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Transporting by train – part one

World Cement,


As the UK construction industry recovers from the recession, rail transport has become an increasingly important element of the building materials supply chain.

Rail is a proven method for moving bulk materials and is a more environmentally friendly mode of transport than road, producing around 76% less CO2 than Heavy Goods Vehicles for the equivalent journey.

Rail also plays a major part in the UK economy, moving a wide range of products across Britain and onwards to other European rail networks. Some of the major markets include automotive, chemicals, fuel, metals, consumer goods and waste.

The construction industry has always been a major customer of rail and today aggregates, spoil, cement and blocks are just some of the materials delivered by rail for this sector.

As companies strive to find solutions to transporting products in larger quantities and reducing the impact of operations on the environment, rail freight has become a popular choice – with construction traffic on the railway growing by 10% in 2014, according to Freight on Rail.

The leading rail freight operator in Britain is DB Cargo UK (formerly known as DB Schenker Rail UK), which runs over 800 train services per week and is the largest transporter of construction and infrastructure materials by rail. The company’s operations are also advantageously linked to the European rail network, as part of the wider Deutsche Bahn Group, providing logistical solutions across the Continent as well as here in the UK.

DB Cargo UK has seen a 67% increase in rail freight transport for the construction sector since 2009. As a result, investment is now being channelled into the development of new terminals and facilities. This includes ‘Construction Super Depots’, which combine the ability to deliver materials by rail with production facilities on site, leading to a significant reduction in road movements in busy urban areas.

Bow East – construction depot in London

Future investment by the rail freight sector to support the construction industry in the UK is demonstrated by the Bow East depot adjacent to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

The site sits where the warm-up track was located for the Olympic Games and was originally used as a materials handling facility during the Olympic Park Construction (when it was then known as Bow East Logistics Centre or BELC).

It offers a multi-user facility for the handling of aggregates, soils and other building materials. Planning applications have been made to construct facilities for the production of concrete, blocks and asphalt. As Bow East is directly linked to the rail network, material can be transported to and from the site by train with minimal handling.

Thinking big

Bow East has been an ongoing project since the start of the 2012 London Olympics. Before this the depot handled construction waste from projects throughout London.

The site is now adapted to accommodate larger capacity trains than ever before, meaning materials can be transported more economically.

“Small scale construction production plants that are rail connected are often only able to fill and use shorter trains,” said Mick Tinsley, Head of Building Infrastructure and Construction (BIC) at DB Cargo UK.

“Companies can build plants in the space at Bow East and longer trains can deliver material in a more efficient manner.

“Thanks to economies of scale, this means that companies using Bow East will save money on the transportation of their products, materials and waste.

“Increasing the capacity of the trains also makes maximum use of the available rail paths into London, which is particularly beneficial as the construction market in and around the capital is rapidly expanding. When it is fully operational Bow East will be capable of handling over one million t of materials per year, with around 20 trains per week servicing the depot.”

This is part one of a three-part article written for World Cement’s April issue and abridged for the website. Subscribers can read the full issue by signing in, and can also catch up on-the-go via our new app for Apple and Android. Non-subscribers can access a preview of the April 2016 issue here.


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