Household waste is helping to keep the lights on for 50,000 homes during the coronavirus crisis as Network Rail continues to move an essential freight service which carries waste from London to an energy plant in the South West.

The waste from 1.6 million residents of Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond-upon-Thames is carried 110 miles from waste transfer stations in Northolt and Brentford to the Severnside Energy Recovery Facility in Avonmouth six days a week.

More than 300,000 tonnes of waste are transported every year and used to generate about 34 megawatts of power – enough to power 50,000 homes. This also stops rubbish going to landfill and transporting it by train means fewer lorries on the road.

The Severnside Energy Recovery Facility is operated by Suez Environmental with freight operator, DB Cargo, responsible for moving the waste.

Stephen Wallbank, senior freight manager for Network Rail, said: “During the COVID-19 pandemic we are doing all we can to keep vital services running.

“Transporting waste from London to Avonmouth prevents it from going to landfill and helps to create enough renewable energy to power 50,000 homes.

“Our rail workers are doing a vital job in challenging circumstances. They are keeping the railway open for people whose journeys are essential, and critical freight supplies.”

Graham Henson, Leader of Harrow Council, said: “We are committed to tackling the climate emergency. How your waste is disposed of is more powerful than you think – moving by rail reduces emissions, the SERC significantly reduces landfill and it keeps thousands of households going during the pandemic.

“We are pleased to be doing our bit to help keep this service running because it is more important than ever to continue to do our bit for the planet.”

DB Cargo UK’s Head of Industrial Sales, Andrew Sumner, said: “We are extremely proud to continue supporting SUEZ recycling and recovery UK by transporting household waste from London, Merseyside and Halton to their energy from waste plants.

“The plants use waste for the production of renewable energy to help power homes and businesses in the UK.  The need to remove waste and generate power in an environmentally friendly manner could not be more critical during these difficult times and our front-line staff are working hard throughout this unprecedented time to ensure the trains continue to operate.” 

A spokesperson for SUEZ recycling and recovery UK said: “We’d like to thank DB Cargo UK for their work helping us maintain the essential services of processing waste and generating energy safely and effectively.

“Working in partnership and behind the scenes, we’re all ensuring people’s bins are emptied and that the lights stay on despite the current challenging conditions. Our teams are doing an exceptional job which deserves much praise.”

The waste transfer stations in Northolt and Brentford are operated by West London Waste Authority.