Freight trains being used to meet demand for food and vital supplies in coronavirus crisis

Felixstowe still handles 72 freight trains a week. Picture: NETWORK RAIL

Felixstowe still handles 72 freight trains a week. Picture: NETWORK RAIL - Credit: Archant

The number of passengers using trains may have fallen dramatically since the start of the coronavirus outbreak - but East Anglia’s rail network continues to be very busy with freight traffic.

Network Rail signal staff - like those working at the company's Colchester centre - keep trains movi

Network Rail signal staff - like those working at the company's Colchester centre - keep trains moving around the region. Picture: NETWORK RAIL - Credit: Archant

Every week thousands of tonnes of vital medical supplies, food, drinks and consumer goods are being transported around the country during the crisis.

Network Rail staff are operating as normal to try to keep services running – along with other key workers from freight and passenger rail companies.

A reduced passenger timetable was introduced last month so a reliable service would be in operation to get key workers, such as NHS staff, to work while keeping lines open for key freight services to run.

There are currently up to 72 freight trains in and out of Felixstowe every week and up to 20 freight trains in and out from London Gateway in Essex, carrying up to 500,000 tonnes of products including food, drinks, consumer goods and vital medical supplies

Up to 2,000 tonnes of silica sand is also being moved from Middleton Towers quarry near King’s Lynn to industrial plants in the north of England for use in glass and bottle production.


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Two trains a week are run with moves of gas condensate from North Walsham in Norfolk to Harwich in Essex.

Network Rail said it has been possible to meet this demand thanks to dedication of its teams, who have continued to work as they are listed as key workers by the government and the help of passengers - who have taken advice to only travel when it is essential.

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Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “Our role is critical in keeping Britain running, and even more so in the challenging times we’re experiencing now.

“Our teams are working hard to keep lines open for key workers, as well as enabling freight services to run to keep shelves stocked and deliver vital medical supplies and equipment.

“The railway’s ‘key workers’ are the hidden heroes in this national effort to support the country through this challenging time.”

Passengers are advised to visit www.nationalrail.co.uk to check the revised train times for their essential journeys.

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