Record-breaking freight train trundles through Hemel Hempstead...and hopefully nobody noticed!

Two locos pulling 39 wagons carrying 3,600 tons of aggregate was on the West Coast Main Line at 3.30am

Friday, 19th March 2021, 12:58 pm
Updated Friday, 19th March 2021, 1:00 pm
Two locos hauled the massive 'jumbo train' through Dacorum during the early hours of Thursday morning

Hopefully nobody noticed the heaviest freight train EVER to run through Hemel Hempstead rattling the rails in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The 'jumbo service' hauled 3,600 tonnes of aggregate 203 miles from the Peak District to London — via a stretch of the West Coast Main Line running through Tring, Berkhamsted and Hemel — all while most of us were sound asleep.

It was timed at 5.09am at Tring, four minutes passing Berkhamsted and 5.17am at Hemel, nearing the end of its marathon 8¾-hour journey south.

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Two massive Freightliner class 70 and class 66 locos had to be coupled together to haul 39 wagons filled with aggregate for use in roads and major infrastructure projects such as HS2 in the south east.

The train measured a close to a whopping three-quarters of a mile in length.

Rail chiefs hope the 'jumbo train' experiment, merging two heavyweight freight trains, will benefit the environment by swapping construction traffic off roads onto railways instead.

David Hunter, senior route freight manager for Network Rail, said: “The pandemic’s made us all think differently and in rail freight’s case, we’re taking advantage of the space available in the timetable.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen a train of this weight and length take this route. By transporting more and further afield, we’re showing how the rail industry is building back better — adapting more efficiently to the needs of our economy and environment.”

Network Rail — which manages the UK's railway infrastructure — and freight operators have collaborated since the start of 2020 to allow trains to move more goods each time they run.

With reduced demand for passenger travel, trains have been rescheduled to make better use of network capacity, unlocking benefits for rail freight customers and the UK economy. It's hoped this collaboration is the start of other jumbo train opportunities across the network.