Monday 30th November saw the first scheduled delivery of fresh seafood by train, from Cornwall direct to the heart of London, with the launch of the new InterCity RailFreight (ICRF) service on the Great Western Railway (GWR) network.
The consignment of fish, live lobster and crab was landed in Cornwall and loaded on the 10:00 GWR High Speed Train departure from Penzance to Paddington, the train covering the 306 miles in 5 hours and 25 minutes, arriving at Paddington station within 5 minutes of schedule.
The first consignment was unloaded from the train by West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas, with ICRF’s local delivery partner WEGO Couriers then using cargo bikes and electric vehicles to deliver the fresh seafood to several top London restaurants.
Speaking at the launch of the new service, Jeff Screeton, MD of ICRF, noted:
“InterCity RailFreight has gone ‘back to the future’, providing a 21st-Century logistics solution for time-sensitive fresh produce and e-commerce deliveries, which draws on long-lost practice established in the 19th and 20th Centuries – using spare space on passenger trains - to achieve a high-speed, high-frequency, low-carbon delivery service, capable of delivering direct into the heart of towns and cities.
"The start of services with GWR into London’s Paddington station builds on 4 years of experience with East Midlands Trains to and from St Pancras International, moving some of the most time-sensitive products, such as blood supplies and medical samples. Today’s launch not only demonstrates the untapped potential of rail for high-speed movement of freight to and from our major cities, but will also help Cornwall’s fishing industry and other local producers achieve a fast, green route to market for fresh produce.
"The success of today’s event reflects months of hard work by all those involved with us, including GWR, Network Rail and WEGO Couriers, to whom we’re indebted. We can now look forward to developing these services across the GWR network, offering business – big and small – a new way of moving freight, and helping improve deliveries and emissions within congested city centres.”
ICRF plans to expand services across other passenger train networks, as well as developing dedicated trainload services for moving larger volumes of freight at high speed, drawing on overnight trials into London Euston station in 2012 and 2014.
- The last time parcels were regularly carried on passenger trains was in 1989, using British Rail’s “Red Star” service (the Royal Mail continues to use rail for movement of letters).
- InterCity RailFreight (ICRF) started operating in 2011 as 5PL Ltd, moving parcels and other time-sensitive deliveries on scheduled passenger train services, with cargo bikes and electric vehicles used at either end for local collection and delivery by road
- ICRF services use East Midlands Trains (EMT) between Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and London St Pancras, now extended onto the Great Western Railway network from London Paddington station
- Using scheduled passenger trains allows small volumes of freight (up to 4 tonnes per train) to be moved at speeds of up to 125mph (186mph on cross-Channel Eurostar trains), for little or no appreciable increase in emissions – providing a low-carbon delivery solution, enhanced by use of cargo bikes and electric delivery vehicles at each end of the rail journey