Waste by Rail
Rail offers cost effective waste transportation to local authorities faced with looming Government
environmental and recycling targets. Across the country, local authorities and specialist contractors
endorse rail as the safest and most environmentally friendly method of transporting large volumes of
waste whether municipal, contaminated land remediation or industrial and commercial waste. As roads
become more crowded and environmental regulations tighten, transport by rail makes even more sense.
Key to rail’s long term advantages in the domestic market is its ability to cope with the shift towards more
recycling, composting, waste to energy etc. where there will still be large quantities of materials to be moved
over short, medium and long distances. Here we can dispel one of the most commonly propagated myths
about rail freight: the argument that rail is only competitive over long distances. In reality break-even distances
are market-specific. Traffic like waste can be profitable over distances as short as 20 miles and there are many
examples across the network of short, viable freight journeys such as waste removal from Cricklewood to
Bedfordshire. Rail can move waste in secure units with controlled financial costs. The domestic waste disposal
market experiences few day-to-day or seasonal fluctuations making the use of resources, once set up, efficient and cost effective by rail.
The London Story
In London, which produces 4 million tonnes of waste a year, the GLA has a strategic waste function and aims to establish a unified waste strategy for the capital with the results of this year’s waste consultation exercise. West London’s waste has been transported by rail successfully since 1977, when the GLC set up one of the first European waste transfer stations at Brentford compacting and loading waste into totally enclosed containers for trainload movement. Twenty-five years later, DB Schenker operates a nightly train to Appleford in Oxfordshire from Brentford with the Hillingdon to Calvert DB Schenker service following a similar pattern for West Waste. The East London Waste Authority (ELWA) runs its household waste disposal transportation by rail in partnership with Freightliner Heavy Haul and Shanks. This ten year contract for a daily service from Dagenham to Calvert removes over one hundred lorries from the congested road network in north London each day. ELWA is responsible for the disposal of waste generated by the London boroughs of Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge and Havering. To meet the challenging local authority landfill diversion and recyclingtargets Shanks is introducing innovation technologies for the management of ELWA’s waste which centres on the use ofmechanical/biological treatment facilities and recycling initiatives.
Freightliner Heavy Haul operates a daily service for the North London Waste Authority service, which
Around the country
Bristol and Bath Councils have used rail since the 1980s and Freightliner now operate the service completing a daily circuit between the two transfer stations in Bristol and Bath to the landfill site at Calvert in Buckinghamshire. This rail-borne flow, which removes over one hundred long-distance lorries from the roads each day, is unique as it is the only scheme permitted to run at 75mph loaded and empty. This raises another old incorrect myth about rail freight: that freight trains are slow and that road freight transportation is faster than rail. Express freight trains travelling at speeds up to 110 mph and intermodal trains at 90 mph can offer timings and service reliability that cannot be matched by road. Most freight trains are capable of travelling at 60mph nowadays (HGVs are allowed to travel at maximum speeds of 60 mph on motorways, 50 mph on dual carriageways and 40 mph on other roads)
DB Schenker carries Manchester’s household waste on daily services from four transfer stations at Northenden, Bredbury, Pendleton and Dean Lane to Roxby near Scunthorpe, a distance of roughly 85 miles. Edinburgh has used rail since 1989 and the DB service is booked to run Mondays to Saturday from Powderhall waste transfer station to a landfill site at Dunbar a distance of 27 miles. Viridor Waste management operates Dunbar which received 150,000 tonnes per annum.
Rail freight has a key transportation role as part of integrated regional spatial planning, transport and waste
strategies at a challenging time for the industry and its partners with domestic waste still increasing
by four per cent per annum.