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Issue 5 2014 - Freight Business Journal

Still room for more at Freightliner Cardiff

Freightliner’s South Wales terminal at Wentloog – on the Cardiff to Newport main line – is now handling around 40,000 boxes a year, says commercial director, Keith Gray. While this is a very satisfactory performance, given that traffic levels as recently as 2009/10 were as little as 12,000 boxes a year, there is still plenty of room for more, particularly during the off peak, he says. Whilst Freightliner has been

accused in some quarters of not allowing third party operators access to its terminals, this emphatically is not the case in Wentloog, Gray says. “Around 40% of the business we handle here is non-Freightliner. That’s probably the highest percentage anywhere in the country.” It’s fair to say that Freightliner’s

Wentloog site – which replaced the existing terminal at Pengam aſter it was earmarked for a local authority redevelopment scheme – has got off to quite a slow start. Its opening in the early years of this century coincided with a big downturn in the Welsh economy, especially the electrical manufacturing industry. But the terminal is now handling three regular services and there are prospects for more, says Gray. Freightliner’s own service to

Southampton operates six days a week and accounts for around 18,000 boxes a year. But there is also the daily

service operated by DRS on behalf of Tesco to its hub at Daventry in the Midlands, six trains a week. In addition, there is a Freightliner- operated weekly service to and from Liverpool, mainly to move imported Canadian nickel to South Wales but available for third party traffic. The Ministry of defence has also

used the terminal in the past but this traffic appears to have ceased, at least for the time being.

Freightliner handles the final

road delivery for the Daventry service, both to and from Tesco’s regional distribution centre at Magor near Newport and, in some cases, direct to and from the stores. “Freightliner is different – we’re

not just a road operator, but an intermodal one. We have our own subcontractors, who we can draw on, as well as a fleet of 20 of our own tractors in Cardiff.” The fleet of skeletal trailers is somewhat larger as Freightliner operates on a ‘drop and swop’ basis,


one container at a location to be unloaded while it picks up the empty. The 25-acre Wentloog site has

two rail-mounted gantry cranes across the three sidings supported by two reachstackers. This gives plenty of operational resilience if any of the equipment is not available. There is also plenty of space for boxes that need to be stored. Wentloog has the added advantage that, with its strong perimeter fence and 24-hour CCTV, it is probably one of the most secure sites in Cardiff. With the site operating well

within its capacity, Wentloog could easily handle more business, especially at off-peak times. When the site first opened, there

was a regular train to Felixstowe, but this was withdrawn due to the fall-off in the customer base, most of which was the South Wales electronics manufacturers. Keith Gray is convinced now that there is plenty of demand again for a Felixstowe service, the problem being a lack of capacity at Felixstowe itself – although is likely to be addressed with the opening of the Suffolk port’s new rail terminal. The main line from London to

South Wales is being electrified. In the short term, this could mean diversion of Freightliner services into Cardiff while the work is being

carried out on crucial sections of the network like the Severn Tunnel, although Keith Gray says he has been reassured that robust diversion routes will be available. The might also be the prospect

of electric haulage of Freightliner trains. On a mile per mile basis, electric operation is cheaper than diesel but unless all the route from Southampton to South Wales is electrified, those benefits might be lost because of the need to switch back to diesel. The Severn Tunnel does

mean that 9’ 6” high containers have to be carried on lowliner wagons, but there is now a ready supply of these now that gauge enhancement work has been carried out on other routes meaning that they are no longer required to carry 9’6”s on these services. Is

there scope for further

expansion of Freightliner or other intermodal services in Wales? There could be scope for another retailer operation along the lines of the Tesco service, he considers.

“If they can do it,

why couldn’t another retailer?” he suggests. And the Cardiff terminal could have potential as a terminal for a European service – when originally opened, it was envisaged that trains through the Channel Tunnel would use it. One of the aspirations

mentioned in the Welsh Government’s freight report is to revive container traffic between England and Ireland via Holyhead. Freightliner used to operate regular services from London, Manchester and Birmingham to Ireland, using a short-sea lo lo ship between Holyhead and Dublin. This however was axed over 20 years ago when the ship was retired and not replaced. By this time short-sea shipping services between the Continent and Ireland were beginning to capture a substantial amount of the traffic, a large proportion of which were deepsea boxes forwarded from the major English ports. It is just possible, says Keith Gray,

that the new sulphur emission rules might make shipping more expensive and therefore open the door to rail services again. But in the meantime, what shortsea Anglo-Irish traffic exists is

adequately catered for Liverpool. via

Not many freight forwarders have caught the eye of Government to the extent that they have helped them find suitable premises, but it is one of FSEW (Freight Systems Express Wales) proud boasts. The company was started by managing director Geoff Tomlinson 12 years ago – he’d previously worked for trailer specialist Ferryline – initially as a European forwarder and specialising in finding backloads for returning East European hauliers. In its early years, the company

took office premises in Cardiff City centre but as FSEW started to acquire its own vehicles for its growing haulage business, this location proved to be increasingly impractical and a move outside the built up area became imperative. The company was recognised as the fastest growing in Wales in 2005. “That gave us some political attention and Cardiff Council’s Economic Development Unit was very anxious that we stay in the city – so they suggested we talk to Freightliner,” Geoff Tomlinson explains. The

rail operator had just

moved to a new terminal at Wentloog, about five miles from the city centre and both it and FSEW realised that a partnership could be mutually beneficial. FSEW moved into the Freightliner terminal and

added an

intermodal arm to its forwarding and haulage activities. As with road haulage, the forwarder was able to find return loads for containers and swapbodies on the daily trains operated by Freightliner to Southampton and by Stobart Rail/DRS to Daventry and Scotland. FSEW has a fleet of about 20 tautliner trailers as

well as 30 container skeletals. This dovetails very neatly with Freightliner, which runs only skeletal road trailers; FSEW’s fleet of curtainersiders can deliver outbound loads to the terminal for

transfer into containers or

swapbodies, giving Freightliner access to a useful return load traffic. Among the first customers

was pet supplies firm Bob Martin and giſt wrapping paper, cards and cracker firm International Greetings, both of whom send substantial volumes to Tesco. But there is plenty of space available on the trains for new customers, Tomlinson adds. As well

as being excellent

business sense, filling train space that would otherwise be empty is good for the environment, and these green credentials have been recognised by BIFA (FSEW was an awards finalist) and the Chartered Institute of Transport for Wales. Tomlinson is looking forward further growth in import


and export business, and has recruited a new international sales manager, who has won substantial new business. “We recently gained accounts for imports into Asia, mainly because we can control container deliveries and I think we will gain similar export business too.” There is a huge number of

qualified freight staff available in South Wales. Avonmouth across the water with its larger shipping industry exerts a certain pull, although FSEW has been successful in enticing a couple of people back to the land of their fathers. But Tomlinson is always happy to train the right people and in fact has just started a couple of apprenticeships. There has lately been an

upsurge in interest among firms interested in exporting and there has been an increase in enquiries, although recent rises in seafreight rates might damp things down again, at least for cheaper commodities. “But we can always offer the most competitive service possible, because we know what containers are being delivered to South Wales and which are available for return loads at attractive rates.” Being an intermodal operator

is an advantage too – Tomlinson reckons that having use of rail services to the south coast or Midlands slashes the number of trucks needed to handle a contract from, say, 20 to no more than four. FSEW does though send its trucks to and from ports as well – for example, to Felixstowe to which Freightliner does not currently offer a service – or to cover traffic that cannot be accommodated on the rail service to Southampton. The company operates its trucks pretty intensively with both day and night drivers. Like most successful Welsh

freight firms, FSEW has not based its business entirely on what is available west of the Severn; it already does some crosstrade business between China and the Middle East, and it also has a successful haulage business between the south coast of England and the Midlands. But there is no reason why

the model of offering customers attractive backhaul rates could not work in other locations in the UK, says Tomlinson. “We do intend to expand intermodal outside South Wales, either ourselves or through partners – and we’ d also be interested in buying a suitable company.”


Greetings from Wales – and cat litter too

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