East Midlands air and freight operators report record Christmas

Clare James, East Midlands Airport

New figures show that record volumes of goods were handled by the region’s air and rail operators in the run-up to the festive period.

Much of the demand was driven by consumers who turned to online shopping in a year when lockdowns and restrictions closed many non-essential shops.

East Midlands Airport recorded its “heaviest” ever peak season for air cargo. Some 46,320 tonnes of goods were handled at EMA in December, an increase of 43% compared with the same month in 2019 (32,281). This means that December 2020 was the airport’s heaviest ever month for goods, eclipsing the previous record set in November. This is in complete contrast to the passenger operation which has been reduced to 10% of normal levels due to the impact of the pandemic.

SEGRO, which owns logistics site, East Midlands Gateway, next to the airport, said that trends such as the shift to e-commerce and the rise of new technology were accelerated in 2020 largely due to the pandemic. These have been factors in driving demand for more industrial space. There is little sign of this ebbing away as shoppers continue to buy goods online, the firm said.

Maritime, operators of the Strategic Rail Freight terminal at SEGRO Logistics Park East Midlands Gateway, also saw a rise in freight volume in the second half of the year with an average of 1,500 containers a week to and from Felixstowe, London Gateway, Liverpool and Southampton ports moving through their facility.

The strong performance of local logistics operators comes as a bid for an inland Freeport in the East Midlands is being prepared for submission on February 5.

John Bailey, Maritime managing director, said: “Six months ago, our terminal was full of stock that retailers didn’t want and there was little activity throughout the day. To see the operation now processing up to 400 vehicles every 24 hours, keeping customer goods flowing around the UK and rest of the world is deeply satisfying. We are delighted with the facility SEGRO has built us and most importantly the dedication and commitment of our Maritime colleagues and rail partners that have made the operation such a success.”

Andrew Pilsworth, SEGRO national logistics managing director, said: “We have continued to see the demand for well located, modern industrial warehousing rise over the year. The vital role that logistics has played during the ongoing pandemic is clear – be it delivering goods to consumers, continuing to provide employment opportunities or contributing to the UK economy.”

Clare James, East Midlands Airport’s managing director, said: “This year has demonstrated the critical importance of the EMA air cargo operation, not just for the movement of consumer items, but for businesses that need to get parts or finished products to market quickly and for the rapid movement of critical medical supplies and equipment throughout the pandemic. While our passengers are temporarily unable to leave home to catch holiday flights, the contribution of the airport to the UK and the region during the last year has been more important than ever.”

Chris Hobson, director of policy and external affairs at East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, said: “The region’s strengths are built on specialisms in logistics and manufacturing. As we look ahead to a post-Covid revival, these cornerstones will provide a platform for economic success in the future and, in particular, if a bid for Freeport status is successful, it will bind some of the key sites that are instrumental to our ability to make and move goods.”