PD Ports promotes greater role for rail

Collaboration between customers and rail providers will help reduce carbon footprint

The PD Ports Group, a UK leader in implementing the portcentric strategy, has further emphasised its commitment to helping customers reduce their carbon footprint by focussing its attention on rail links.

The Group, which owns and operates Teesport and the Port of Hartlepool, a major deep water complex located on the North East coast of England, says northern cargo should be routed through northern UK ports – and good rail links will help that process.

This is especially important as congestion in the south of the country and on the main motorways to the Midlands and further north continues to grow, say Geoff Lippitt, Business Development Director.

PD Ports has long lobbied for the upgrading of the East Coast Main Line and the rail connections to the ports in the north, so that moving cargo by rail has now become a more realistic prospect.

“Through our portcentric strategy, we continue to attract more shipping lines to call at Teesport, bringing in goods from Asia both direct and via feeder services from both UK and near-Continent ports,” Mr Lippitt says. “We have shortsea services, feeder connections and ferry services which are ideally placed to serve the northern half of the UK.”

Teesport already has existing rail connections and regular services to the North West and Scotland and is now proposing services to the Midlands and South East.

“Better rail links and more frequent rail services to carry containers to distribution centres or production sites around the UK would reduce congestion, carbon emissions and, most importantly, costs,” he says.

For PD Ports, the answer lies in collaboration between customers, rail providers, the ports and inland rail terminals. But the solution must also include gauge enhancement so that the larger high-cube containers can be carried.

“The high cube volume is expected to grow from 40% of containers now to 65-70% by 2023, so it is essential the rail links are upgraded if we want to move this traffic off the roads and onto the railways,” says Mr Lippitt.

He acknowledges that advances have been made, including the super low liner rail carriages which enable the high cube containers to be carried through the smaller tunnels, but says gauge enhancement is the only long-term solution.

“We need to rethink the way we import and export goods out of the north of the UK,” he states. “Even looking at the North West of England, you can see that our facilities at Teesport make more sense. We are only 100 miles away, whereas goods coming or going via southern ports have to travel up to 350 miles to reach destinations in the north-west.”

PD Ports has also been active in promoting coastal shipping and even launched its own feeder service, the Logical Link, from Felixstowe. This three times a week service was set up to bring goods arriving from Asia into ASDA Wal*Mart’s import centre at Teesport and is saving ASDA over three million road miles annually.

“We work very hard to help our customers – and potential customers – to maximise the productivity of their operations through the port,” says Mr Lippittt. “We understand their needs and develop innovative solutions that help them achieve their business goals.”

PD Ports also continues to invest in its infrastructure to improve capacity and productivity at the port. “We have invested £16.7m as part of an overall £29m project to almost double capacity so that we can handle 450,000 TEU annually. We are also installing a new terminal operating system and have already purchased four new rubber-tyred gantry cranes that greatly increase productivity at the port.”

Mr Lippitt concludes: “Our portcentric strategy has proved highly successful for companies such as ASDA Walmart, Tesco and Taylors of Harrogate who have import centres at Teesport itself. But the principle of using northern ports for northern cargo can be extended to include distribution centres within the port’s hinterland – and especially if we can establish fast and efficient rail links to them.

For further information visit www.pdports.co.uk