The heaviest freight train ever to run on the West Coast Main Line has made its debut journey from the Peak District to London.
Loaded with essential construction materials, the so-called ‘jumbo service’ saw two Freightliner trains coupled together, with a combined total length of 590m and consisting of 39 wagons.
It was made of up a single class 70 locomotive providing the pulling power to a class 66 locomotive and 39 wagons, and hauled 3,600 tonnes of aggregate a total of 203 miles from Tunstead quarry in Derbyshire to Wembley Yard in London.
The aggregate carried will now be used in roads and major infrastructure projects in the South East of England, such as HS2.
On arrival into London, the freight train split into two, allowing each to continue their separate journeys - one travelling with 20 wagons to Battersea, while the remaining 19 wagons were pulled to Paddington New Yard.
The jumbo train experiment is hoped to offer a more environmentally-friendly way of transporting large volumes of aggregate, taking construction traffic off the roads.
Network Rail and Freightliner worked with the quarry operators to test the jumbo train concept of merging two heavyweight freight trains while fewer services were running on the West Coast Main Line due to lockdown restrictions.
David Hunter, Senior Route Freight Manager for Network Rail, said: “The pandemic’s made us all think differently and in rail freight’s case, we’re taking advantage of the space available in the timetable.
“It’s the first time we’ve seen a train of this weight and length take this route. By transporting more and further afield, we’re showing how the rail industry is building back better - adapting more efficiently to the needs of our economy and environment.”
Tim Shakerley, Managing Director of UK Rail Services at Freightliner, added: “Freightliner has worked closely with Tarmac and Network Rail to demonstrate the viability of running jumbo services from the Peak District.
“Transporting more freight on each train boosts both improvements to the productivity and efficiency of services and drives further environmental benefits by reducing the carbon emissions of each tonne of freight moved.
“We welcome the cross-industry support to trial these initiatives while demand for passenger travel is reduced and look forward to working in partnership with all stakeholders to secure these efficiency gains into the future.”