Phil Marsh

UK Rail Leasing up and running with three freight operators and names first of its locomotives

Published: 30th January 2016

Rail Operations Group, Europhoenix and Electric Traction Ltd relocate engineering base to Leicester

UK Rail Leasing (UKRL) is a start-up company who spotted a gap in the freight locomotive spot hire market in 2013 and reported on this in 2014 at

They have based their 20 strong fleet of Class 56 and Class 37 locomotives at the former DB Schenker depot Leicester. They have now achieved accreditation as traction suppliers to Freightliner, Devon & Cornwall Railways (D&CR) and Rail Operations Group (ROG).

Overhaul and maintenance based at Leicester

Three companies have moved their maintenance and overhaul operation to the UKRL base at Leicester which has a new five-year Lease. Europhoenix, Electric Traction Ltd and ROG have contracted UKRL to carry out locomotive renovation and maintenance and as part of this arrangement, ETL’s Class 86 electric locomotive was overhauled at Leicester and is now in service with the Serco operated sleeper franchise.

The next locomotive being returned to main line service is Class 37 No. 37800 and as sister locomotive, No. 37884, will be fitted with a Dellner coupler. Both locomotives are owned by Europhoenix but are subject to a long lease to ROG who will be using them for moving electric units around the UK between depots and Works.

UKRL has returned to service three of its fleet of Class 56 diesel locomotives for non-passenger national network work and these have been used by Freightliner, Devon & Cornwall Railways and ROG. Privately owned main line registered 56301is also based at Leicester.

Facilities at Leicester Depot improve and the purchase of lifting jacks enables more services to be offered. The depot’s fueling point is about to be re-activated providing a one-stop garage at a railway crossroads. After a couple of years activities, the UKRL workforce has become a skilled team accredited as skilled engineers in the railway supply chain. They have rewritten the overhaul and maintenance regime instructions for their locomotives bringing better performance than in previous decades.

Re-engineering the fleet

The remainder of the UKRL Class 56 fleet is likely to be re-engineered to provide an ‘as new’ locomotive at around 60% of the cost of a Class 68 or 70 locomotive. Another benefit of this project is the lead time to supply them. These will take around 18 months to deliver against a lead time of five years for new locomotives. Once operational, it is expected that the operational costs will be far less than existing locomotives offering a further benefit to freight operators.

It is well known in the container by rail business that the profit is only generated by the last three or four containers on a train. If costs can be reduced by 40% then the freight operation becomes more profitable for operators. The benchmark operational characteristics will be aimed at bettering the performance of a Class 66 but at a significantly cheaper cost.

Fuel research and development project at Leicester

Costs may be further reduced at the end of a project to test a fuel additive which increases compression and reduces fuel used which is currently under test on a UKRL Class 56 at Leicester. Initial results indicate a marked improvement in running costs and the testing continues.

What work could the re-engined fleet be used on?

Many of the UKRL fleet was used in France and Spain in the last decade on high speed line construction trains. The plans for HS2 are well advanced and with the East West Rail project between Bedford, Cambridge and Bicester and Aylesbury there will be a need for similar trains and motive power.

The other major project looming is the fitment of all locomotives with European Rail Traffic Management System equipment so a reserve fleet will be required.

First UKRL naming

The UKRL maintained fleet of four Class 56s at Leicester is now averaging 24,000 between casualties and non has failed in traffic. They were delighted to be able to name No. 56098 ‘The Lost Boys 1968-88’ on January 15th. This group relates to footplate staff who were recruited in that 20 year period who have formed a 1000 strong self-help group to assist those members who have fallen on difficult times.

The locomotive was named by DB Schenker operations Standards Manager Nick Edwards and Chiltern Railways’ Steve Roast.

Maintenance and Overhaul facilities at Leicester

The depot has a single pit-road in the shed long enough for two locomotives and a covered one locomotive long side berth. There are eight acres of sidings where stabling facilities are available.

The depot is equipped to undertake full overhaul and maintenance of class 56s, class 37s, class 47s and class 86s including all Maintenance Exams.

This includes;

  • Power unit work from full overhaul and rebuild to maintenance using specialist power unit engineers.
  • Body side repair and re-fabrication from a welding specialist as well as full cab refurbishments.
  • All electrical work (other than train borne safety equipment, which would be sub-contracted) can be undertaken at Leicester.
  • Leicester also has the capacity to undertake wheel-bearing replacements in house.
  • UKRL can also undertake all brake system overhaul and maintenance and will soon have a brake and air valve testing rig.
  • Compressor overhaul and repairs.
  • Traction Motor Changes.
  • Load Banking. UKRL currently has load bank on site and has experience of operation and testing.

Component supply

UKRL is able to source all class 56, 37, 47 and 86 components and has developed an ever-growing supplier network often with considerable savings to traditional sources.

UKRL has an Industry compliant Safety Management System (SMS) having been approved as a supplier of locomotives and maintenance to three UK Operating Companies. As part of our SMS, UKRL fully approves all suppliers of Safety Critical components and services including all sub-contractors. All acquired components are recorded onto the SMS to ensure a full audit trail is available as required.

We have developed and completely rewritten a class 56 VMOI and all UKRL operated and maintained class 56s are subject to this regime of maintenance and overhaul.

All work undertaken at UKRL is fully documented with job cards and other data collection. These are input into our SMS to enable various customer management records and reports to

External Links

Liverpool street station in the UK at rush hour

Help and advice with train travel in the UK

Train travel in the UK should be a pleasure, not a headache. So if you’re taking a train on the UK railway, start your journey here. We’ve lots of hints, tips and advice to help you find your way around, travel smoothly and arrive in style by train.

Read more

eurostars passing at 375mph from the drivers seat in france


Welcome to our #railchat page. Our #railchat discussions take place over on Twitter, with our resident expert Phil Marsh. If you would like to get involved, please do join us, and use the dedicated hashtag #railchat. See our previous discussions below:

Read more

Old steam train in Shanty Town Museum

Locomotives & Engines

Our rail network would be nothing without them. From Stephenson's Rocket to British Rail Class 92 and beyond, explore the facts, information and anecdotes behind the steam, diesel and electric locomotives that built the age of the train.

Read more


Latest Tweets


Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh to London Kings Cross by Train

Book in advance with and save 85% advanced bookings.

From £21.00

Buy now

Millenium Dome, London

Birmingham New Street to London Euston by Train

Book in advance with and save 92% on advance bookings.

From £6

Buy now

You may also like...



Follow us on Twitter and become part of our rail community! is the easy way to buy cheap train tickets online.



Control your business fuel costs with a supermarket fuel card – free to apply, no ongoing account charges and no monthly minimum spend.