Eddie Stobart Logistics has today officially announced the launch of a new rail service from the Port of Tilbury to Daventry – the only rail operation from the port for inbound traffic – with a forecast capacity of 200 containers a week. The move is part of its ongoing strategy to provide exceptional flexibility and resilience for customer supply chains.

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“Eddie Stobart Logistics works with some of the biggest import and retail customers operating in the UK, and their priority is to ensure the reliability and adaptability of their supply chains whatever circumstances they face in the future,” says John Clark, Sector Director for ESL.

Within a matter of weeks the Tilbury to Daventry route will have expanded to run daily Monday to Friday, and ESL also plans to have a weekly service linking to its operations in Widnes, Cheshire. 

“Unlike many rail operators, our services are built in response to customer requirements,” says Clark. “The service leaves Tilbury at 9am and reaches Daventry at 3pm.This will allow our customers to get fresh produce into regional distribution centres or stores across the UK on the same day. This careful timing is essential to retailers who otherwise lose much of their products’ freshness and value.”

Clark says ESL has worked hard to overcome the traditional limitations of a rail-freight network which was originally geared towards the manufacturing and mining industries and to re-engineer services fit for the modern, FMCG customer. “Our rail-freight offering is extensive but it is also strategic and flexible, designed to be the perfect complement to Eddie Stobart’s road transport fleet,” he says.

The rail service from Tilbury to Daventry, and then to Mossend, underwent an extensive four-month trial, which saved substantially on fuel and road miles, while remaining cost-effective for customers.

“We started using rail in 2006 in partnership with Tesco, and ESL remains one of the only UK operators that can offer genuine modal choice to its customers,” says Clark. “Where rail fits the client’s freight profile, we can save them time and carbon emissions. We also test every rail service against the most efficient road equivalent - double-deck trailers - in order to ensure the cost viability of every journey.”

The Tilbury pilot saved more than 920,000 road miles and 102,000 gallons of diesel, and reduced journey times and congestion in and around the London area.

Eddie Stobart’s strategy is to make the most of the UK’s logistics infrastructure, including less-used inland ports. It says the Port of Tilbury can be an excellent alternate route through which goods can be imported with minimal delay. The company is working closely with clients such as Samskip, ECS, JF Hillebrand and other key customers to ensure its port-side, rail and road operations are optimised and integrated to offer the most resilient and appropriate logistics solutions, whatever their needs.

“Rail is complementary to road, not a replacement,” says Clark. “However, trains don’t get stuck in traffic jams so the service is extremely reliable. We’ve developed our rail offering to meet the modern needs of FMCG and container traffic.”

He believes rail could be further optimised for logistics, however. “The rail network is prioritised for passengers, and we understand this completely. However, with some targeted national investment, we believe the network could bring greater benefits to both passenger and freight services.”