11 February 2000

Rail beats lorry shortage

PROVING the train can take the strain, Norfolk-based fertiliser and importer J &#42 Bunn is using the rail network to help get about 1500t of product a week on to farms as a lorry shortage starts to bite.

The company has spent more than £100,000 upgrading rail sidings at Great Yarmouth station, says distribution manager John Fuller.

It is now leasing wagons from English Welsh and Scottish Railway. "Last week we ran four trains moving over 1300t to Swindon and Andover. As the spring campaign reaches its peak, we will run one train a day." This will account for about 20% of Bunns bagged deliveries, he adds. "If there was a better national infrastructure, we could send a lot more."

Although costs, which include some trucking of product at each end of the rail journey, are about 10% more than road alone, Mr Fuller believes spiralling fuel costs and fewer lorries will soon close the gap.

"A typical 200-300 mile road journey costs about £30-£40 extra in diesel compared with last November. And over 80,000 lorries – about 16% of the national fleet – have been de-registered in the past two years." &#42

Rail will become more attractive as lorry rates rise, says John Fuller.