Tesco starts moving refrigerated freight by rail in the UK

Will Waters | 2021-12-16 13:51:54.0

UK supermarket giant is expanding its already considerable use of rail freight to include refrigerated goods, as it seeks to improve its environmental footprint

UK supermarket giant Tesco is expanding its already considerable use of rail freight in Britain to include refrigerated goods for the first time, as it seeks to improve its environmental footprint.

Tesco has partnered with Direct Rail Services (DRS) to introduce a “cool new service” to Britain’s railways – “the first time Tesco has used refrigerated rail freight in the UK, distributing chilled goods from Tilbury to Coatbridge by low-CO2 rail” twice a day, seven days a week.

“This means that rail freight will play an even bigger role in helping Tesco to deliver Christmas this year and over the next couple of weeks this new service will transport hundreds of different products, including festive favourites such as sprouts, parsnips, carrots, onions, oranges and lemons just in time for that all important Christmas dinner,” Tesco said. 

Jason Tarry, CEO for Tesco UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) said: “We’ve been using rail to transport our goods since 2008 and this new service reflects our continuing commitment to rail – which has clear advantages for our business, our customers and the planet. Our rail service will be an important part of our efforts to deliver a fantastic Christmas for our customers but the journey doesn’t stop here as we continue to increase the number of containers we transport by rail as part of our commitment to reach net zero emissions in our operations by 2035.”

Tesco said using rail “has significant environmental benefits”, highlighting that the new 415-mile (630km) route “will use DRS’s Class 88 bi-mode electric locomotives, which can run on electricity and produce zero exhaust and greenhouse gas emissions”. This service alone will take at least 17,000 containers off the road each year, saving Tesco 7.3 million road miles and nearly 9,000 tonnes of CO2e, the company pointed out.

“All-rail freight delivers 76% fewer CO2 emissions when compared to road. Linking with other rail operations from across Europe at Tilbury Forth Ports ensures that fresh produce can travel with a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

“Tesco is increasing its use of rail freight as part of its efforts to meet its commitment to net zero emissions in its own operations by 2035. Over the past year alone the supermarket has increased the number of containers with produce destined for stores transported by rail by nearly 50%.”

Chris Connelly, deputy CEO and rail director for DRS’ parent company NTS, said: “This is fantastic news, not only for DRS and Tesco but also for the environment. This is an example of how rail can play an integral part in the race to net zero.

“Each train will remove around 40 lorries from Britain’s roads and save 9,000 tonnes of CO2e, and we’re running two trains a day, seven days a week. We’re thrilled to be working with Tesco on this new service, helping them drive down their carbon footprint as they deliver for their customers throughout the UK.”

Commenting on the move, Port of Tilbury operator Forth Ports said the new rail service will be departing each day from its Tilbury2 terminal. Forth Ports CEO Charles Hammond said: “Moving goods by rail is the solution to greening logistics in the UK. This new chilled goods train will help Tesco deliver their aspiration to move more goods by rail in the coming years, with Tilbury as a central supply chain partner.

“Rail traffic at our ports has increased tenfold this year alone and we are expecting annual growth in rail to continue to 2030. At Tilbury, in the last two years, we’ve enhanced our rail capability considerably by building new rail terminals and barge loading facilities across the port to enhance our customers’ low carbon delivery options.”

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