A freight train carrying unaccompanied lorry trailers through the Channel Tunnel has successfully completed its maiden trip.

Rail freight trains carrying truck trailers are a common sight in mainland Europe, but until this morning were absent from the UK rail network.

Today’s arrival at the Russell Railfreight Terminal in Barking, outside London, originated in Antwerp, Belgium, and carried goods destined for the auto sector.

Neil Crossland, Commercial Director of Europorte Channel, which runs the service, said the journey, which he hopes will become a daily service, takes seven hours.

He added that the company would now start discussions with the UK’s rail network operator about extending the service to other major British cities.

“The UK is now open for trailers on rail. We’ve proved the route from Belgium across France and that you can now bring a load into London, collect a return and get it back to Belgium on the same day.

“Customers have already asked about extending the service, so the next stage will be to start talking with Network Rail about extending up to the Midlands and the North-West.”

Europorte Channel says the service is fast, has a low carbon footprint and can operate from as far as Germany or Eastern Europe.

This morning’s test run carried goods for Vauxhall Group and was conducted “to the complete satisfaction” of Europorte Channel’s logistics customers, Ewals Intermodal and Ewals Cargo Care.

Europorte Channel forecasts the service will remove thousands of trucks from the roads.

“What we’re recognising is that rail will have to figure more highly in our customers’ transport strategy for environmental reasons,” said Crossland, “but we will also have to compete on price.”

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