UK’s first long-distance rail transport of salt moved from the Port of Southampton


DB Schenker’s salt train is loaded at ABP’s aggregate rail terminal at the Port of Southampton

As the weather turns colder and transport operators once again begin preparations for another ‘big freeze’ this winter, Associated British Ports (ABP) has celebrated a double first in its bulk operations at the Port of Southampton. In a coup for both the port and rail industry, and working closely with customer Nationwide Gritting Services (NGS), rail operator DB Schenker Rail, and Southampton bulk terminal operator, Solent Stevedores, ABP Southampton has overseen the first long-distance rail shipments of salt from its newly-created aggregate rail terminal.

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Two 1,200-tonne shipments – or 40-wagon loads – of white marine salt were moved out of one of two dedicated open-access bulk rail terminals at the port for delivery in Teesside. This operation is the first of its kind in the UK, with all parties working together to provide a viable, multi-modal solution for the cargo. Southampton is the first port to be able to accommodate this service, proving once again that ABP is instrumental in reducing congestion on our roads.


Hanif Brora, ABP Head of Port Operations & Safety, said: “Traditionally, the movement of salt has been by road to locations close to the port of discharge. These innovative rail movements, undertaken by DB Schenker Rail and NGS, now offer the market a sustainable alternative in moving this bulk cargo to more distant centres, complementing the natural maritime advantages of the Port of Southampton.”


Vijay Karia, Managing Director of NGS, said: “There are two over-riding reasons why NGS has decided to pursue rail distribution as part of a multi-modal transport system: the clear environmental benefits of reducing the carbon footprint; and the prime importance of ensuring fast, reliable, and direct carriage of large quantities of marine salt to our customers.”


Alain Thauvette, Chief Executive of DB Schenker Rail UK, said: “With millions of tonnes of salt moved by road each year in preparation of the winter gritting season, this is a major new market for rail freight. Our partnership approach with ABP and NGS to try to develop a rail solution has worked. We are confident that regular services can be introduced, moving freight from the road network to the railway.”


ABP has seen significant growth in bulk operations at Southampton in recent years, with annual cargo volumes moving through the bulk terminal on track to exceed one million tonnes for the first time.


The Port of Southampton’s natural deep-water harbour and unique double-tide means it is capable of handling larger, more economical shiploads – compared to smaller ports which may have restricted access. Its key strategic position on the south coast makes it one of the UK’s most accessible ports, conveniently located for vessels calling from as far afield as Egypt, Tunisia, Portugal, and the USA.

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