Full steam ahead

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The importance of multi-modal logistics is becoming ever more apparent as companies look to minimise environmental impact and save money. So what are the options when it comes to choosing a well-connected shed? Lucy Tesseras reports.

Multi-modal transport is steaming to the forefront of many a distribution operation as companies look to increase eco-credentials and save money, and for once the demand seems to be backed up by several confirmed plans for rail-connected logistics sites and increased port access.

Food retailers in particular have upped their usage of alternative transport in a bid to take lorries off the roads.

The Co-operative Group is looking to expand its rail freight network following a year long trial which saw it moving ten containers and around 500 roll cages of ambient groceries by train each week.

The service, which is being operated by WH Malcolm, originally moved goods between Daventry, near Co-op’s national distribution centre in Coventry and a rail freight terminal at Mossend near its depot at Cumbernauld. During the trial more than 35,000 cages travelled north by rail, with empties and primary goods going south.

The final road leg of the container movements in Scotland has now been reduced from 15 miles to three, after it switched the final destination from Cumbernauld to Newhouse, following the introduction of its 500,000 sq ft multi-temperature distribution centre, near Glasgow.

Co-op is now looking at using rail freight at its regional distribution centre in Andover, which opened in June, as well as its depots in Avonmouth and the North Midlands which are scheduled to open in 2012.

Mark Leonard, regional head of logistics for The Co-operative’s Food Supply Chain, says: “The rail freight trial has been a massive success, which has created a blueprint that we are looking to potentially adopt at some of our other distribution depots. It has ensured efficient deliveries to Scotland, while at the same time significantly reducing our carbon footprint… Steps like putting freight onto rail rather than road can have a significant impact, which is an area we are keen to invest in.”

The Co-op has estimated that the switch from road to rail on the Daventry to Newhouse route could save as many as eight HGVs making return journeys each day, a saving of more than 1.3m road miles each year.

Tesco is also aiming to take almost 100,000 lorry journeys off the roads annually. Once its 800,000 sq ft Daventry grocery distribution centre is fully operational it will be able to handle eight trains a day, saving 14 million road miles and 19,600 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Tesco moved its depot from Fenny Lock in Milton Keynes to the Daventry Rail Freight Terminal because of the lack of rail access in Milton Keynes.

The trend towards rail looks set to continue in the most part though if developers’ plans are anything to go by. In Yorkshire, Helios Europe, Shepherd Aligned and Segro have signed a joint agreement to develop a 5.75 million sq ft rail-linked logistics park.

The £400m Rossington Inland Port in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, will have customs clearance and bonded warehousing on site plus an intermodal container facility.

Buildings of more than 1m sq ft with flexible expansion options will be possible on the site, which already has outline planning permission. Mike Hughes, CEO of Helios Europe, says: “The primary UK ports storage capacities are being stretched to almost breaking point through expansion, so there is substantial demand for intermodal inland port hubs of this nature.”

At the South Humber Gateway, North Lincolnshire Council has approved plans submitted by Able UK for a £100m rail-connected logistics park.

The 1,000-acre site at East Halton will include transport depots, warehousing, external storage areas and offices, and will provide road and rail links to Grimsby and Immingham ports, as well as the Humber Sea Terminal.

Elsewhere, outline plans for an 880,487 sq ft rail-connected cross-dock distribution warehouse in Northamptonshire have been submitted by developer Roxhill and Legal & General Property on behalf of its Industrial Property Investment Fund. The scheme known as Cor! will be built on the 70-acre former Gefco UK Car Storage Site on Geddington Road in Corby. Burbage Realty, CBRE and King Sturge are marketing the scheme.

Plus, plans that had been refused are now back on the table. Most notable, is the High Court’s decision to overturn the government’s refusal of planning permission for HelioSlough’s rail freight interchange at Radlett in Hertfordshire. This ruling means the secretary of state for communities and local government will have to re-consider the decision. Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail manager, described it as “a key test for wider strategic planning versus localism in the new planning regime”.

Options for large airport-connected sites are dwindling though, particularly at Heathrow where there are a healthy number of enquiries from large 3PLs and retailers looking to consolidate onto a single site. In fact, DB Schenker has just done a deal with Segro for a 106,500 sq ft pre-let at The Portal; Airworld Services has taken 110,000 sq ft at Segro’s X2 development, and Heathrow Cargo Handling has leased 65,000 sq ft at Horton Road, Poyle.

Now, all that is available of any great size is Titan, a ten-acre site with planning in place for a single high bay warehouse and office facility of 233,000 sq ft. Smaller units from 80,000 sq ft can be accommodated if needed.

“Sites that can offer this size of unit are becoming sparse,” says Tom Clews of GVA, which is marketing the site along with King Sturge. “Enquires are up and we’re starting to see more movement on requirements from last year; they are now re-emerging not just as feasibility studies but real requirements. Large operators are realising that space around airports is minimal.
There has been a lack of building over the past few years.”

UPS, Plane Handling and DHL all currently have requirements in the market. Clews adds: “Titan is really the only available site of this scale capable of accommodating the airline, cargo handlers and retailers looking at consolidating their operations on a single site.”

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