Burkhardt was to leave the business before the last Class 66s arrived in the UK for EWS. He says: “It’s interesting that one factor that led to my blow-up with the banker-led EWS board was the commitment to the Class 66 order.
“The EWS board felt the company was over-committed financially, while their interest lay in squeezing cash out of the existing operation. Following my departure, they explored cancellation of that part of the order that hadn’t been delivered, only to find out that EMD’s terms permitting cancellation were too onerous.
“But EWS never followed up on the second part of the plan, and instead the new management lost significant traffic to competitors , that allowed replacement of most of the legacy fleet by the 250 plus 30 units in the initial order.”
The operators Burkhardt alludes to were the likes of Freightliner, GBRf and Direct Rail Services, all of which committed to Class 66 fleets.
He says: “It was those other operators, who became effective competitors for freight traffic as EWS focused on short-term returns, who acquired over time the second batch of 250 units. I’m not sure of the exact fleet size with the latest addition by GBRF, but it must be near 250.
“This locomotive revolutionised rail freight in the UK, and since has spread throughout Europe and beyond. It fulfilled our most exacting requirements, and remains Europe’s best diesel locomotive.
“I remember well operating the first unit around the test track at EMD’s plant in London, Ontario . Tonight I’m drinking a toast to this extraordinary locomotive, and its role in securing a solid future for rail freight in the UK!”
- This feature was published in RAIL 796 on March 16 2016.