Posted by: lucylastic | June 4, 2008

Steady Eddie!

I imagine most of you will be familiar with the name ‘Eddie Stobart’ – his lorries took on almost iconic status in the early 2000’s, as ‘Eddie Stobart mania’ swept the land. My friend Gail (link to her site ‘A Curious Girl’s Guide to Life’ below) sometimes comments on spotting Norbert Dentressangle lorries (a rival to Stobart) on her trips from London to Swindon and I did think that there were fewer Stobart lorries around these days. Now I know why. I had no idea how big the Stobart phenomenon is, until I happened across pictures of Stobart Freight Trains in a recent copy of Rail Magazine. Now, I never had myself down as trainspotter material, but my new job at Westinghouse Rail Systems is opening up whole areas of life previously unknown (and consequently undervalued) to me! And the subject of rail freight is fascinating to me! It’s good to like one’s job and I am amazed to find that after only 8 weeks I can speak with passion and commitment on a number of railway infrastructure issues. As with any sector or business, there are winners and losers, leaders and followers and a few who will stop at nothing to get ahead. Westinghouse was created in the 1860’s and was founded by a ‘real’ man – George Westinghouse – who stepped into the breach alongside Brunel’s development of the railways to provide better ways of controlling and (quite importantly) stopping trains. Inside the railway industry in the UK, the name Westinghouse is synonymous with railway design and management – our goal now is to replicate that success abroad. But back to Eddie.

The number of Stobart lorries would lead you to think that the distribution and delivery business is booming – and indeed, it is now – but I was unaware that it went through a very shaky time in the early 2000’s and almost went bust. Already a victim of ever increaing fuel prices and intense competition from overseas, Eddie Stobart sold out to a rail freight comapny – WA Development. In a cruel quirk of business fate, the Eddie Stobart Fan Club actually made more money than the transport business bearing it’s name in 2003!! One can even buy boxed miniatures of the lorries- and they are frequently traded on eBay at a premium. Apparently, Stobart’s train freight services now replace trips previosuly made by 250 lorries per week. So, what next – planes? Actually, yes, demand for air freight continues to grow and Stobart are undertaking an analysis of the viability of creating an air freight operation based in Carlisle – near it’s European HQ. Vehicle spotters will soon be spoilt for choice!

I haven’t got a figure for freight, but did you know that passenger rail contributes just 0.5% of total UK CO2 emissions compared to almost 13% for cars? Nor me. And on average, emissions per passenger KM by rail are half that of cars and a quarter those of domestic aviation. Makes you think doesn’t it? What a shame that it costs about £90 for a standard return from Swindon to London – though with petrol prices rising the way they are, it isn’t long before it’ll cost the same to drive.

 

 

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Responses

  1. Fascinating stuff Lucy, I had wondered myself why there were fewer Eddie Stobart lorries around. Apparently they always used to wave if you waved at the drivers? (Dentressangles don’t!).


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