By late 1987, it had
been proposed that Willesden would be the main yard at which marshalling of
Channel Tunnel freight trains would take place. Customs clearance for such loads
would also be undertaken here, in addition to using an alternative ‘’check-in’’
facility proposed at Ashford. Concern had been raised on the issue of
centralising all freight on Willesden, for it reduced flexibility and ensured
train despatches would be delayed. For instance, freight from Crewe would first
have to stop off at Willesden for customs clearance, before proceeding onto the
tunnel portal. Another, more desirable option, was to marshal and give clearance
to freights at their originating point. Railfreight Distribution came on the
scene on 10th October 1988, after the merger of SpeedLink and Freightliner, and
in 1989 the Business Sector decided to opt for the latter strategy. Despite
taking these measures to allow freight an uninterrupted passage across the
country and to the tunnel portal, there was one stop which trains could not
avoid: that at Dollands Moor.
Dollands Moor had been part of the Channel Tunnel plan since the British and French governments ratified the ''Fixed Link Treaty'' in Canterbury on 29th July 1987. The yard formed an operational security requirement of Chunnel freight, where final safety inspections could be undertaken before formations embarked on their journey to the continent; hence, it is officially known as a ‘’freight inspection facility’’. Construction on this mass of electrified lines began in January 1988, some two miles west of the tunnel portal. From start to finish, the complex was 0.9 miles long and when completed, comprised ten loop sidings (and one bypass line) capable of accommodating formations half a mile in length. Predictions concerning the level of Chunnel freight traffic suggested that the capacity of Dollands Moor yard alone would not be enough, thus additional sidings at Ashford were to be used for freight inspection, too. Whilst existing primarily for safety checking, the yard was also to be used as an exchange point between diesel and electric motive power. To check that the overhead wires were functioning correctly, Class 86 No. 86208 ''City of Chester'' was brought to the site on 24th April 1992, Class 47 No. 47973 having hauled it across the South Eastern Division from Willesden.
With the commencement of Eurostar services through the Channel Tunnel on 14th November 1994, a noticeable flaw in the track design came to light. This centred on ‘’Continental Junction’’, which was positioned at the eastern end of Dollands Moor and was the point of convergence for the Chunnel line, the domestic Kent Coast route, and the freight yard. Eurostar services were, at times, subject to delays caused by freights exiting the yard and incoming Kent Coast services. Consequently, in 2002, it was decided to move the junction approximately ¾ mile westwards. This was to allow the re-alignment of the Kent Coast line in order to accommodate the newly elevated track bed of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. The latter came into use on 28th September 2003, offering shorter journey times. Since November 1997, EWS has operated the freight inspection yard at Dollands Moor, having bought out Railfreight Distribution on the 22nd of that month.
15th July 1995
Early days at Dollands Moor: Class 47 No. 47326 is seen wearing the final version of the ''Railfreight Distribution''
two-tone grey livery. Named ''Saltley Depot Quality Approved'' in December 1994, this locomotive was scrapped
in October 2006. © David Glasspool Collection
18th June 2006
A general westward view over the site encompasses what was the original set-up, before the CTRL. In the
foreground is the double-track which, until September 2003,was used by Trans Manche Super Trains during
voltage changeover between third rail and overhead wires. These rails now seem to have a layer of rust upon
them, but the overhead wires are still maintained above. In the background can just be seen an MPV.
18th June 2006
Three Class 92s are in evidence, the nearest two being No. 92011 ''Handel'' and No. 92037 ''Sullivan'', on the
left and right respectively. In addition to being an inspection yard, the location is also where a change of
motive power often occurs, diesel giving over to electric for continent-bound freight, and sometimes the
reverse happening for UK-bound traffic. There are 40 drivers based at the yard. David Glasspool
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