Lowestoft goes live

This week marked the start of operations from another railhead in our portfolio. Working with Network Rail on initial design work in 2018, construction started on site in 2019, leading up to the first train of imported aggregates leaving Lowestoft bound for Longport, to help address the growing demand for construction materials.

This adds to the ever-expanding list of railheads we’ve helped along the way to fully-operational status, which in recent years has included:

  • Liverpool Tuebrook Sidings (GB Railfreight / Hanson 2021)
  • Sheffield Tinsley (Newell and Wright / MLP 2021)
  • Newhaven (Brett / Newhaven Port / Network Rail 2020)
  • Leicester Humberstone Road (DC Rail 2020)
  • Thorney Mill (Link Park Heathrow / Ashville Aggregates 2019)
  • Luton (Cemex / Network Rail 2019)
  • iPort Doncaster (iPort Rail / Verdion 2018)

We look forward to helping many more on their way in the years to come.

Thorney Mill: first train arrives into Link Park Heathrow

At 11:30 this morning, GB Railfreight’s Class 66 locomotive 66775 HMS Argyll entered the reinstated railhead at Link Park Heathrow, Thorney Mill in West London, the first since services ceased and the railhead disappeared in 2013.

We were familiar with the Thorney Mill site, having investigated its potential as a railhead for a number of client enquiries over the last decade. In August 2018 we were asked by the site owners, Link Park Heathrow, to explore the feasibility of reinstating the rail sidings on site to create a new facility for handling bulk materials. By this time all trace of the former sidings had gone (see the before and after satellite photos below).

Thorney Mill 2013

Thorney Mill 2019We set to work designing a layout to maximise the length of train which could be stabled in the proposed railhead site boundary, developing a draft Method of Work statement covering the operation of trains on and off site.

LPH plan

We procured the contract to undertake the trackworks on site, contractor KGJ Price undertaking the works during some unseasonably good weather in January and February 2019. Like an archaeological dig, the former sidings were retrieved from beneath a layer of compacted fill, the trackwork lifted and relaid to the new layout, with replacement sleepers and rails as required.


With the works complete, one of Link Park Heathrow’s occupiers, Ashville Aggregates, commenced discussions with the rail freight industry regarding the importation of aggregates by rail into the site. From this, rail freight operator GB Railfreight offered to carry out a test run to and from the main line across the new sidings, culminating in this morning’s successful operation.

For further enquiries contact:
Ashville Aggregates: 020 7736 0355
Link Park Heathrow: 020 7824 9260

UPDATE: the first loaded train arrived into site on 16th July, the second fully-loaded train arrived today (18th July)

CEMEX: first train arrives into Luton

Today the first DB Cargo train arrived into CEMEX’ new railhead at Luton. We were initially asked in March 2018 to produce an outline design to assist the contractor Pearsons Engineering, but this soon expanded in scope to cover the entire design approval process with Network Rail. Working with all the parties, we brought in Trust Rail Solutions to produce a topographic survey of the site and a series of detailed drawings and supporting documentation. Works were undertaken during early 2019, the new railhead now operational and receiving aggregates. Job done!

Lowestoft: new freight sidings take shape

IMT J0188.34 Lowestoft D2.2



In May 2018 we were asked by Network Rail to produce an outline design for a rail freight facility at Lowestoft (our 34th railhead design project with Network Rail), to be constructed as part of a proposed remodelling and resignalling of the wider trackwork in and around the station. A number of designs were produced between May and December 2018, with the works starting on site this year (photos posted by Tim Miller @banditman59uk).

Another example of joined-up thinking by Network Rail, ensuring rail freight access to the Lowestoft area is retained against future traffic opportunities.

Newhaven: first phase of new railhead for Brett Aggregates

East Sussex, the birthplace of Intermodality back in 2002, had latterly been something of a backwater for rail freight, limited to gypsum traffic into Mountfield (Battle). To find any trace of rail freight traffic into Newhaven Port you would have to go a quarter of a century, when containers were last carried  (thanks to @Jasonic99 on Twitter for supplying the picture below):

Newhaven 1990s

In 2011 we were commissioned by Newhaven Port & Properties (NPP) to review prospects for rail freight services from the Port. We concluded at the time that “In the short term, bulk commodities are likely to offer the most promising prospects for re-establishing rail services, particularly aggregates.”

Five years later in 2016, as part of a growing workbank of small railhead schemes undertaken for Network Rail (45 separate sites to date), we were asked to draw up a layout for a quayside rail terminal, using as far as possible the original track layout from the 1990’s. A plan was produced, which became the basis for further engagement a year later with Brett Aggregates, who were planning to develop a new terminal for marine aggregates on site, along with a cement plant. We were asked by Bretts to refine the layout, produce a draft Method of Working statement, and help procure a suitable contractor to undertake the works on the Port, to interface with the first phase of works being undertaken on the adjacent Network Rail land (the area in the photo above).

Newhaven plan

Working with Bretts, Newhaven Port, train operator DB Cargo and a Network Rail team from the Freight & National Passenger Operators and South East Routes and the local Delivery Unit (DU), a plan was drawn up for the first phase. This involved recovering redundant trackwork and replacing with a new layout. The DU wasted no time in getting on site during March 2019, creating the new track layout in record time, based on our outline design drawing (compare the picture below with the 1990’s view above):

NH5The first phase of works are now complete, and await the second phase to commence later this year, ahead of the return of freight trains from the Port, to help with the supply of aggregates into London for years to come.

Newhaven March 2019 2

iPort Doncaster: start of rail services

iPort Doncaster (photo courtesy Verdion)
iPort Doncaster: a new Strategic Rail Freight Interchange for Yorkshire & Humberside. Our role, rail and terminal design, planning application support, mobilisation support (photo courtesy Verdion)

Today marks the start of rail services from iPort Doncaster, the latest Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) to join the select group of hubs in Great Britain. Our involvement with the iPort project stretches back to 2005, when we were asked by the original developer Helioslough (now Verdion) to undertake an initial view of the site, situated adjacent to Rossington Colliery which finally closed in 2007.

Working with an expanding multi-disciplinary team, we assisted with the initial design of the on-site rail layout and intermodal terminal, culminating in a planning application submitted to Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council in 2009. A positive and holistic response by the Council led to planning consent being secured in August 2011, for construction of 562,000 square metres (6 million sq ft) of modern distribution buildings, linked to an on-site intermodal terminal.

We continued to assist with the early implementation of the project, with further refinement of the intermodal terminal layout and engagement with Network Rail on the programme of works needed to install a new main line connection.

iPort plan

Early progress with the site led to 156,000 square metres being constructed and occupied ahead of the intermodal terminal being completed in February 2018, helping build up freight activity on site ahead of the first rail services, which have now started just 7 months later. Further information is available from iPort Rail.