Better late than never

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Better late than never…

Milton Keynes is going to lose 1,000 jobs and all because it does not have a rail freight terminal.

There again, when the new town was planned the M1 looked all sparkly new and most important of all empty, why on earth plan a rail freight terminal? But now with Tesco moving from Fenny Lock to Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal a few junctions up the M1 corridor it looks like Milton Keynes has missed a trick. There has certainly been plenty of time to plan a rail freight terminal in the intervening years but perhaps the issue was never taken seriously – that is until there were 1,000 jobs at stake.

Tesco’s Daventry Grocery Distribution Centre is due to open in the summer and once fully operational, the 800,000 sq ft centre will be able to handle eight trains a day, taking almost 100,000 lorry journeys off the roads each year.

Tony Fletcher, regional corporate affairs manager, said: “Not only does the new site provide the space we need to support the future growth of our grocery range, it also delivers major environmental benefits due to its location and on-site rail infrastructure. It will significantly reduce the number of lorries on the roads, saving around 14 million road miles and 19,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.”

The chief executive of Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce, Rita Spada, has called for a rail freight terminal. She is reported to have said that the expertise and imagination exists in Milton Keynes to have crafted a solution for Tesco.

“A strategic transport vision and aspiration is absolutely critical if we are to respond effectively to current and future industry. This is vital if we are to retain our competitiveness.”

Better late than never in this dog eat dog world of logistics, especially when tendering for one of the big supermarkets who seem to build ever larger and employ more and more people to feed the demands of the poplace in general.

While many logistics companies may dismiss the idea of rail freight the retailers do not, and ever aware of their environmental pledges are keen to use this mode of transport where they can. They are also cannily aware that  headlines can be made with the use of statistics which show how many lorries they can take off the roads if they use rail instead.

Tesco is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050, with a 50 per cent reduction in emissions on 2006 levels by 2020. Other retailers such as Marks & Spencer, who have recently opened a 1 million sq ft depot in Barnsley employing nearly 1,000 people, also has pledged to be carbon neutral with its Plan A strategy, other retailers are not far behind and with them all rail freight has a part to play.

Liza Helps,
Contributing editor, property

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