chirk, north Wales. Kronospan makes and distributes timber products such as wood panelling for furniture and flooring and plays an important role in the timber supply chain.

Ten wagons of unfinished timber left Aberystwyth on Friday, pulled by a pair of Class 37 locomotives owned by Network Rail, thanks to a partnership with the freight operator Colas Rail. The Class 37s were handpicked for the job in order to haul the 700-tonne load over the steep gradients of parts of the line, which skirts the edge of the Snowdonia mountain range.

Transporting this much timber by rail removed upwards of 16 lorries from the roads, helping to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion. It’s estimated that a quarter of a tonne of carbon dioxide was saved by using the railway for this purpose, which equates to 30,411 charges of your smart phone or the carbon emissions per passenger taking a one-way flight from Amsterdam to Rome.

Timber ready to be transported to Chirk

Jess Lippett, Network Rail senior route freight manager, said: “Rail freight is a vital part of our infrastructure, providing a fast, green, safe and efficient way of transporting goods.

“This trial run shows how we can work together to have a positive impact on the environment and the economy, with the potential to remove hundreds of lorries from rural roads while supporting local businesses.”

Simon Metcalf, business delivery manager (North) for Colas Rail said: “Colas Rail Freight, Kronospan and Network Rail have worked in partnership for many years developing cost effective and environmentally friendly solutions for the continuing transportation of timber by rail. 

“Our latest venture combines minimal road transportation of timber from the forests of Ceredigion and Powys to the strategic Railfreight hub in Aberystwyth. From here, approximately 700 tonnes of material can be moved by Colas Rail Freight in one trainload to the Kronospan manufacturing plant in Chirk. 

“These new services are the first commercial freight trains to operate over the Cambrian rail route for over 25 years – aside from one journey in the early 2000s – and combine route specific traction with state-of-the-art European Rail Traffic Management Signalling (ERTMS).

“Both Colas Rail and Kronospan continue to strive to identify the reduction of CO2 emissions across their business portfolio.” 

Owing to the success of this first trial run, Network Rail hopes to work with Kronospan and Colas Rail on another test journey in the near future.

Two New 09 Tampers Join Colas Fleet

Colas Rail UK recently welcomed the arrival of the last two of four new state-of-the-art 09-4×4 Unimat Tampers, with the introduction of 75010 and 75011 to the fleet, joining 75008 and 75009.

The first two machines arrived in April 2019 working exclusively on South Rail Systems Alliance track renewal works, with the second pair being introduced in April 2020, all four machines have been deployed more extensively throughout the Western & Wales and Southern NWR regions delivering maintenance and renewals tamping.

In total, the first two 09 4×4 tampers have completed 191 operating shifts and tamped 72611 yards along with 154 S&C units delivering an average reliability and availability of 99.46%.New Tampers Deliver Enhanced Capabilities

The 09-4×4 Unimat tampers have all the same capabilities as the previous models with the additional benefits of continuous motion tamping and fitted with a Dynamic Track Stabiliser, which when used simulates the passage of trains so the track is handed back in a more settled and stable position.

Along with these features the 09 tampers are fitted with SmartALC, an automatic guiding computer programme for measuring and correcting track faults, this coupled with touch screen control for manual inputs make these machines more user friendly.

A 08 Unimat is contracted to complete 400 metres per hour. The 09’s have been contracted at the same output however these are consistently tamping at 600 metres per hour and when site conditions allow have got up to 750 metres per hour.

Another advantage of these is due to hydrostatic drive they can be coupled together for transits to and from site, reducing the need for two drivers and route knowledge.

Since April 2020 both the 75008 and 75009 have been contracted to deliver shifts in the Southern region, not just for renewals but also maintenance tamping that were delivered successfully and on time. This has really highlighted the potential increase in production on plain line over 08 Unimats. Some of these sites have included:Guildford

Renewal of 14 point ends over four roads and into the sidings. All the works required two passes.

These tampers were on site from 05:30 Thursday 15/04/2020 to 20:00 Friday 16/04/2020 and during this time 24 staff members were used from across LNW, Western and Southern regions displaying a stronger together approach.Brixton

This was 2 point ends and 4 roads to tamp, the machines were on site from 23:00 Sunday 24/05/2020 to 15:00 Monday 25/05/2020 utilising 15 staff members.

75010 and 75011 have successfully delivered both renewals and maintenance tamping in the Western Region.Celebrating our People

Roger Nicholas, OTM Delivery Manager for Rail Services has dedicated 50 years to the railway and On Track Machines, in recognition of this achievement, 75010 has been named after him. Roger is still an integral part of the Colas Rail family and his railway knowledge is invaluable.