New opportunities created by multi award-winning power station rail project

A project which built specially-designed freight wagons to carry millions of tonnes of biomass a year to the UK’s biggest power station and breathed new life into a disused rail yard has won another prestigious industry award and is exploring opportunities for growth.

The partnership between Drax Power Station, near Selby, in North Yorkshire and Davis Wagon Services saw a new fleet of freight wagons designed and built by WH Davis Ltd to deliver the biomass needed to produce renewable electricity for millions of homes.

It also enabled Davis Wagon Services, a North Lincolnshire-based rail firm, to invest £850,000 in revamping a mothballed Ferrybridge rail yard as a dedicated site to rebrand and maintain the power station’s fleet of 225 unique freight wagons, securing local jobs in the process.

The project has now won the Asset Management and Excellence category in the Rail Business Awards – its second accolade in the last six months – and the Managing Directorof Davis Wagon Services says that, due to the backing from Drax, there are now opportunities to extend the maintenance work at Ferrybridge, creating more jobs.

“I’m immensely proud of the team here and at Drax for what we have achieved working together,”

said John Hall, MD of Davis.

“The success of the project has given huge confidence to our people and the business. We can now look at fully utilising the yard and taking on heavier maintenance, which could reduce the need to outsource work.

“That would bring immediate benefits both in reducing our carbon footprint, as we could do the work on-site, so we wouldn’t have to send wagons elsewhere, and also in securing the employment we currently have and creating more roles in the future.”

L-R Jake Berry, Andy Koss and John Hall.

Drax Power CEO Andy Koss said:

“I’m delighted this project is receiving the industry recognition it deserves.

“Not only has it supported a local business and revitalised a disused facility within the Northern Powerhouse region, but these rail wagons also play a vital role in helping to ensure Drax receives the biomass we need to produce renewable electricity for millions of homes and businesses.”

The Rail Business Award is the second accolade the project has won, having been named Project of the Year by industry body the Rail Freight Group last September.


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Editor’s Notes

  • The rail project – described as a ‘Northern Powerhouse success story’ last year by government minister Jake Berry – began in 2011 when Drax appointed WH Davis, along with Lloyds Register Rail (Ricardo) to design and develop bespoke rail wagons to ferry biomass to the power station, the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.
  • It also saw Davis Wagon Services take on the work to maintain the 225 wagons and the firm is now rebranding the fleet over the next 18 months with new livery featuring both Drax and the Northern Powerhouse logos.
  • Since converting two thirds of its generators to use biomass instead of coal, Drax Power Station has become the largest decarbonisation project in Europe – it now produces enough renewable electricity for four million homes.
  • The majority of the biomass Drax uses comes from North America and Europe on ships to ports on the east and west coasts of the UK (Immingham, Hull, Port of Tyne and Liverpool). It is then taken to the power station from the ports by rail.
  • Drax has an average of 17 biomass trains arriving at the power station per day (over a six-day working week) in order to supply the pellets needed to generate and supply 15 per cent of the UK’s renewable electricity.
  • Each train contains sufficient fuel to provide 815 houses in the UK with enough electricity for a year.
  • The fuel is transported to Drax via rail rather than road, to further reduce carbon emissions, as it is more efficient than road transportation. Using rail saves approximately 270,000 truck journeys per year and is estimated to save 32,622.50 tonnes of C02 per year.
  • Independent research by Oxford Economics using 2017 data showed that Drax supported over 17,500 jobs across the country – more than 6,000 of which were across the North of England (Yorkshire and Humber, North West and North East). In addition Drax generated £600m for the Northern Powerhouse regional economy and £1.6 billion for the whole of the UK.

About Drax

Drax Group’s ambition is to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future. Its 2,600-strong staff operate across three principal areas of activity – electricity generation, electricity sales to business customers and compressed wood pellet production.

Power generation:

Drax owns and operates a portfolio of flexible, low carbon and renewable electricity generation assets across Britain. The assets include the UK’s largest power station, based at Selby, North Yorkshire, which supplies six percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Having converted two thirds of Drax Power Station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal it has become the UK’s biggest renewable power generator and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.

Its pumped storage, hydro and energy from waste assets in Scotland include Cruachan Power Station – a flexible pumped storage facility within the hollowed-out mountain Ben Cruachan.  It also owns and operates four gas power stations in England.

B2B supply:  

Drax owns two B2B energy supply businesses:

  • Haven Power, based in Ipswich, supplies electricity and energy services to large Industrial and Commercial sector businesses.
  • Opus Energy, based in Oxford, Northampton and Cardiff, provides electricity, energy services and gas to small and medium sized (SME) businesses.

Pellet production:

Drax owns and operates three pellet mills in the US South which manufacture compressed wood pellets (biomass) produced from sustainably managed working forests. These pellet mills supply around 20% of the biomass used by Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire to generate flexible, renewable power for the UK’s homes and businesses.

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