Slate Transport Business Case Development
Client: Locum/McAlpines Slate
Building materials are in great demand around the world, and tend to be bulky, thus giving rail some potential in the supply chain. An aggregates tax was imposed in 2002 on primary materials (e.g. freshly-quarried stone) but recycled products were exempt from this. Amongst these products was slate waste, the various stones and rubble left over after the slates usable for roofing had been removed. In the key North Wales slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, heaps of slate waste were thought to total 750m tonnes.
The Railway Consultancy was therefore requested to help Locum and McAlpines with a business case for the removal of slate waste by rail. Blaenau has the unusual feature of a station with two different gauges – the national rail line to Llandudno Junction, and the narrow-gauge Ffestiniog railway to Porthmadog. The latter was easier to access but the dock at Porthmadog limited to ships of 5000 tonnes. The national rail line functions as a single track with minimal facilities, and operational plans were drawn up to assess the facilities required for an operation of several trains of 1000 tonnes per day. Particular scrutiny was put on the costs quoted for works, in order to avoid the ‘gold-plating’ of the scheme. Whilst our proposals seemed to indicate that there was a business case for rail (especially to the Manchester area), the scheme unfortunately did not come to fruition because eventually the Welsh Assembly were not able to support the Freight Facilities Grant because of the reported £63m total cost of the scheme.
Last updated: Sunday, 18th December 2016
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