Companies are building rail links to tackle driver shortage

Warehouses used by Britain’s largest retailers are investing millions of pounds in new rail links to tackle the shortage of truck drivers and take advantage of the capacity of HS2 trains.

Rail connections have been added to four major warehouses and logistics centers under development as retailers attempt to move freight off the roads to reduce their carbon footprint.

Warehouse giant Prologis, which is adding rail capacity to its freight hub in the East Midlands, said more of its customers want to use rail in their supply chains.

Meanwhile, Segro is building a rail freight hub in Northampton which will open in 2023 and is expanding a site with already operational rail links in the East Midlands.

A rail freight exchange is also planned by Tritax near Hinckley, Leicestershire.

Industry sources have said that more and more large retailers are considering moving their goods to rail freight due to supply chain disruptions. A retail source said: “There is certainly more interest in rail from both a sustainable point of view in carbon reduction and logistics by reducing the need for so much. [lorry] Drivers. “

Plans to move more freight by rail will be boosted by increased network capacity by HS2 and growing environmental concerns, as each freight train pulls up to 80 trucks off UK roads. Tesco credited the use of more rail freight for filling supermarket shelves during the heavy truck driver crisis.

Andrew Pilsworth, Managing Director of National Logistics at Segro, said: “The pandemic has been a real catalyst in the growth of online retail, which has also increased demand for our warehouses and rail freight facilities. “

Clare Bottle, director of the UK Warehousing Association, said truck driver shortages are “absolutely part of the thinking” as cheap labor is “not as readily available as before”.

“There are big developers and in particular Prologis and Segro are probably the two developers who seem most interested in building rail links.”

She said train capacity would be improved by the main part of the HS2, but added that the section being scrapped is “bad news” for rail freight.