Despite problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and disruption to international supply chains during the Brexit transition period, in 2020 DB Cargo UK and ABP overcame a number of significant challenges to deliver a truly innovative rail freight solution to one of their biggest customers, MINI.
In January 2021, a train loaded with MINIs successfully ran into Southampton’s Western Docks, which was the culmination of months of planning and preparation by teams working on behalf of all the parties involved. This was the first time a train carrying automotives had run into the Western Docks in around seven years.
The new service, which has already grown to five services a week, has delivered both economic and environmental benefits for the customer, as well as unlocking new capacity and additional opportunities for ABP’s Western Docks.
In January 2020, DB Cargo UK and ABP were informed that, due to a change in customer demand and changes to international shipping services, MINI planned to increase volumes into Southampton’s Eastern Docks from its Oxford production plant.
In order to overcome this, DB Cargo UK And ABP set about looking for a different solution to MINI’s logistical challenge.
DB Cargo UK already operated 5-6 round trip services per week for MINI into Southampton’s Eastern Docks.
However, the customer wanted the train to operate from the Western Docks due the proximity of the ships in the Port. It was decided to look at the feasibility of re-establishing an automotive rail head at the port’s Western Docks.
In any event this would be more economically viable for MINI, as it reduced the need for them to incur the significant additional cost of transporting their vehicles by road from the Eastern Docks to the Western Docks where their ships were waiting.
The ABP ANSA sidings in the Western Docks were identified as a prime location, despite the fact that they were only used at that time for stabling locomotives, had inadequate lighting and no suitable power supply to meet the demands of the special automotive WIA wagons.
At this point, COVID-19 restrictions were introduced as the UK went into lockdown, which introduced a whole new level of complexity to the project, as strict on-site social-distancing measures were introduced and meetings moved online.
ABP’s team scoped and then set about making the necessary upgrades to the former ABP ANSA sidings which included the installation of temporary power generators, improved lighting and the creation of a new raised platform to enable the safe loading and unloading of vehicles from the WIA wagons.
DB Cargo UK’s Service Design and Planning Team began working with Network Rail to identify new paths into the Western Docks which was, at the time, particularly congested with intermodal traffic.
At the same time, both ABP and DB Cargo UK continued to keep MINI updated as work progressed.
Despite the need for strict Covid-19 measures to be put in place and social-distancing maintained at all times, the work was completed seamlessly with strong on-site management of activities achieved at all times.
All issues were successfully overcome and on September 29th, the first trial service consisting of just one WIA wagon ran into the Western Docks and all cars were offloaded without issue.
Temporary generators were used at this point to power the wagons, however following the success of the trial, ABP quickly set about installing a permanent, more sustainable power supply.
On January 19th, the first full service ran from Oxford to Southampton’s Western Docks consisting of eight, fully-loaded WIA wagons carrying MINIs.
The train arrived on time, all vehicles were successfully off-loaded and the empty train also departed on time – all in a turnaround time of just four hours!
This was a significant project providing major economic and environmental benefits to the customer, MINI, in the most challenging of circumstances, coming as it did in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By working together, ABP and DB Cargo UK, successfully persuaded the customer not to switch from rail to road by delivering a cost-effective solution with minimum disruption to MINI’s supply chain.
Establishing the new automotive rail head in the Western Docks not only saved MINI the expense of having to haul its vehicles by road from the Eastern Docks to the Western Docks, it has also saved them in the region of 200 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum.
The solution ensured DB Cargo UK strengthened its relationship with MINI.
ABP’s investment of £300,000 has breathed new life into the under-utilised ANSA sidings site, creating the potential for further growth opportunities in the area. Further to this, the investment has lessened the likelihood of potential damage from additional handling operations, moving from one end of the port to the other. By moving the service from the Eastern to Western Docks, the MINIs are kept in pristine condition for customers.
The number of services operated by MINI into the Western Docks has already risen to five services a week.
In particular we would like to acknowledge the contribution of our colleagues at ABP (James Chase, Spencer Haysom, Lex Hanham, Ben Paynter, Davin Carter, Neil Kittow and Joe Yousif) and DB Cargo UK (Wayne Miller, Darren Smart, Emma Barker, Dominic Asamoah, Matthew Woodside, Mandy Atherton) for their hard work and commitment throughout this project.
This was a great example of customer care and teamwork which has delivered benefits for all parties involved.