Caroline Bennett of Plymouth’s ethical sustainable fish co-operative enterprise Sole of Discretion brings us this account of the west country’s railways carrying fresh produce to market:
The train has quite simply saved our business. We started using the Great Western Railway 3pm Plymouth to London Paddington High Speed Train service on a daily basis (Monday to Friday) in July 2017. Farmdrop place their order with us at midday, we then pack the fish in insulated boxes and load them on the 3pm train. Farmdrop receive the produce in Enfield, London around 7pm each night, well before their next day 9am cut off point.
In 2017 we didn’t have one failure. In 2018 we’ve had just one, although other disruptions have meant that we have not been able to use the service from time to time. On balance, it has been a fantastic service, and although it is considerably more expensive than a road courier, when lost income is taken in to account from the failed deliveries, it is a very good deal indeed.
The new Hitachi Intercity Express Trains coming into service have no power cars to carry the produce and we are therefore having to consider alternatives. We hope that a suitable solution can be found – it would be a great shame if the railway ceases to be part of making it possible for small-scale businesses like us in the south west to thrive!