British high-speed rail freight service aims to surpass trucks for logistics


The aging electric passenger train that entered London Euston Station on the night of July 7 seemed unremarkable at first. But when the door slid open, the revolutionary potential of the newcomers became obvious.

The trains operated by Orion High Speed ??Logistics no longer have seats inside, and metal floors and equipment have been installed to accommodate wheeled cages filled with retailers’ inventory. A few minutes after arrival, these cages were towed from the station to central London by bicycles with hybrid power and battery power.

These events illustrate the possibilities that Orion has raised, which is part of a company called Rail Operations Group.It hopes that a fleet of modified passenger trains running at 100 mph can take advantage of the decarbonization trend Competing in new markets For British Railways.

These trains have been transformed from passenger service to being fitted with small diesel engines and batteries, allowing them to travel short distances and unelectrified lines. But most of them run on live overhead power lines and do not produce direct emissions.

Paul Orchard, managing director of Orion High Speed ??Logistics, said that given the rising fuel costs and shortage of truck drivers in the UK, the company’s logistics providers are becoming more and more interested in its services.

“It will provide a more environmentally friendly end-to-end transportation solution. Of course, many of these companies are now paying more attention to the environment and their own decarbonization goals,” he said.

Orion’s planned launch is part of a renaissance in the use of global rail logistics, including the use of trains to transport goods, such as large numbers of shipping containers, and the replacement of trucks and even ships on certain routes.

In the UK, in the three months ending in June this year, the volume of multimodal transport (rail transport of containers) increased by 22.5% compared to the same quarter in 2020. Transport volumes are still down 3.8% compared to the same quarter in 2019, but the Office of Roads and Railways in the UK attributed this to a global shortage of containers.

Aymeric Chandavoine, head of global logistics and services at AP Moller-Maersk, a container transportation and logistics group, said that global interest in using railroads is increasing.

“This is a green and efficient mode of transportation,” he explained.

In terms of traffic volume, John Smith, managing director of GB Railfreight, the UK’s third-largest rail freight operator, said that its three largest customers are now companies traditionally only truck operators. The company expects that on the basis of the 24 container trains or multimodal trains currently running on most working days, there will be 4 additional daily round-trip container or multimodal trains next year.

According to Smith, this shift has created a more attractive role for truck drivers, who now make multiple short-distance deliveries a day, from rail freight stations to customers, rather than long-distance end-to-end travel.

It is estimated that the UK currently lacks 100,000 qualified truck drivers.

“They signed a contract with us for trunk transportation and large-capacity legs, which means they can make better use of truck drivers,” Smith said of his customers.

For Orchard, Orion’s appeal is that the company’s modified passenger trains can go directly to the city center station and reach the market that is currently almost entirely serviced by trucks and vans.

He pointed out that many trucks are driving into London Ultra-low emission zone -Since October 25, the North Ring Road and South Ring Road have covered parts of the city-now you have to pay £300 a day.

“Now is the best time for the railway,” Orchard said of the expansion of charging. “The whole idea of ??the train [going into Euston] Just to emphasize how easy it is to open the door at the end of the platform and go straight out. “

Since the speed of its trains almost matches the speed of the fastest passenger trains, Orion should be able to surpass the trucks that traditionally carry express parcels and other high-quality express goods.

Orion expects that its main market will be the replacement of trucks on the main routes between southern and central England and central Scotland. The challenge so far has been to find enough southbound transportation from Scotland back to England to make the service economical.

Nevertheless, the company is expected to start operations in November of this year, starting customers with a large amount of movement and some suitable facilities to handle the traffic.

“The amount of interest shown has just increased, almost month by month,” Orchard said. “The problem we have is that the train needs to be full in both directions.”

Smith of GB Railfreight expects that the long-established form of rail freight will continue to grow.

In addition to the traditional market of transporting containers from ports to remote inland terminals, the company now also has some business that transports containers between two inland terminals-rail freight operators previously had difficulty maintaining competitiveness in this business .

All the dynamics are now good for the railroad,” Smith believes. “People are starting to see us as a solution,” he said.

According to Maersk’s Chandavoine, stories of this kind of railway competitiveness are common.For example, Maersk Logistics now charters 250 round-trip trains between Asia and Europe every year-this is a mode of transportation Always competing Only in the last 15 years.

Chandavoine said trains fill the speed and price gap between high-cost, carbon-intensive air transport and lower-cost, much slower ships.

Chandavoine said: “When we see the challenges facing the entire industry today, we have to really pay attention to this,” noting that railways have the ability to help overcome truck driver shortages and decarbonization issues.

“We do see a lot of advantages for our customers,” he added.

“We will never replace truck transportation-but this choice of rail, air, sea, and truck brings different choices to customers.”



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