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Drax rebrands with Northern Powerhouse wood pellet wagons

UK power utility Drax Group plc has unveiled the first of its rebranded rail wagons at a ceremony officiated July 5 by Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry. Drax’s rail wagons, the first of their kind in the world, were designed and developed by Lloyd’s Register Rail (Ricardo) and WH Davis – the UK’s last independent freight wagon manufacturer.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry (left) was in Yorkshire on July 5 together with Andy Koss, 
CEO, Drax Power and John Hall, Managing Director of Davis Wagon Services to unveil the first of
Drax’s rebranded train wagons used to deliver wood pellets to its power station (photo courtesy Drax).

The development of Drax’s train wagons is a Northern Powerhouse success story – I’m delighted to unveil the first of the newly branded wagons. The energy sector has been and will continue to be a major source of jobs and economic opportunity in the North of England. It is worth over GBP5 billion (≈ EUR 5.66 billion) to the North and the region has more low carbon jobs per 1,000 employees than anywhere else in England, said Jake Berry, Northern Powerhouse Minister.

Drax is a member of the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative, which is aimed at boosting the region’s economy by investing in skills, innovation, transport and culture. Since it upgraded half of the power station near Selby in North Yorkshire 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.

With these trains delivering up to 20 000 tonnes of biomass each day, we are now powering millions of homes and businesses across the UK with reliable, renewable electricity, whilst generating over GBP500 million (≈ EUR 566 million) for the northern economy and supporting more than 6 000 jobs in the region – including some here at Davis Wagon Services’ facilities. We have invested GBP 700 million (≈ EUR 792 million) in transforming the business from coal to biomass, including the development of an entirely new supply chain, and these rail wagons are a vital part of that investment. Our 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 – helping us to make carbon savings of more than 80 percent compared to when we used coal to generate electricity, said Andy Koss, CEO, Drax Power.

Key to its success is its supply chain – including the development of bespoke train wagons able to transport compressed wood pellets in the quantities needed to the power station. Work is now being carried out at Davis Wagon Services Ltd facilities, a subsidiary of WH Davis, to re-brand all 225 of Drax’s rail wagons, complete with new Northern Powerhouse branding.

Our parent company is the last UK rail freight manufacturer and winning the contract with Drax firstly to develop and build these unique biomass wagons and now in maintaining them, has enabled us to retain a number of staff in skilled jobs and invest GBP850 000 (≈ EUR 962 000) in our facilities here in the North. We will be working with Drax as it rebrands all of its wagons over the coming two years, re-wrapping them with the new branding as part of a rolling maintenance programme, said John Hall, Managing Director of Davis Wagon Services.

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