A view of Freightliner Intermodal's Coatbridge Container Terminal.
© John G. Fender 2011
Members of the Scottish Region of visited Freightliner Intermodal's Coatbridge Container Terminal on Tuesday 5 September 2006 and were given a presentation on the business by Kay Walls, Commercial Manager, Scotland.
Kay Walls outlined the background to the present day Freightliner operations. Freightliner has it's origins in the "Beeching" era when Dr. Beeching radically overhauled Britain's Railway network and the idea of using containers to mover goods around Britain with delivery to the final destination by road is generally credited to him.
The first Freightliner container train ran on 15 November 1965 from King's Cross to Glasgow and records show that the bulk of the load was metal, but it also carried confectionery, foodstuffs. The load on the return journey included firebricks and beer.
From this beginning, the network of services expanded during the late 1960's with the opening of terminals at Liverpool, Cardiff, Leeds, Southampton, Manchester and Birmingham. The 1970's saw more terminals being opened at Tilbury, Barking, Coatbridge, Seaforth, Felixstowe, Cleveland and Thamesport. The Transport Act 1968 set up Freightliner Ltd., with the National Freight Corporation being the majority shareholder. In 1976 ownership was transferred to the British Railways Board and in 1988 it became part of Rail Freight Distribution. In 1996, Freightliner was privatised through a management buyout. The company was restructured in 2001 and today Freightliner Limited, Freightliner Heavy Haul Ltd. and Freightliner Maintenance Ltd. make up the Freightliner Group.
Freightliner had developed as a door to door UK transport operator competing directly with road hauliers. However, with the growth of containerisation in the early 1970's, Freightliner's business changed. It was recognised that containerisation offered an opportunity to by-pass the Dock Labour Schemes, provided better security for the cargoes and reduced handling. Freightliner took the decision to open a new container terminal in Coatbridge to cater for the new container business that was being generated by Scottish industry. A strategic review in 1987 saw the rationalisation of services and the door to door business was closed down, allowing the company to concentrate on the maritime container market.
Kay Walls (centre) explaining the detailed workings of Freightliner Intermodal's Coatbridge Container Terminal to Scottish Region members during the tour of the facility in the rain.
© John G. Fender 2006
Freightliner Intermodal is the core business and moves more maritime containers than any other haulier with some 22% of the deep-sea container market. It is a logistics company, specialising in rail and operates 73 locomotives, 1,600 wagons and 180 road vehicles from 14 locations across the UK. Each day Freightliner Intermodal moves between 2,500 and 3,000 containers on 88 services with each train covering an average distance of 200 miles. These services operate between 5 key ports and 15 inland terminals. Following 1987 review, container traffic through Coatbridge increased significantly and today there are around 115,000 containers shipped through the terminal annually.
Covering 35 acres, Freightliner's Coatbridge terminal was opened for business in 1968 on the site of a former coal yard. The site's development was driven by the OCL Containerbase that was adjacent and the first services were operated contracts for OCL. The terminal used Drott rubber tyred cranes cascaded from the Glasgow terminal at Gushetfaulds. These have now been replaced by Morris rail mounted gantry cranes with a capacity of 31 tonnes. By 1978, the present facility had been developed.
The core of Freightliner's Coatbridge business are services to Southampton, Felixstowe, Seaforth, Tilbury and Thamesport via the West Coast Main Line, although there are sometimes diversions via the East Coast Main Line. The main competitors are road haulage and coastal shipping and rail transport is a key part of the logistics chain.
Freightliner Heavy Haul, the other major component of the business and specialised in the bulk movement of products such as coal, oil, aggregates and waste materials. It operates 80 locomotives and 700 wagons, providing around 1,000 services a week. The average distance each train covers is 90 miles. In Scotland, Freightliner Heavy Haul operates the Anglo-Scottish coal services between Hunterston and Ayrshire to the Aire and Trent Valleys along with cement services between Dunbar, Carlisle, Inverness, Uddingston, Aberdeen and Ayr. These services are timed to meet specific loading and discharge slots and the Anglo-Scottish sets run on a 24-hour basis.
The Scottish Region would like to record it's thanks for this visit to Kay Walls, Commercial Manager, Scotland and her colleagues, John Bunyon, control Manager and Colin McNab, Engineering Manager. Our thanks also go to the other members of staff who patiently answered questions from members during the tour round the facility.
Full details of all of Freightliner's services can be found on their website www.freightliner.co.uk.
Report by John Fender.
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