One of Britain’s most important freight lines reopens in the fight against Covid-19

Network Rail fully reopens one of most important freight lines in Britain after an unprecedented repair operation, helping keep the country’s lights on in the fight against Covid-19.

Network Rail have reopened one of the most important freight lines in the country after an unprecedented 24/7 operation to keep the lights on in the continued fight against Covid-19.

The line into Drax Power Station was inundated with flood water in February when the nearby River Aire burst its banks. With the Selby plant supplying 5% of the UK’s electricity, it was vital to keep services moving while repair work was carried out. 

Engineers have been deployed on 24-hour-a-day shifts to maintain the constant safety reassurance required to keep freight trains running.

Chris Gee, head of operations for Network Rail’s north and east route, said: “This was an unprecedented operation to deal with an unprecedented situation. It’s never been more important for us to keep freight services running, so we pulled out all the stops to maintain this vital link while we conducted repair work at the same time.

“Our teams have worked non-stop to make sure that crucial deliveries of biomass have been able to run despite severe flooding, which has been incredibly important to keep the nation powered up. This has been a real team effort and shows the dedication of the rail industry to vital services moving during this national crisis.”

One of two lines leading in and out of Drax Power Station in Selby, Yorkshire, had to close in February when water from the nearby River Aire flooded the area. But engineers were able to keep one route open to allow vital freight services transporting sustainable biomass to keep the nation powered up during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The damaged line has now reopened following significant repair work by Network Rail. Deliveries were maintained while the work took place, with over 90 freight trains per week transporting sustainable biomass to the plant. 

This was made possible by the rail industry working together and the dedication of Network Rail, and their contractors CML, who took up shifts 24 hours a day to keep watch of the site and make sure that trains could use the line safely. A crucial job was monitoring the railway embankment for any further movement following the damage caused by floods.

Keeping freight services moving is of vital importance during the Covid-19 crisis, with the transportation of sustainable biomass helping to keep the lights on across the country. Network Rail is working on ways to improve resilience on the line, in a £2.5m investment, and are currently in the design stage of this project.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Freight plays a vital role in ensuring critical food and supplies can continue moving smoothly at this challenging time. It is fantastic news that this important line has reopened, and once again I want to thank frontline staff for their efforts.”

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said: “The teams who worked tirelessly at Network Rail, on the UK rail freight system and at Drax to ensure deliveries of sustainable biomass were maintained throughout the repair work, so we can continue to generate the power the country needs during the Covid-19 crisis, have done a tremendous job.

“These rail deliveries are a critical part of our global supply chain for sustainable biomass that supports thousands of jobs and has delivered economic growth across the north of England, while supplying renewable electricity to millions of homes and businesses.”

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