Rail transport of gypsum will avoid thousands of lorry journeys a year

GYPSUM which is a by-product of Drax Power Station is to be transported by rail to Gascoigne Wood – close to British Gypsum's plasterboard factory at Sherburn-in-Elmet – avoiding over 11,000 heavy lorry movements a year.

Selby MP John Grogan took up the case of local residents who opposed an alternative solution in which the gypsum would have been taken by train to railfreight company EWS's maintenance yard at South Milford before continuing its journey by lorry.

But EWS Energy and British Gypsum have reached a commercial agreement with UK Coal to introduce rail freight services to Gascoigne Wood. The rail operations between Drax and British Gypsum will begin early next year and will avoid over 11,000 lorry movements per annum.

EWS Energy's Sales and Marketing Manager, David White, said: "We can confirm that we will no longer be proceeding with the option to use South Milford for this freight operation.

"We have been grateful to the co-operation of the Environmental Office of Selby District Council, North Yorkshire Highways and the local residents at South Milford while consideration was being given to that site."

UK Coal's Commercial Contracts Director Phil Garner added: "This new agreement with EWS Energy is a significant development in the regeneration of the Gascoigne Wood site, the first of several rail-traffic contracts which we anticipate will create hundreds of new jobs. The transportation of gypsum by rail has substantial environmental advantages which we hope will be welcomed by the local communities."

Gypsum is a valuable by- product of the flue-gas desulphurisation process used to clean emissions from the chimney at Drax, south of Selby, which is the biggest coal fired generator of electricity in Britain.

A planning condition restricts the quantity of gypsum which can be transported from Drax by road to Sherburn-in-Elmet to 200,000 tonnes. But British Gypsum, which opened a new plasterboard factory at Sherburn in the summer, is approaching the limit.

The company has had a plant at Sherburn for 50 years but the new factory, which is capable of producing enough plasterboard to cover the whole of Belgium each year, has seen its workforce double to 140.

Mr Grogan welcomed the decision to use Gascoigne Wood. He said: "It is a very sensible solution and one which I suggested they look at a couple of months ago. Gascoigne Wood was a railhead long before it was a mine. It will make a much more appropriate site than Milford Down Yard. I would like to congratulate the three companies in talking to each other to get this solution."

The gypsum will still need to complete its journey by road.