Rail transport plays an integral part in the nuclear fuel cycle. Every day thousands of shipments of radioactive materials are transported worldwide. It is vital to ensure that this transportation process is safe, secure and reliable. In the UK, nuclear materials have been transported by rail since 1962, travelling
over 10 million miles without any incident involving the release of radioactivity. DIRECT RAIL SERVICES [DRS] was established in 1995 as a lynch pin
supplier of transport and associated services to the nuclear industry. A wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority [NDA], the company is the only UK operator with approval to carry nuclear material by rail and the country’s only remaining publicly owned rail freight company.
Sixteen years of unrivalled reputation and outstanding safety records as the sole conveyor of spent nuclear fuels nationwide provide a key focus for DRS to adapt these highly acquired skills and expertise to facilitate new business opportunities arising out of the challenges of both the decommissioning and nuclear new build programmes.
In July 2010 the industry celebrated the successful completion of the Vault 9 state of the art facility for the storage of the nation’s low-level nuclear waste at the LLWR in West Cumbria. With a capacity of 110,000 cubic metres, the project specification required the vast majority of construction materials be delivered to the site by rail rather than road. DRS’ involvement ensured that over 98% of all these materials arrived by rail, reducing the number of potential road deliveries by 27,500.
DRS continues to work with LLWR to provide a new range of packaging and transport services to NDA and non-NDA customers through an Integrated Logistics Service. Anticipated to be available by April 2012 this will include container supply, consignment services, plus rail and road transport. The partnering approach business model could be expanded to cover other nuclear logistics challenges such as intermediate level waste, special nuclear material and construction materials. Decommissioning work at Bradwell includes routine shipments of LLW to the Cumbria Repository. Previously, waste stored in half height ISO containers moved via road. In October 2011, a feasibility study by Magnox Ltd on the benefits of rail transportation over road saw 10 containers travel by rail courtesy of DRS. The company accessed the rail head in Southminster, previously used to ship irradiated fuel to Sellafield when the site was generating electricity.
An obvious benefit is the reduction in lorry journeys through rural communities on already congested roads and findings will aid further transport solutions. Traditionally nuclear work dominated the DRS work programme, but this % has declined in recent years as a result of decommissioning. Nuclear makes up 50% of current business, the remainder from general freight, including domestic & port inter-modal traffic, aggregate moves, infrastructure support work, third party maintenance and latterly passenger train operations. The company has expanded rapidly into the commercial sector in response to declining nuclear work.
As part of this development process, DRS has drawn from its experience of working with blue chip retail companies to provide ground breaking integrated transport solutions for fast moving consumer goods, high value products and time sensitive cargoes. With growing pressure from the government to reduce carbon emissions and recognition of rail transport as up to 5 times more efficient than road, DRS leads the way in providing award winning solutions to the rail industry.
Throughout 2011 business growth continues with success in a range of non nuclear schemes. In January, DRS won a luxury boat train contract with First Class passenger services to Southampton in partnership with Cruise Saver Travel. In the 2011/12 programme trains depart from Glasgow and Edinburgh stations to meet luxury cruise liners. In April DRS was awarded a five year contract to haul the ‘Orient Express of the North’ – Northern Belle, sister train to the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. DRS will haul over 90 yearly departures from regional stations to destinations country-wide, travelling to events such as Ladies’ Day at Ascot and the Chelsea Flower Show. In June a new logistics gateway to Europe from The Port of Workington was launched in partnership with DRS and Norbet Dentressangle, which opens up an important new containerised end-to-end option at the North West Port.
Earlier in the year DRS announced a solution to long-term gauge constraint issues, acquiring a fleet of new IDA SuperLow 45 Low-liner vehicles. The state of the art rolling stock unlocks new routes for customers; has optimised platform length with 20% more volume transported within existing train lengths; and opens up large parts of the rail network to hi-cube container traffic. In October a new service from PD Ports’ Teesport container terminal utilising this unique wagon to transport high-cube boxes to areas of the UK previously inaccessible by rail. Previously, 9’6” high-cube containers, more efficient than the standard 8’6”, could be transported to such a wide area of the country only by road, because of low bridges, tunnels and railway stations. DRS also ran a special trial rail service from the Port of Felixstowe to the new Stobart Rail facility at Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal. In collaboration with Stobart Rail, Network Rail and the Port of Felixstowe, a train made the journey carrying 24 Stobart Rail Curtain Sided containers distinctively liveried with ‘Less CO2 Rail’. More services are expected to follow in the near future. Most recently DRS won an important contract in conjunction with the Stobart Group for all the new domestic inter-modal services with Tesco Plc in an open tender exercise for all UK freight operators.
These projects serve to lead the company into 2012 at full throttle!