Earlier this year, UK supermarket retailer Tesco announced a multi-million-pound investment into its rail freight services across the country. Whilst hosting the UK’s Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris MP at their Daventry distribution centre, it was unveiled that the company would inject up to £5 million into its rail operations running between Daventry and Middlesbrough. Railfans have long since referred to these services as The Tesco Express, though Tesco has seemingly yet to adopt the title formally. A Direct Rail Services Class 88 (88003) hauls a 'Tesco Express' from Daventry. Photo by NK Ian. CC-BY-SA 4.0
The launch stems from the company’s need to become more environmentally sustainable, with a big aim in reducing the amount of road traffic at various stages of their distribution process. Tesco claim that the introduction of these new services will remove up to 40 truck-loads of freight from Britain’s roads per day and with them, the harmful CO2 gases that they produce. Because of its focus on sustainability, the move to rail has been seen as a positive move by MPs, particularly as Tesco are the biggest retail user of rail services in the UK and because their goals for sustainability are married to targets set by the Paris Climate Commitments. Tesco train passing through Newport. Photo by Robin Drayton. CC-BY-SA 2.0
With that in mind, it makes sense that each of the branded railway containers reads “Less CO2” in the distinctive Tesco brand font, making them easy to spot on the UK network. Rail operator Direct Rail Services can be seen providing traction in the form of Class 88 and 66 locomotives and well as the ever-popular Class 37s and have done for Tesco since 2006. Like other regular freight movements, these have proved popular with enthusiasts and the increase in Tesco traffic will no doubt be welcomed by Railfan spotters and photographers alike. This great shot of DRS Class 66 (66431) pulling a Tesco train through Long Buckby was submitted to us by Railfan D&MTrainspotting via Twitter. We'd love to see more of your spots - get in touch via the submission form or by tagging us on social media.
So does this boost to rail freight help with your weekly shop? Many of you will be familiar with large lorries turning up at the local supermarket, but the sight of Tesco’s branded railway containers running through the nearest railway station is less common. Tesco state that rail services travel between the national and regional distribution centres, as well as indirectly to stores and carry “... a full range of ambient food and non-food items...” ready to hit the shelves. Depending on the nature of the items carried, which can involve supplier-specific lines, Tesco can interchange between rail and road if necessary and though the company have established a tight distribution network across these available transport modes, the need to provide emergency deliveries can sometimes alter how goods are transported. That said, Tesco believe that rail transport is “... equal to or better than road...” as far as stock replenishment is concerned, making the case for their move from road traffic even stronger. Another Railfan submission courtesy of ECML.Trainspotters via Instagram of a 'Tesco Express' coming into Doncaster iPort via another Class 66.
Tesco also recognise the economic benefits of rail freight in addition to shrinking their carbon footprint and as a result, moving more towards rail could eventually have an impact on the average weekly shop. In all, with a more efficient, environmentally conscious and cost-effective mode of distribution, Tesco are ensuring that rail continues to play an important part in keeping Britain’s supermarket shelves topped up, ready for when it’s time to fill the trolley again.
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