Full steam ahead: Customers at DIRFT

Customer Case Studies

March 15, 2016
by Robin Woodbridge

Back in 2006, when we acquired Severn Trent Water Property Ltd, we became owners of the open access rail terminal at the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT).  In the centre of the country, close to the West Coast Mainline Railway and Junction 18 of the M1 motorway, DIRFT has always been a prime intermodal logistics location.  

The Severn Trent portfolio also included the neighbouring site, so because a growing number of our customers were interested in using rail as part of their logistics operations, we developed a second phase, which is now known as Prologis RFI DIRFT.

Phase two comprised three plots, which are now let to Tesco (840,000 square feet); Sainsbury’s (1 million square feet) and Eddie Stobart (420,000 square feet).  Each company is using rail to transport goods; their reasons for doing so are similar, but they are all taking a different approach.

    How Customers Use Rail

Tesco: Domestic Intermodal (unitized load)

Tesco uses rail to transport ambient general merchandise from its National Distribution Centre (NDC) at DIRFT to its regional network of distribution centres around the country. Rail currently accounts for 50% of all outbound stock.

Tesco’s building, which completed in 2011, has a 220m long dedicated intermodal terminal with three embedded sidings. It receives and dispatches four trains a day to and from Wentloog in South Wales, Barking in East London, Mossend in Scotland and Teesport in the North East.

Sainsbury’s: Port Intermodal

The Sainsbury’s building receives trains transporting ambient general merchandise from the ports. By establishing its import centre and long-hold facility at DIRFT, Sainsbury’s is not tied to one port, but can use the most appropriate port to meet its specific needs.

The facility includes a 400m long dedicated intermodal terminal with two sidings on ballasted track. When trains arrive at DIRFT on the West Coast Mainline, they are shunted from the reception sidings to the Sainsbury’s facility, where they are unloaded using electric-powered, rubber-tyred gantry cranes. Containers are then either stored on the terminal, moved into the building or transported off-site to another Sainsbury’s distribution centre or third party location.

Eddie Stobart: Domestic Intermodal 

Eddie Stobart first entered the rail sector in 2006 and the company has become a keen advocate of rail freight. It operates an open access intermodal terminal at Widnes and has a campus of four buildings at DIRFT. The new 420,000 square foot unit gives Eddie Stobart a dedicated intermodal hub from which it can service the logistics requirements of a number of customers.

The facility, which completed in summer 2015, has a 350m canopied siding along the rear of unit, where forklifts can load and unload trains. This configuration is particularly suited to bulkier good such as wine, bottled water and automotive parts.

Why Customers Use Rail

Sustainability: Transporting goods by rail can help companies reduce their environmental impact.  Tesco, for example saves 14 million road miles a year and 9.3 million kg of CO2 a year by using rail freight.

Cost effective: One gallon of diesel can move a tonne of freight 246 miles by rail, but only 88 miles by road.  Further, the increasing electrification of the rail network provides a hedge against any future increase in the cost of diesel.

Reliability: Traffic on the rail network is planned and timed and it is therefore more reliable than the roads. Tesco has been operating its rail network since 2006 and it achieves 98% on-time deliveries.

And the story continues. Infrastructure work has now started on the third phase, providing a further 7.9 million square feet, together with a new state-of-the-art rail terminal to meet customer demand and support DIRFT’s position as the UK’s premier intermodal logistics location.