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Rail is key to achieving multimodal goal

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Dry Bulk,

Britain’s Victorian railway system is rightly heralded as one of the finest engineering feats in history. It also completely revolutionised how people travelled, the way businesses expanded, and how goods and services were consumed.

The romance of the railway may have waned in during the 20th century, but its popularity as both a mode of transport and a method for transporting imports and exports around the UK is on the up. Long recognised as more environmentally responsible than road haulage, modern advancements in rail have ensured that the majority of our trains are efficient methods for transporting heavy goods.

Earlier this year we announced plans to launch a new rail container service for customers at the Port of Liverpool. We are in advanced contract discussions with both a rail provider and shippers with the aim of running the first services before the end of 2017.

This is the first time where we have offered an integrated package, giving shippers a seamless route to market – from quayside to UK destinations served by major rail lines and vice versa. For dry bulk and unitised cargo, connections by rail could bring customers increased efficiency, cost savings and reduce their carbon footprint.

As well as being the UK’s most central port for container shipping, every year Liverpool handles and stores millions of tonnes of dry bulks from biomass, to aggregates and chemicals. Indeed, we recently built a £100 million Biomass Terminal at the Port of Liverpool to ship wood pellets to Drax power plant in North Yorkshire via the trans-Pennine route, as part of Europe’s single biggest carbon-saving initiative. The first shipments from our biomass handling facility began in late 2015, creating 50 jobs at the Seaforth Container Terminal site.

Liverpool is also within 25 miles of the West Coast Main Line, providing efficient access and journey times to markets in Scotland, the Midlands and the South East. For intermodal traffic, the port has W10 gauge clearance capability, allowing 9 ft 6 in. containers to be conveyed on standard deck height rail wagons.

However, despite generally good connections on rail routes heading north and south, cross-country links are a problem. It is long overdue that there should be increased investment in the east-west infrastructure to bring it into the 21st century so we can expand rail freight usage and reduce the impact of longer-distance road haulage.

We have never pigeon-holed ourselves as being experts in one mode, and instead pride ourselves on being more than just a network of ports. Being better connected by rail is the natural evolution in our journey to provide shippers with a more integrated, end-to-end answer for their often complex cargoes. This is also a massive statement of intent from us as a business, and underlines our commitment to being a genuine partner in the supply chain community.

The enhanced service will complement Liverpool’s wider logistics offering, such as multi-user warehousing, as Peel Ports continues its strategy of operating within the wider supply chain sector. The available train path capacity directly to and from the Port of Liverpool is currently amongst the highest of all major ports within the UK, providing expansion options for importers and exporters that also minimise cost, congestion and carbon emissions.

Despite our offering diversifying and becoming increasingly multimodal with sea, road and rail, our values remains consistent right across the business, and this is vitally important to our success. Working as one team, we are able to expand our skill set across the management team to ensure resource is not a barrier when it comes to innovating for our customers.

We are excited about the possibilities that this new service will provide our business, and look forward to achieving even more efficiency gains for customers and their growing operations.


Mandy Harvey, Head of Bulk Operations at Peel Ports, UK.


This article was first published in Dry Bulk Winter. To receive your free copy of the magazine, click here.

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