EXCLUSIVE: Faster rolling stock to shift logistics traffic onto rail

The return of high-speed logistics for the UK railway forms a key part of Rail Operations (UK) Limited’s ambitions.

Speaking exclusively to RAIL, Chief Executive Officer Karl Watts said that a new company, Orion, had been formed under the ROL umbrella.

“It’s about modal shift from road to rail. We looked at this a few months ago. We recognised that actually this never worked in the past as the timings never worked.”

He said the number of commercial vehicles on roads had “gone through the roof”, and that although the number of Heavy Goods Vehicles on roads was in decline, the number of Light Goods Vehicles had risen. Watts explained that in 2012 there were 1.5 billion parcels delivered, whereas in 2020 that figure will be 4.6 billion.

Watts plans to make use of some of the 4,000 passenger vehicles being sent off-lease, and has signed an agreement with Porterbrook to lease two tri-mode Class 769 FLEX units for this work. Orion is also interested in High Speed Trains, as well as electric traction.

He told RAIL that for the logistics market, speed is essential: “We looked at parcels operations, although I prefer to call it logistics. On secondary routes we think 100mph would suffice. By these I mean off the premier routes. The premier routes are the East Coast and West Coast Main Lines - the Anglo-Scottish routes. These need 125mph for the paths ideally.

“When talking to potential customers, we have found that we need credible timings. Network Rail has told the freight industry that paths need surrendering and several thousand have been given up, but the capacity is there if you can live with 125mph Pendolinos or Azumas. We need to get going, fast - and then keep going.”

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  • AndrewJG8918 - 04/01/2019 13:34

    With Great Western Railway, Northern and Transport for Wales (KeliosAmey Cymru) to receive the Class 769s this year and next year. Could Southern order some of the Class 769 and to remove the extra carriage to become 3-Car so that it can operate on Brighton-Ashford International Marshlink Line service running on DC 750v 3rd Rail between Brighton and Ore and Diesel between Ore-Ashford International with the Class 171 currently being used on the Marshlink Line to be transferred to operate on Uckfield Line and possibly between Redhill-Guildford. What about converting other older EMU trains such as Class 317. Class 317 EMUs could be planned for conversion with diesel engine or battery so that Class 317 can operate on AC 25kv Overhead and on Non-electrified lines. Or will Class 317 end up unused because of Class 720 and Class 745 are replacing these trains and are most likely to be sent for storage and out of use.

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  • AndrewJG8918 - 06/01/2019 22:43

    Perhaps Class 769s should enter service on Northern & GWR in Spring/Summer 2019. And TfW to introduce the Class 769 late 2019 or early/mid 2020.

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  • Nigel Bainbridge - 14/01/2019 11:20

    The idiot that took mail trains off the network needs to be put in a padded cell and throwing the key away. All those jobs lost, royal mail staff maintanance staff and drivers. the mail trains should have never been took off the network. As they are thinking of reinstating them Instead of using stored passenger trains for mail why not use the redundaant mail coaches that are all over the network. all they will need is maintanance work and saftey checks and that will save money that could be better spent on running the mail service

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