Doncaster iPort on track as rail link-up completed

Steve Freeman, iport Rail MD, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP iport Rail Link MC 2
Steve Freeman, iport Rail MD, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP iport Rail Link MC 2

One of the latest chapters in Doncaster's history as a major rail town is finally on track - literally.

Work has been on schedule for the new multimillion pound iPort rail port to open next year - but now the final link has been completed on the railway tracks at the site which means it is now connected to the railway network.

The Rail Link to the iport has been completed. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP iport Rail Link MC 5

The Rail Link to the iport has been completed. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP iport Rail Link MC 5

All that now remains before it can spring into action is the connection of signals and trains will be running into the siding, with that part of the work due to be completed in January.

For the boss at the rail site, close to junction three of the M18, near Rossington, it is a busy time with the operation moving closer and closer to coming into operation, with recruitment for the first of the staff who will work there due to start soon.

The £400 million iPort is one of the main businesses to have been set up to work with the new White Rose Way airport link road, and a number of firms are already in place and running on the site. Amazon is already there, and Lidl and Fellowes are also high profile businesses signed up for units there.

The site is still full of men in hard hats wearing hi-vis - but the railport section of the site is close to completion, with some work still to be finished on its administrative buildings, and then some hard standing to be laid down to store the large metal containers which will be use to ship goods in and out of the site.

The iPort, looking out towards the new nature reserve

The iPort, looking out towards the new nature reserve

Managing director of iPort Rail, Steve Freeman, is now in talks with some of the biggest players in the transport world to get the ball rolling on the site.

So far it has a 1km stretch of track, which will enable trains of up to 750 m to fit into the site. Once they are in, the longest of trains will have to be split up so that they can fit into the area for loading and unloading. Trains will be able to pull up to around 60 containers.

There will be no cranes. The loading and unloading will be done using reach stackers. they are described by Mr Freeman as like giant fork lift trucks, with telescopic arms which can stack the huge containers in piles of up to five.

The planned operation when the trains arrive would have lorries ready and waiting to pick up cargo. They would queue up and be loaded up with incoming cargo, or to have cargo unloaded to head out onto the railways.Trains would go all the way to the ports.

Doncaster already has one rail port, next to White Rose Way, which is operated by Freightliner. The new one will be operated independently so that it can be used by all rail firms and all hauliage companies.

Mr Freeman said: "Some trains and lorries will be emptied, some will be filled.

"We are now looking at mid-January for the the site to be fully signalled and ready to go, although we should be able to get trains in ahead of that, and we have already got somone wanting to store containers head of that.

"We have also been talking to the ports - we've been talking to ports including to Felixstowe, London Gateway, Humber Ports and Teesport. And we are in advanced talks with the rail operaters, DB Cargo, GB Railfreight and Freightliner. Now we just have a few concrete aprons to be built.

"The railport is going to serve the whole area. It will bring goods into Doncaster, but it will also talks goods made here and distribute them all around the UK and Europe."

The firms in the warehouses next to the port are not yet signed up to use the rail link - but Mr Freeman hopes to get them on board to use the rail link too.

Business leaders are excited about the imminent opening.

Coun Bill Mordue, Doncaster Council's cabinet member for business, skills and economic development, said: “The growth at iPort has been nothing short of remarkable.

"Already home to multinational tenants, the creation of their terminal and connection to the rail network is another significant step forward for their ambitious plans and with Doncaster firms employed in the works it is a further boost to our growing economy.

"Our vision to create Great Yorkshire Way which enabled iPort to progress continues to pay huge dividends. iPort is a real success story for Doncaster and Yorkshire.”

Getting close to nature

A major nature reserve is taking shape in the shadow of the iPort.

As part of the plans to create what is a major industrial site on what was previously green field site, developer Verdion also agreed to set up a nature reserve for wildlife.

It is also set to see facilities for the public, with cycle tracks around the vast site, as well as footpaths.

Work carried out so far has created a number of high profile lakes, which are visible to motorists using junction three of the M18.

Earth extracted in the creation of the lakes was moved to fill in a natural lake elsewhere on the site.

The new lakes are expected to be stocked with fish, and will be naturally filled by existing streams.

The developer at the site, Verdion, is carrying out the building work at the site at present, but the site is expected to be managed by another organisation in the long term.

One of the organisations which has been involved in the plans for the nature reserve is the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

The trust already operates the nearby Potteric Carr nature reserve, and it is on the advisory committee for the new reserve, although no decision has yet been made over who will manage the site when it is completed.

A spokesman for the trust said the main landscaping - such as the digging of the lakes - was finished, and seeding and planting is ongoing.

She said: "The developer Verdion are doing all the works but then it will be managed by someone else in the longer term.

"There will be some access along an existing bridleway and a new one, to allow people to visit. It will be a great addition to the habitat in that part of Doncaster, right by YWT Potteric Carr and Carr Lodge nature reserves.

"There are already birders going over there and records of sightings can be found on the Doncaster birding blog.

She added: "A cycleway connecting Carr Lodge housing development / Dominion to the iPort is being put in to allow people to cycle to work."