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GBRf spends £50m on new Class 66/7s and Class 92s

Twenty-one brand new Class 66/7s have been ordered by GB Railfreight, with delivery beginning in July.

The operator has also purchased 16 second-hand Class 92s, adding up to the largest single acquisition of locomotives since EWS bought 250 Class 66s in 1996.
The two deals represent investment by GBRf of more than £50 million on new locomotives, as it looks to expand its business. The company currently has a turnover of £108m, and expects to reach £150m within five years.

GBRf Managing Director John Smith told RAIL that the new Class 66s will be built by Electro Motive Diesels at its Muncie assembly site in Indiana. They will be the first ‘66s’ built for the UK to be manufactured at the site, and will be delivered in two batches of eight and one of five, with the first batch due to set sail in June. All will be in the UK by September.
The new locomotives are needed for new Network Rail and biomass contracts, and other flows. They will be built to the same specifications as the three Class 66s GBRf imported from Holland last year (66747-66749), the last of the design built. This means they will have different interior cab designs to the company’s other ‘66s’.

Smith explained that so far only Liverpool and Tyne Dock-based drivers have been trained on the Dutch ‘66s’, which has limited their use to the North. He told RAIL that it takes one day for drivers to learn the newer cab layout, and that all its staff will be trained on the design.

Meanwhile, GBRf has bought the 16 Class 92s outright from sister company Eurosco (both companies are owned by Eurotunnel). Smith said buying the ‘92s’ offers flexibility, and enables the firm to target contracts where electric locomotives are more beneficial. They also help the company in its campaign to see routes such as Nuneaton-Birmingham and Ipswich-Felixstowe electrified.

Not all of the ‘92s’ will return to traffic, he said. Six are operational, and at most another six would be reactivated. GBRf already has work for five now, with more contracts in the pipeline. “It is at the stage now, where they are asking where the locomotives are. They are needed,” he told RAIL.

The purchase of the ‘66s’ brings to a conclusion orders for the current design. Any locomotives on order must be delivered to the UK by December 31, to meet emissions standards. Smith said this presents a problem in the future, because there are no diesel locomotives currently available. Class 68s and ‘70s’ on order and currently being delivered are also governed by these rules.

Smith said GBRf is happy with the number of locomotives it now has, but is always on the lookout for more. In the short-term, it has to hire locomotives such as Class 20s and 47s from smaller operators, as well as preserved heritage locomotives such as D1015 Western Champion and Deltic 55022 Royal Scots Grey.

This deal takes the number of Class 66s ordered for the UK to 466. The first (66001) was delivered in April 1998 for EWS. Of those that followed, 89 were subsequently exported for use in Europe with EWS/DB Schenker and Freightliner. Two locomotives have been scrapped (66521 and 66734), while 66048 is also unlikely to be repaired. All three were damaged in accidents.

  • This news feature was originally published in RAIL 741 on 5 February 2014

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