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Tesco on railway infrastructure: Less trucks, more trains

Tesco on railway infrastructure: Less trucks, more trains
photo: Tesco/Tesco
29 / 06 / 2021

Tesco recently launches new rail service from Spain, bringing fresh vegetables and fruit to its Barking depot five days a week.

This year, there is a shortage of up to 100,000 truck drivers in Britain. This is due to so many European workers returning home after Brexit. Other drivers left due to Covid's restrictions. At the same time, eliminating dropouts has had an impact on the workforce, while fewer truck drivers have been trained during the lockdown. On top of the logistical problems, there is also a lack of production, as many workers are on holiday after furlough. We also add the extra demand for food because most Brits will stay home in the summer, so more food is needed than usual.

Industry leaders wrote to the prime minister requesting emergency plans to introduce temporary work visas for truck drivers and to put them on the "job shortage list".

Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that there would be a shortage of 60,000 drivers due to Brexit - out of a total of 600,000 HGV drivers in the UK. However, the lock widened the hole.

Supermarkets do their best to find internal solutions by training new drivers and paying more to tempt drivers back.

However, Tesco paints a grim picture, warning that a shortage of drivers means that up to 48 tonnes of food are lost each week.

The longer-term solution is to provide more freight by train. The movement of food is responsible for a quarter of all kilometers traveled by heavy trucks, polluting the air in the United Kingdom.

Until recently, rail services from the Mediterranean and elsewhere across Europe were not reliable enough to transport fresh produce. The delays meant food was spoiled before it reached the shop window, while the train journey from Spain - where most of the fresh produce comes to the UK - took four days - just like on the way.

With the latest rail upgrades, the journey is up to three days and the newest trains are electric. Tesco is on the fast track: it recently launched a new rail service from Spain, importing fresh vegetables and fruits to its Barking depot five days a week. Four more railways are planned via the United Kingdom, including one that means oranges from Valencia will reach Edinburgh by rail. Other retailers will soon follow Tesco's right decision.

 In this case, we may see a renaissance of freight carried by rail from Europe and within the UK, instead of trucks. Safer, cleaner, and more sustainable.