Freight trains are to permanently return to Aberystwyth for the first time since 2005, after a successful trial earlier this year.
In April this year, a surprise freight train left a makeshift train terminal in Aberystwyth’s train station. It was part of a trial exploring the feasibility of transporting timber by rail to reduce carbon emissions and opening up the possibility of removing hundreds of large lorries from rural roads.
The train travelled to Chirk, in north Wales.
But now RailFreight.com have reported the route from Aberystwyth to Chirk is to be made permanent, after the successful trial saw 800 tonnes of round logs on the 100-mile trip.
The timber, which came from the forests of Ceredigion and Powys, was loaded onto a Colas Rail freight service at Aberystwyth on Friday, 29 April, ready to be transported to the Kronospan manufacturing plant in Chirk.
Kronospan makes and distributes timber products such as wood panelling for furniture and flooring, playing an important role in the timber supply chain.
A spokesperson for freight operator Colas Rail said: “Colas Rail UK’s Freight team have expanded their delivery portfolio with long-time clients, Kronospan with the addition of a new environmentally friendly service from Aberystwyth to Chirk with support from Network Rail in a first for locomotives utilising the Cambrian rail route in over 25 years.
“The service was rolled out after a successful trial in late April, with Network Rail’s Class 97 fleet operated by our Freight team along with support from our Class 37s to haul approximately 700 tonnes of timber from Aberystwyth through to the Kronospan manufacturing plant in Chirk, north Wales on a weekly basis.
“The service removes 16 heavy goods vehicles from the road, saving a quarter of a tonne in carbon.”
RailFreight.com commented that “bringing timber traffic to rail is a direct modal shift”, helping to “guarantee reliability in the face of continuing road truck driver shortages in the UK”.
As part of the trial, 10 wagons of unfinished timber left Aberystwyth on Friday, 29 April, pulled by a pair of Class 37 locomotives owned by Network rail.
The Class 37s were handpicked for the job in order to haul the 700-tonne load over the steep gradients on parts of the line, which skirts the edge of the Snowdonia mountain range.
At the time of the trial in April, Network Rail senior route freight manager Jess Lippett said: “Rail freight is a vital part of our infrastructure, providing a fast, green, safe and efficient way of transporting goods.
“This trial run shows how we can work together to have a positive impact on the environment and the economy, with the potential to remove hundreds of lorries from rural roads while supporting local businesses.”