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West Drayton rail optimisation

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West Drayton rail optimisation

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Loading of soils and planings
1 of 3 | Loading of soils and planings
Unloading of aggregate restoration materials
2 of 3 | Unloading of aggregate restoration materials
Another load ready for distribution
3 of 3 | Another load ready for distribution

West Drayton site restored using efficient rail backhaul and high quality aggregate materials

Key facts

Sector: Rail
  • 30,000 tonnes of recycled asphalt planings removed from site
  • Large quantities of materials imported to ensure site inkeeping with surroundings
  • Rail expertise within Aggregate Industries allows efficient use of national rail hubs and network to remove hundred of lorry journeys from roads


Aggregate Industries, leading manufacturer and supplier of construction and building materials, had processed Asphalt from its two plant in West Drayton for more than two decades when it was decommissioned at the beginning of 2014.

Under standard industry protocol for the decommissioning of this sort of facility, Aggregate Industries was responsible for restoring the land to a standard which would be deemed beneficial to the surrounding landscape – a responsibility the company feels is of great importance.

As part of this process, a large amount of unsuitable soils and 30,000 tonnes of recycled Asphalt planings needed to be removed from site and transported to a number of locations throughout the UK. In addition to this, large quantities of replacement materials needed to be brought on to site to re-level the regenerated ground. For many years the two plants had been serviced by their own rail head, and this vital transport link was identified as the most efficient and cost effective way of moving both the outbound and inbound loads.

Materials were to be transported to and from the site from a variety of locations.  By managing the sequence of the inbound and outbound materials it was possible to further improve the cost and efficiencies of the operation by creating backhaul services.  This would eradicate the need for additional rail or road freight, keeping carbon consumption to an absolute minimum. 

Backhaul is a common practice for many industries, including aggregate manufacturing, but because of their strict timetables constraints, rail delivery services rarely lend themselves to this cost and fuel saving exercise. 


Simon Blake, General Manager for Midlands Rail, at Aggregate Industries explains:

“Rail deliveries are made from our quarries to railheads situated in major conurbations for use in the construction industry, and it is rare that materials suitable for rail hauling are required to move in the reverse direction.  Additionally specialist equipment is required to discharge the majority of the wagons we operate, which is not available at our quarry sites.”

The project at West Drayton was extremely complex and required a number of entirely new rail flows to be created to export materials to Heathrow, Greenwich, Isle of Grain, Milton Keynes and Teeside in sequence with material imports from Isle of Grain and Torr.

The site remediation project was operating to a tight schedule and the co-ordination of the different sites and rail services being provided had to be faultless.

As the full scale of the logistical challenge because clear, the team identified the potential to create the perfect backhaul.  Achieving this notoriously difficult process was an exciting prospect for all involved and the Aggregate Industries team set about coordinating the processing of the replacement materials and the loading of the unwanted earth in line with the designated train times.

The team’s expertise and dedication paid off, when in October 2014, they converted the opportunity and achieved the perfect backhaul.  Trains from West Drayton exported materials to the Isle of Grain and returning fully loaded to West Drayton with imported material to assist with the site remediation. 

Simon Blake concludes, “Rail haulage is often considered slow and inflexible, however this project has proven with planning, co-ordination and a desire to succeed from all parties involved, rail can deliver the flexibility and complexity needed to make projects like this a real success.”

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West Drayton rail optimisation

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