Image credit: Stobart Group
Hybrid trucks may cut carbon, and even slowing down road freight may save gas, but truckers still have a long way to go before they can beat the efficiencies offered by rail. But road freight does have its place—perhaps most notably in allowing perishable goods to be transported from farm to warehouse to store with minimal risk of delay. Traditionally, fruit and vegetables grown in Southern Europe and sold in the UK have been shipped by road for this very reason. Until now. But an iconic UK freight company is launching a first-of-its-kind refrigerated rail service that will dramatically cut the carbon footprint of imported veggies. When I was a kid, the name Eddie Stobart was synonymous with big trucks belching fumes. But it turns out that the Stobart Group is a much more sophisticated multimodal logistics company, offering road, rail and sea freight as needed. Their latest venture, according to The Guardian, is a 30 container refrigerated rail service that will run between Spain and the UK, representing the first time that refrigerated rail freight has passed through The Channel Tunnel. The result will be a massive boost for rail transportation.
The service will initially run once a week, and even at that frequency is expected to save some 8,600 tonnes of carbon a year. But plans are afoot to expand, and by the end of next year it is hoped that as many as 5 trips a week will be undertaken. The logistics have not been easy, with assurances being sought that delays will be avoided, and containers will not be shunted aside and forgotten about. But perhaps the most important and encouraging fact about this whole development is that it seems to be customer led, which ultimately means that the consumer voice for greener goods is finally being heard.
As a Stobart representative told the Guardian "There has been a real change of attitude from the companies we deal with in recent months. Suddenly they all want to know if they can have their goods carried in an environmentally sensitive way and, in particular, if they can have them moved by train."