Parcel delivery firm Evri is to open a £60m parcel sortation hub in Barnsley next Tuesday (20 September).

Named Colossus, the 341,000 sq ft facility is said to be the biggest of its kind in Europe and will sort 1.1 million parcels a day for onward delivery to Evri’s nationwide network of depots.

After a soft launch, the company expects the site, which is strategically placed next to the M1 motorway, to be sorting 5.5m parcels a week by the Black Friday peak, using around 1,400 staff on any one shift.

The construction allows for a third tier of automation to be added as volumes grow. Evri is aiming to sort 1.9 million parcels a day at the site by 2026.

Funded by US private equity investor Advent, which took a 75% stake in Evri in August 2020, the move has created 140 new jobs in the local area including around 300 Class 1 HGV drivers.

Evri head of hub Gareth Shawcroft told MT that the driver shortage was easing and recruitment had gone as planned: “IR35 was difficult but things seem to have recovered," he said. "The work we give to drivers is the better work. There are no deliveries into retail stores. It’s a lot of long-distance trunking - dropping and swapping trailers and returning to base. So we find it easeir to recruit than others do. We also have a higher percentage of female couriers - over 40% of ours are women."

Evri has also relaunched its driver academy, which has moved from its original base in Bradford to Normanton near Castleford. The company has pledged to take on up to 20 apprentices looking to develop careers in the logistics industry.

Around 50% of Evri’s fleet runs on CNG, which it estimates is 80% more carbon efficient than diesel. The company is also using HVO trucks but admits it is struggling to locate sufficient quantities. It will trial electric HGVs next year as well as hydrogen fuel cell options.

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Shawcroft rejected recent claims that e-commerce was seeing a post-pandemic slowdown and said the new hub would drive further growth in the business.

“We had exponential growth during Covid and it's still following an upward trajectory for us,” he said.

"We’re expanding into new markets which will help – clients like Gusto, MuscleFood and Laithwaites Wines. The fresh food market is growing and we want to be part of it. There are further trials coming down the line with these kind of providers. It seems to be increasing in popularity as people want to limit waste.

"We’re also looking at fulfilment and will be opening sites to help SMEs and smaller businesses grow.”

Shawcroft said new camera technology installed at the site will speed up parcel scanning, helping Evri to keep pace with its competitors.

“Everybody is trying to edge out everyone else,” he admitted. “We’ve got a huge team trying to incorporate new technology. A parcel here can take from as little as three minutes from entering the building to being on an outbound trailer.

"The new camera equipment from SICK will hopefully give us an improvement in scan rates. Were currently working towards two-hour delivery slots in an effort to keep up with our competitors. DPD offer one hour slots but that’s something we’re working towards - to become market leader. With food you need that extra level of service."

Asked if high inflation and a drop in consumer spending would hamper growth, Shawcroft said: “We’ll wait and see how it plays out. Who knew how Covid would play out? We’ve even seen retailers shutting down on the purpose-built retail parks, but e-commerce isn't slowing down and we’re bringing new business in all the time. We get about 15-20 new clients a week."