By Phil Marsh

Direct Rail Services the nuclear train company orders dual powered locomotives.

Published: 23rd September 2013

The Government owned specialist freight company leads the way with new locomotive order

Carlisle based Direct Rail Services (DRS) has ordered ten state of the art Class 88 dual powered locomotives from Vossloh España in partnership with Beacon Rail Leasing Limited (BRLL). These locomotives are a technical innovation from DRS in the provision of what they call ‘superior traction equipment’ for UK operation and claim they will bring a step change for delivery of freight and passenger services.

Based on the Class 68 locomotive, the Class 88 is a “Dual Mode” locomotive combining both 25kv Electric and Diesel Electric operating modes. Half a century ago, British Railways built the Class 73

Diesel and electric locomotives and many are still used today because of their operational flexibility.

The Class 88 is equipped with 4MW ABB equipment delivering a continuous electric power rating on the 25KV network and a 700kW diesel engine when operating on unelectrified lines giving 317KN of Tractive Effort in both modes.

DRS also says that the locomotive will offer superior adhesion capacity with a top speed of 100mph and can supply the train with 500KW ETH and has regenerative braking. The Class 88 has many parts in common with the Class 68 Locomotive including the bodyshell, driving cabs, brake system, bogies and traction equipment and control software.

One of the benefits of a dual powered locomotive is that it has the ability to use electricity for the main journey and use its diesel engine for the last mile or two into privately owned facilities which are not electrified. DRS and BRLL have worked closely together developing the concept of this locomotive with Vossloh which is now offered to the market on a fully maintained basis. The cost does not rely on large volume orders but short production runs are economically efficient the partnership claims and the lead time is low with the engines due to be in service in two years time.

They said

Neil McNicholas, the Managing Director of DRS, said:

“This considerable investment into a new technology builds on our reputation for industry leading performance through technical innovation. Class 88 locomotives will enhance DRS’s ability to deliver highly competitive and reliable services in the UK, assisting us to rise to the challenge to improve freight and passenger performance on the network.”

Iñigo Parra, President of Vossloh España, said:

“We are very proud by having succeeded to understand and meet the expectations of DRS and the British freight and passenger market, providing with these Dual Mode locomotives innovative solutions, state-of-the-art technology and high-performance”.

Paul McMahon, Network Rail’s Freight Director said:

'This is an exciting development for the UK Railfreight sector. Neil McNicholas and his team at DRS have invested in a truly 21st Century Locomotive which will arrive as the railway launches its largest electrification programme for a generation.

I look forward to the improvements this locomotive can bring in terms of flexibility, service quality, capacity, and unit cost improvements. My team is keen to work with DRS on a smooth introduction of class 88s to the network.”

It has been 21 years since a new electric freight locomotive appeared in the UK for main line use, the Class 92 was the last built for Channel Tunnel rail link (HS1) work. DRS has told that there are no images yet available of the Class 88.

DRS to grow passenger services?

DRS has operated some charter trains for the last few years and is a growing player in this market. They ran a charity charter recently between Carlisle and Newcastle and back to raise funds for charity. It was used to showcase four refurbished carriages and to use a recently purchased Class 37 No. 37261 for the first time on a passenger train in their ownership.

Given the ongoing DB Schenker provision of traincrew troubles has led to that operator losing business, DRS is actively pushing for more work and is understood to have gained extra traffic from DBs.

DRS currently operates ‘The Northern Belle’ luxury train and is looking to run a Carlisle to Sellafield on passenger service mainly to use as a means of transport for it’s employees in the near future. This is proving to be a difficult step as it is mixed up with train operator Northern’s Franchise arrangements with the Government, who own DRS!

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