shipping

This is why ew Sheffield railhead is trucking boss’s crown achievement

It saw total victory for the Sheffield haulier, which grew with the popularity of road transport, while the giant rail depot withered with the decline of the steel industry and died.

But the story has a twist.

For the trucking firm has just spent £3m reviving the railhead. And co-founder Frank Newell say it’s his crowning achievement.

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Tinsley Marshalling Yards circa 1965. It had 32 marshalling lanes.Tinsley Marshalling Yards circa 1965. It had 32 marshalling lanes.

Tinsley Marshalling Yards circa 1965. It had 32 marshalling lanes.

Over just seven weeks earlier this year, the company laid out three acres of concrete and 700 yards of track and reconnected the yard to the rail network.

Today it is home to more than 800 shipping containers and receives two 34-wagon freight trains a day from the port of Felixstowe.

The service saves up to 400,000 road miles a week, cutting lorry pollution and congestion, and is already close to its 1,000 container capacity.

Frank, aged 69, said its popularity was a relief.

Frank Newell. Picture Scott MerryleesFrank Newell. Picture Scott Merrylees
Frank Newell. Picture Scott Merrylees

“It was a very big commitment for us as a family business. I’ve been in business for 50 years and have always taken educated gambles. You get to the stage where you have to play forward and do it.

“It’s the best thing I have done. I’m so proud of what we have achieved.”

A mechanic by trade, his youngest son, Anthony, aged 17, is employed in the workshop ‘on the spanners’ learning lorry maintenance.

Sons Stephen, 43, and John, 49, also worked their way up.

The site can store 1,000 containers.The site can store 1,000 containers.
The site can store 1,000 containers.

Frank added: “Going through the ranks gives them a good insight.”

He started with one lorry in 1971 and, with Paul Wright, built the firm into a £50m-a-year business that employs 300.

It is one of just a handful of road hauliers that have moved into rail and Tinsley is the only operation of its type in South Yorkshire, it is claimed.

Stephen said growing concerns about climate change led the firm to move fast.

Unloading the train with a £500,000 box stacker.Unloading the train with a £500,000 box stacker.
Unloading the train with a £500,000 box stacker.

“You have to be careful you don’t get left behind,” he added.

Containers are mostly from China and India and hold everything from patio slabs to clothing to car parts. But they do not have high value items like iPhones or ‘high consequence products’ like fireworks.

About 55 can fit on a train and they are unloaded by four £500,000 ‘box stackers’, including one which runs on hydrogenated vegetable oil, a green fuel.

Containers are taken to their final destination by lorry, some 80 a day in a 24-hour operation.

Stephen said they had used local suppliers, with concrete from Cemex in Attercliffe, reinforcing from BRC in Barnsley and ballast from Aggregate Industries’ quarry in Buxton.

The site is owned by Network Rail and leased to Newell & Wright for 35 years, with a reduction on rent because it is a brownfield site, he added.

Aerial view of Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, December 1987.Aerial view of Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, December 1987.
Aerial view of Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, December 1987.

Its success meant they planned to add two more services, with freight trainers from Southampton and London Gateway on the Suffolk coast.

A second phase of expansion could see a similar-sized platform and storage area built to the south, closer to the bridge over the Parkway, near Junction 33 of the M1.

A third phase could use land to the north, close to two large warehouses that were built on what was the widest part of the marshalling yard.

In 1961, a tenth of the rail-borne freight in Britain originated in the Sheffield district. Tinsley Marshalling Yard was opened by the infamous Dr Richard Beeching in 1965 to serve the steel industry. At its height it handled 200 locomotives and 3,000 wagons a day.

But within a few short years it was hit by competition from road and closed in stages from 1985.

Duncan Clark, of Newell and Wright, said part of the site was cut out of rock and part was electrified, receiving electric trains from Manchester that came through the now closed Woodhead tunnel.

The yard was disused and disconnected from the rail network when Newell and Wright took it on. A new link was laid to the north connecting to a local line near Shepcote junction and then on to Rotherham station, Doncaster and the East Coast Mainline.

The company hopes to connect the site from the south providing a simpler and more direct route into the network, he added.

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts said the company’s achievement was ‘fantastic’ and he would speak to the mayor of South Yorkshire and Department of Transport about providing financial backing.

He added: “I think what they have done is incredible and what they want to do is fantastic. It’s really rising to the climate challenge.

“I will be speaking to the mayor about how we can engage, this is a really important part of local infrastructure and should benefit a lot of firms.

“It’s also of national significance and I’ll be speaking to the Department of Transport about providing some sort of financial backing and support.

“There have been various plans over the years to reopen the yard but these guys have done it.”

Kevin Newman, senior route freight manager for Network Rail, hailed the site as part of the ‘vital role that freight has played in the country’s response to the Covid pandemic and how important it is to the recovery of the economy’.

“Reopening routes, expanding services and gaining new freight customers, as well as running longer, heavier trains, is helping to get more HGVs off the road.”

Newell & Wright Transport was formed in 1974 by Frank Newell and Paul Wright. At that time it was a ‘very small general haulage company’ operating from rented premises.

Over the years it grew and moved to larger sites three times before setting up, in 1987, on its current 6.5 acre freehold site at Tinsley.

Local journalism holds the powerful to account and gives people a voice. Please take out a digital subscription[1] or buy a paper.

Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.

A freight train from the port of Felixstowe arrives at Tinsley Marshalling Yard. Picture Scott MerryleesA freight train from the port of Felixstowe arrives at Tinsley Marshalling Yard. Picture Scott Merrylees
A freight train from the port of Felixstowe arrives at Tinsley Marshalling Yard. Picture Scott Merrylees
Three acres of concrete were laid to make the site.Three acres of concrete were laid to make the site.
Three acres of concrete were laid to make the site.
Frank Newell at Tinsley Marshalling Yards.Frank Newell at Tinsley Marshalling Yards.
Frank Newell at Tinsley Marshalling Yards.
From left: MP Clive Betts and Stephen and Frank Newell have their picture taken as a train arrives.From left: MP Clive Betts and Stephen and Frank Newell have their picture taken as a train arrives.
From left: MP Clive Betts and Stephen and Frank Newell have their picture taken as a train arrives.

References

  1. ^ digital subscription (www.thestar.co.uk)

Driver shortage causes UK supply crisis

A shortage of lorry drivers is resulting in fresh produce being dumped or left to rot in cold stores, while supermarket shelves and restaurant plates go empty, produce suppliers and retailers warn.

The driver deficit – the worst in over 20 years, according to driver recruitment agency Driver Require – is the result of an exodus of EU drivers post-Brexit and government failure to recruit a replacement workforce. The coronavirus pandemic, which has prevented driving tests and training for over a year, as well as a hike in driver costs, has exacerbated the shortfall.

Haulage companies are therefore struggling to deliver goods – either imported or domestically produced – to UK retailers and restaurants, causing delays and product losses, and empty plates and shelves, distributors say.

Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, is understood to have informed the UK Government’s Department of Transport that its suppliers are being forced to bin nearly 50 tonnes of fresh food every week because there are too few lorry drivers to transport produce to stores.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) is so concerned that it has urged the government to consider having Army trucks on standby to ensure there are enough vehicles and drivers to distribute food.

“It’s shocking, but it’s true. The acute shortage of HGV drivers is now the direct cause of perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in coldstores,” Tim O’Malley, managing director of major UK produce distributor Nationwide Produce, told FPJ. “In all my years in fresh produce I’ve never seen anything like this. Goods are being produced, but not delivered.”

The current situation – dubbed a national crisis by some suppliers – is predicted to get worse as the UK continues to open up after lockdown, and demand increases from hospitality and retail.

Brexit clearance issues and a global shortage of shipping containers are further deepening transport problems for imported produce, one source told FPJ.

“The driver shortage has reached crisis point for some of our members and we believe it is likely to get worse as more hospitality venues open and demand increases,” said FWD chief executive James Bielby.

“With the estimated 70,000 shortfall in HGV drivers, some wholesalers have had to limit the number of deliveries they make to convenience stores which has led to some availability issues.

“We’ve asked the government to re-instate the temporary extension of drivers’ hours (from 9 to 11) which was in place last year but ended recently. Other proposals we are putting forward include ending furlough for HGV drivers, temporarily waiving requirements for medical certs and CPC for those which have run out, and using army drivers to deliver to vulnerable communities.”

Meanwhile, in an open letter to the FPJ, Nationwide Produce’s O’Malley urged produce industry suppliers to work with hauliers and customers to get through this crisis.

“I would urge you not to shout at your hauliers and threaten them with bills, as that will get you nowhere – work with them to find solutions,” he wrote. “Customers will have to be far more flexible on delivery times. We also need to stop hauling fresh air around the country. Full pallets and full loads are what we need in a crisis like this.”

O’Malley added that customers need to be more flexible on date codes to allow direct deliveries from abroad. “I’m sure this will eventually lead us all to adopt better practices, but for now we need to work together to find a way through this crisis,” he said.

Alex Veitch, general manager – public policy at Logistics UK, added: “With a large pool of potential candidates available, owing to the nation’s higher unemployment, Logistics UK is urging the government to make HGV driver training affordable, accessible and attractive for all. 

“Our 2021 Logistics Report shows that 29 per cent of logistics businesses anticipate that they will be unable to fill vacancies for HGV drivers this year; a further 14.5 per cent expect long delays before filling a role. With the logistics industry in urgent need of these workers, Logistics UK is urging the government to include training for HGV Drivers in their list of courses funded through the National Skills Fund to reskill potential employees and help recruit them into the industry.

“Logistics UK is also urging the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to maintain its fast-track programme to catch-up on at least 30,000 driving tests that were postponed due to COVID-19 between March and December 2020; this has left thousands of potential HGV drivers waiting in the wings when the UK needs them most to support every facet of UK PLC.”