Marks & Spencer in move to rail

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Marks & Spencer is making its first major move into rail distribution following a trial earlier this year.

More than 300,000 general merchandise (clothing and home) products a week will move from road to rail distribution. The retailer reckons it will cut 750,000 road miles and save over 800 tonnes of CO2 a year. Some 25 containers a week will be operated by DHL.

When fully operational, products will be collected by road from M&S’ distribution centres in Coventry, Lutterworth and Leicester and taken to Daventry rail freight terminal. They will then be transported 350 miles north to Grangemouth, near Falkirk before being delivered to the M&S regional distribution centre in Westfield (near Glasgow).

This is the first time M&S has distributed hanging clothing (clothing not distributed in boxes) by rail. This has been made possible by a be-spoke solution, developed by M&S and supplier DHL, which allows hanging clothing to be transported safely and efficiently in containers.

It already moves beers, wines and spirits by rail from Daventry to Scotland.

The hanging garment solution was funded by a six-figure grant from the Plan A Innovation Fund – a fund set up to finance business ideas that have an environmental or ethical benefit. M&S has committed £50 million to the fund over the next five years. To date 38 projects have received £3 million worth of funding.

Richard Kirk, head of GM Logistics (Retail and Outlet) at M&S, said: “Rail distribution saves time, costs less and crucially, as we move towards our ambitious Plan A commitments, cuts carbon emissions from our transport operations. We’ve already increased our fuel efficiency by 30 per cent by introducing teardrop trailers and more fuel efficient engines and a move to rail gives us even more options and flexibility for reducing our carbon emissions even further.”

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