Every week, Network Rail’s key workers enable millions of tonnes of vital medical supplies, food, drinks and consumer goods to be transported around Great Britain during the Coronavirus crisis, including over 140,000 tonnes of freight which is moved by rail across the North East.

A reduced passenger timetable was introduced last month (March) so that a reliable service would remain in operation to get key workers, such as NHS staff, to work while allowing key freight trains to run to meet demand.

Over 140,000 tonnes of freight per week is transported across the North East, which includes:

  • Nearly 70,000 tonnes of biomass to keep power stations running.
  • Food for supermarkets and vital medical supplies.
  • Around 6000 tonnes of petroleum fuel, to make sure petrol is available at the pumps.
  • 6000 tonnes of Alumina, the raw material used to make aluminium, is transported from the North East to Scotland to be processed.
  • There are ten services per week which run overnight on the East Coast Main Line, transporting letters and parcels for Royal Mail between Newcastle and London.
  • The North East also provides vital supplies by train for the steel industry across the UK, which supports the wider economy.
  • Materials including sand, gravel and stone are transported across the region via freight. Stone is used to make ballast, which supports the railway and means trains can run reliably.
  • Waste transporting trains are used to safely move household waste away from urban areas across the North East. This helps to keep cities and towns in the region clean.

It has been possible to meet this demand thanks to dedication of Network Rail teams who have continued to work, as they are listed as key workers by the Government, and the help of passengers who have taken government advice to avoid all non-essential travel. 

Network Rail is reminding passengers that only essential journeys should be made and key workers who do need to use the railway should continue to check before travelling by visiting www.nationalrail.co.uk or with their train operator. 

Kevin Newman, Senior Route Freight Manager for Network Rail, said: “The railway plays a crucial part in keeping Britain running, particularly in these challenging times. Our teams are working hard to keep lines open for key workers, enabling vital freight services to run to keep shelves stocked and deliver vital medical equipment and to keep power stations going. 

“We’ve been able to meet the demand thanks to the dedication of our key workers at Network Rail who have continued to keep services moving, and with the help of passengers who have followed government advice to only travel when it is essential.

“We are continuing to work closely with the government and transport partners to keep the railways open and keep Britain moving.”