Welsh Slate re-opens Llandudno Junction railhead

Welsh Slate's new railhead
Welsh Slate

The new railhead opened by Welsh Slate.

A joint initiative between Welsh Slate owner Breedon Group, Network Rail and the Welsh Government has brought the disused freight yard sidings at Llandudno Junction back to life.

The Llandudno Junction freight yard had not been used for many years, but vegetation removal, track repairs and refurbishment of the points that allow trains to move into the sidings have brought it back into service.

The yard is near Welsh Slate's main Penrhyn Quarry. The main purpose of re-opening the freight yard is to make it easier to move up to 260,000 tonnes of Welsh Slate aggregates, ranging from sub-base to decorative aggregate, a year, with trains running weekly.

Typically, the trains will carry 1,500 tonnes of material at a time rather than the 28 tonnes an individual lorry can carry. Using trains will cut CO2 emissions, road traffic and operating costs, making it economically and environmentally viable to transport the aggregates further afield.

Welsh Slate is famous for its roofing slates, but it takes the removal of a lot of slate to produce the roofing slates. Some of the waste has always been sold as aggregate but the new railhead should mean more of it can now be sold. Waste slate tipped down the sides of mountains is a feature of the landscape of Snowdonia, now part of a World Heritage Site.

The first freight train to leave the refurbished railhead was taking the equivalent of 76 lorry-loads of Welsh Slate Hard Grey Type 1 sub-base aggregates to Luton.

Welsh Slate became part of the Breedon Group in 2018, when Breedon bought the previous owner, the Irish Lagan Group (read more about that here).

Breedon, based in Derbyshire, already operates several other railheads around the UK, and this latest investment will further improve its distribution network for customers and lower the carbon footprint of Breedon operations.

The project was supported by the Freight Facilities Grant Scheme, which encourages modal shifts to deliver environmental benefits by removing HGVs from roads.

Andy Roberts, Breedon’s General Manager for the West of England & North Wales, says: “At Breedon, we have a strong commitment to sustainability. We recognise the important practical and environmental benefits of rail freight, so we are pleased that this new facility will allow a greater range of slate materials to be delivered across the UK in a more sustainable manner. We are delighted to have worked with the Welsh Government and our partners to invest in this high-quality freight facility in North Wales.”

John Smith, Chief Executive Officer at GB Railfreight, which is operating the trains, added: “We’re delighted to be transporting slate aggregates from Llandudno Junction. It is encouraging to see the Government and the private sector come together to enable a service that will transport key construction materials, create employment opportunities, and drive local growth. This new service will demonstrate the commercial, environmental and safety benefits of transporting goods by rail freight.”

In addition to road and rail, Welsh Slate also ships slate aggregates by sea to destinations in the UK and Europe from Port Penrhyn in Bangor.