Debut journey for West Coast Main Line ‘jumbo’ freight train

The heaviest freight train ever to run on the West Coast main line has made its debut journey from the Peak District to London with essential construction materials.

The so-called ‘jumbo service’  hauled 3,600 tonnes of aggregate on March 17 from Tarmac’s Tunstead quarry in Derbyshire to Wembley Yard in London.

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It saw two Freightliner trains coupling together with a combined total length of 590 metres and consisting of 39 wagons.

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It was carrying aggregate for use in roads and major infrastructure projects in the south east, such as HS2. 

On arrival into London the train split into two, and each continued on their separate journeys – 20 wagons headed to Battersea and the remaining 19 to Paddington New Yard.

The jumbo train experiment is hoped to benefit the environment by taking construction traffic off roads and with more transported by rail instead.

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Network Rail, Tarmac and Freightliner were able to test the concept of merging two heavyweight freight trains while fewer services are running on the West Coast main line during the coronavirus lockdown.

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.”

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Chris Swan, Head of Rail at Tarmac, said: “Effective use of the rail network is key in supporting the transition to a net zero society, and collaborative approaches are vital in helping the industry drive forward more innovation and sustainable solutions. 

“We’re delighted to see the successful trail our first 40 wagon train transporting essential construction materials from Derbyshire to London as part of our ongoing  commitment to supporting the delivery a low-carbon built environment.” 

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Sam Hewitt

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