three quarter view from track level of Freightliner locomotive hauling a bulk aggregates train away from a Tarmac terminal

UK Freightliner and Tarmac revive freight connection in West Midlands

There’s a new flow reported between Tarmac’s Tunstead Quarry and a former oil terminal site just north of Coventry in the West Midlands. Rail freight operator Freightliner, in collaboration with Tarmac and site occupiers Junction4pallets, successfully revived the moribund rail freight connection just over a month ago. Business insiders say the first stone train marked a return of rail services to the one-time Murco oil terminal at Bedworth after a seven-year hiatus.

The development reintroduces regular terminating rail freight services to the line between Nuneaton and Coventry, which had not seen such traffic for approximately seven years. Anticipated regular services will involve the transportation of around 1.600 tons of stone, utilising 22 wagons and featuring night-time discharge operations.

Moreover, reports suggest additional traffic prospects beyond construction materials are being explored for the site, highlighting the potential for further rail freight utilisation. The line has had a chequered history and faced closure as part of a wide-ranging rationalisation in the 1960s. However, it survived as a freight-only link for several decades before a skeleton passenger service was reintroduced in 1987 and now thrives as part of the West Midlands Trains network.

Inactive for nearly a decade

The inauguration of rail services from Tunstead Quarry to Bedworth represents a substantial achievement for the rail freight sector, particularly in the Bedworth area. The line between Nuneaton and Coventry via Bedworth originally served a plethora of industrial sidings, of which little remains, except the former oil terminal site. These new flows of aggregates represent a modest renaissance for the line. The initiative not only offers an environmentally friendly alternative to road transport but also supports the efficient movement of bulk goods and enhances connectivity.

Freight train speeds through a station at night
The Tunstead to Bedworth operations run at night, like this service speeding through Chesterfield. The flows utilise spare capacity and avoid conflict with passenger services on the Coventry – Nuneaton Line. Image: © Simon Walton

The inaugural stone train from Tunstead Quarry to Bedworth signifies the reactivation of a vital rail link that had been inactive for nearly a decade. A statement from Junction4Pallets explained that they are anything but a sleeping partner in the operation. Despite their core business lying in wooden platform manufacture and sales, the company recognised the wider potential of their Bedworth railhead.

“During the last twelve months J4P have developed our rail terminal at Bedworth which some years ago was a large oil depot”, they explained. “It is now ready for use and we are pleased to announce that our first rail freight service went ahead as scheduled on 1 June. This was a 22 wagon,1.600 ton, stone train conveying aggregates from the Peak District in Derbyshire to Bedworth for distribution to concrete suppliers in Coventry, Warwickshire and the wider West Midlands. Discussions are also ongoing with other sectors that are interested in developing rail freight services for example the Hi-speed Parcels Sector to and from Scotland through Bedworth”, they added.

Best net-zero ambitions

This renewed connection provides an opportunity for Tarmac, one of the UK’s leading construction materials suppliers, to transport large quantities of stone efficiently. Tarmac has a well organised policy of sustainable industry, and works hard to incorporate rail freight into their overall operations. No doubt this flow ticks all the right boxes, and just happens to make economic sense.Regular services are expected to consist of 22 wagons carrying a total of 1,600 tons of stone, destined for night-time discharge at Bedworth. This strategic timing ensures minimal disruption to daytime road traffic while optimising the utilisation of rail infrastructure during off-peak hours.

By leveraging rail freight, the initiative demonstrates the efficiency and capacity of rail transportation in handling bulk materials, enabling faster and more reliable deliveries. It may be a small beginning, but if the initiative exhibited here is reproduced across the country, rail freight would be well on the way to answering all the best net-zero ambitions of national government. The successful revival of rail freight services to Bedworth holds promise for future developments beyond construction materials. With the exploration of additional traffic prospects, the site’s potential as a versatile rail freight hub is being evaluated. This exploration reflects a commitment to maximising the site’s utility and exploring diverse cargo types that can benefit from rail transportation.

Autor/a Simon Walton