Stobart on track for six new rail services

Eddie Stobart is looking to launch another six train services this year to add to its existing rail freight operation for retailer Tesco, according to chief executive Andrew Tinkler. He says that two services from the Midlands are "very close" to launch and will hopefully be announced within the next month. Tinkler adds: "They reduce truck miles and save fuel, so they work both environmentally and commercially." However, Tinkler stresses that a rail service can only work if it attains 100% utilisation for both legs of the journey.

On the Tesco operation, which sends one train per day from Daventry to Grange-mouth, five days a week, Tesco freight is loaded on the northbound journey and then a mix of Tesco and other customers' products for the return leg. Tinkler says that the firm will look to work with customers to switch freight to non-road modes where possible. It is currently planning to upgrade its facility at the Port of Weston near Widnes to allow it to accept feeder ships, but Tinkler says that this will not proceed without customer backing.

He also revealed that the group wouldn't rule out future acquisitions if the right opportunity presented itself. Last week the firm announced pre-tax profit of £3.5m in the year to 29 February (MT 15 May), although Tinkler prefers to use another figure, the Earnings After Fleet Financing Costs (EAFFC), which was £5.4m for Stobart Group, £9.5m for Eddie Stobart and £2.5m for O'Connor Group.