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Port steams ahead with first freight train in 20 years

June 23, 2021

Port Rail

Port of Sunderland has completed its first loading of a commercial cargo train in two decades, following a multi-million pound infrastructure upgrade.

Working with partners Network Rail and DB Cargo, port chiefs waved away 21 wagons pulled by a Class 60 Engine yesterday [22 June].

The wagons were loaded with steel coil, which was imported by sea for customer Marcegaglia - one of the world's largest steel trading and manufacturing companies.  Each of the wagons was loaded with six steel coils weighing up to 15 tonnes each, with a total weight of 1,500 tonnes for the train. 

Matthew Hunt, director at Port of Sunderland, said: "It is fantastic to see a commercial cargo train being loaded in the port again, this is something we have been working towards for some time and the team here have been working hard to have the port's rail connections ready for such an operation. 

"Loading cargo to trains can bring many advantages. This train alone removes the need for over 60 truckloads of cargo from our roads - not only does this provide a cost saving for the customer, but it significantly reduces the road miles, congestion and most importantly, the carbon emissions associated with so many traffic movements."

With another train of the same size already expected before the end of June, port chiefs are hoping freight rail services could become a regular service as the multimodal hub develops further opportunities for the significant rail infrastructure already in place. 

Andy Foster, business development manager, said that there are other rail-related projects being considered: "The port is ideally positioned to offer a range of rail related solutions, from cargo handling to the stabling and servicing of both commercial and passenger trains. 

"Our development of the former Hendon Sidings site to form the Trinity - Rail, Road & Sea enterprise zone, demonstrates the significance of being able to offer a multi-modal approach to our business with a real focus on handling cargos safely, efficiently and with the environment very much at the forefront of all we do."

Port of Sunderland, which is owned by Sunderland City Council, continues to see growth across all of its key market sectors. Cargo volumes are on the rise and shipping movements are now at a level not experienced for many years, with approximately 206 arrivals and departures in the last 100 days alone.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council and chair of the port, added: "It is absolutely fantastic to see cargo trains once again operating from Port of Sunderland.

"The city council, alongside the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), have invested over £8 million in road and rail improvements at the port in recent years and we are delighted to see this investment start to deliver.

"Not only does this new service deliver huge economic benefits to the port's customers, but it also helps massively reduce their carbon footprint, which is something we - as a city - are incredibly passionate about.

"Through our Low Carbon Framework, Sunderland City Council has outlined bold yet achievable ambitions to make Sunderland a carbon neutral city by 2040 and we're delighted to see forward-thinking organisations such as the port get on board with the initiative and helping us achieve our goals."

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