Express Logistics go green by Rail

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The converted passenger carriages with the tables and chairs removed ready for cages. The converted passenger carriages with the tables and chairs removed ready for cages.

Varamis Rail Stakeholder event at Birmingham International Station.

Institute of Couriers fellow, Ed Clarke attended an event organised by Phil Read the (Managing Director of Varamis Rail).



The UK’s first high speed rail logistics company –

Institute of Couriers fellow, Ed Clarke attended an event organised by Phil Read the (Managing Director of Varamis Rail) and supported by Robert Llewellyn (formerly of Red Dwarf fame but now presenting the series “Fully Charged”). It was hosted at the Birmingham International Railway Station with a live demonstration of the newly re-purposed assets that will allow freight to move at speeds in excess of 100MPH.

Moving Freight by rail delivers significant savings in CO2 emissions in comparison to traditional road vehicles. The reduction in CO2 emissions has been shown to be in excess of 90% when moving freight by rail over road. Even if you add in the need to use road vehicles to inject the freight in to the rail network and back out at the destination, the savings have been over 60%, so it’s clear that there is a real opportunity for the industry to make an impact of their operations on the environment.

The benefits of using Rail have long been known but the problem has up until now been the time impact that traditionally made this solution not viable for the express industry. Managing Director of Varamis Rail, Phil Read has overcome this issue by using passenger trains that he has had converted to accommodate freight but remain classified by the Rail Network as Passenger trains. This revolutionary, but simple approach to upcycling existing railway stock enables the fast reliable service for next day or even same day movement for logistic networks.

How does the operation work? Phil Read is a former Train Driver and with this knowledge and connections in the industry has utilised existing infrastructure from the now defunct “Red Star Parcels” operation run by British Rail until 1999. Varamis has the use of a loading dock capable of handling multiple HGVs at the station with direct access via a ramp to platform one of Birmingham International Railway Station. Cages on wheels are utilised to roll the freight off the road vehicles and straight on to the train, where each carriage can accommodate 104 cages with 1.7 M3 . With a count of 200 small items per cage this could give a potential volume yield of 20,800 parcels per carriage. The train is loaded and departed on time to start its fast journey to Glasgow where the trollies are decanted and moved back into the customers logistical networks.

With the use of purely electric trains this really is a green solution for time critical network movements. With the recent clarification that nuclear energy is to be classified as a green energy combined with the fact that the entire Rail network electrification being provided by nuclear power this really is a green solution that can assist express logistics. The Varamis operation is courier agnostic and is looking to build density from multiple customers and maximise the efficiency of the rotation. This means that our industry can take advantage of High-Speed Rail without having to invest in expensive rail infrastructure up front with all the risks and challenges that comes with this highly regulated environment. The demonstration has shown that for the first time we can use rail without additional time or costs in comparison to moving items on the road even with the additional time impact to inject it in to, and back out of the rail network.

Ed Clarke said that ‘without exception, every customer tender that he has participated in over the last year, there had been questions by the customers on what actions were being taken to reduce the impact to the environment for providing their logistic solutions. “I firmly believe that we will need a suite of solutions to achieve Carbon Neutral Operations by the 2050 timeline agreed at the Paris agreement, this looks like it could be a great opportunity for the industry to improve without negative impact to operational costs or detriment to the time critical operations our express industry delivers”. We really do seem to have an improvement opportunity without any detriment to costs or service.


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Ed Clarke and Robert Llewellyn at the Varamis Rail Event



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The Birmingham to Glasgow Service now operating