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Drax invests in 30 new biomass-transporting rail wagons

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Drax, the UK’s biggest generator of renewable electricity, is expanding its rail fleet by investing in 30 new rail wagons to deliver the biomass it needs to generate enough renewable power for four million UK homes at its North Yorkshire power station.
The upgraded high-capacity wagons manufactured by British firm WH Davis will help to further reduce Drax’s carbon emissions and make its biomass supply chain more resilient and efficient, according to the company.
Drax’s fleet of 225 rail wagons, the first of their kind in the world, were designed and developed by Lloyd’s Register Rail (now Ricardo Rail) and WH Davis based in Mansfield – the UK’s last independent freight wagon manufacturer.
The innovative design of these new wagons has increased the amount of biomass able to be transported in each wagon by 30 per cent, allowing them to carry 71.6 tonnes of biomass each, reducing the number of rail journeys required and reducing supply chain emissions.
The first of 30 new wagons are expected to come off the production line early next year and go into operation delivering biomass from the Port of Tyne to Drax, reducing emissions on this route by over 25%.
Bruce Heppenstall, Drax plant director, said: “Our biomass trains deliver up to 30,000 tonnes of biomass to the power station each day, enabling Drax to power millions of homes and businesses across the UK with reliable, renewable electricity and support energy security.
“It’s therefore vital that we have a robust supply chain and investing in these new wagons will further increase our resilience and cut carbon emissions on our Tyne to Drax rail route by more than a quarter, whilst continuing to support thousands of jobs across the North, including at WH Davis and Davis Wagon Services’ facilities.”
Since it converted two thirds of its power station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal, Drax has transformed its business to become Europe’s biggest decarbonisation project and the UK’s largest single site renewable power generator, playing a critical role in energy security.
This transformation has also preserved and supported jobs – with Drax’s operations supporting almost 6,000 jobs across the North at a time when other power stations have closed.
Each train is able to carry sufficient biomass for Drax to generate enough reliable renewable electricity to supply around 800 UK homes for a year.
Jonathan Hamer, managing director of WH Davis, said: “These additional 30 new biomass wagons reflect the strength and depth of the Davis Group, including Davis Wagon Services, to provide a full turnkey solution for customers from manufacture to maintenance. This contract builds on the previous supply to Drax for its unique biomass wagon fleet requirements and shows their confidence in the quality and reliability of the WH Davis product.
“As the only rail freight manufacturer in the UK it is important for us to win such contracts to ensure the continuity of skills within our locally based work force. Drax’s confidence in us allows this to continue and develop.”
Mark Fletcher, Member of Parliament for Bolsover, said: “This is a fantastic investment which will strengthen the UK’s energy security whilst supporting local skilled manufacturing jobs.
“These new wagons will help keep the lights on for many years to come, and they are a real example of how British companies can lead the world in innovation and engineering; I am proud to have such a great company based in the Bolsover Constituency.”
Drax’s biomass comes into the ports on the east and west coasts from North America and Europe, and is brought to the power station by rail, because it is more efficient than road transportation.
Drax is committed to boosting the region’s economy by investing in skills, innovation, transport, and culture. A recent study found that Drax contributes over £700 million to the North’s economy and supports close to 6,000 jobs.