Passenger trains converted to deliver parcels to city centres

High-speed parcel deliveries will soon be made by rail to satisfy a growing demand for faster freight.

Class 57 57312 & Class 768 768001, Camden Junction Camera 07/07/21. © Railcam UK

Network Rail and distribution firm Orion have today (Wednesday 7 July) showed how the concept works at Euston station.

Former passenger trains are being converted to take goods directly into city centre stations.

As well as online retail, the flexible freight operation could transport other light goods needed in super-fast time by businesses.

Parcels would then see bicycle or van couriers take them for final delivery.

The trains can travel up to 100mph – twice the average speed as road traffic. As well as faster delivery times, the converted trains:

  • Are cleaner than air and road haulage
  • Can access city centres unlike larger scale rail freight or air
  • Can operate on electrified and non-electrified rail
  • Are easy to load and unload onto modes of transport for first and last mile of the journey*

Class 319 passenger trains have been converted into Class 768 units, with each unit made up of 4 carriages, which can fun in formations of 4/8/12 carriages.

The Class 768 units are bi-mode, enabling them to run on both electrified and non-electrified rail, up to 100mph.

Inside each of the trains has been fully re-fitted for logistics use, it can accommodate roll cages, pallets and other customer identified vessels or containers. 1 carriage can fit approximately the same amount of good as 1 articulated lorry.

Daniel Fredriksson, Network Rail customer relationship executive, said: “We’re excited to show what future uses rail has for distribution using Euston as a test site given its important history as a mail rail hub. While parcel trains are by no means a novel concept, more of us buying things online and efforts to get polluting vehicles off roads is revitalising rail as a cost effective and fast way to get goods to consumers and businesses quickly and efficiently.

“Network Rail has been working with Orion as it’s repurposing former passenger trains to serve this new purpose, while opening up the opportunities this has for economic growth as the country emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Karl Watts, chief executive officer for Orion, said: “Orion High Speed Logistics represents a revolution in the way we deliver goods into city centres. Using converted, electrically powered passenger trains, Orion is able to deliver goods into terminal and other principal railway stations where electric road vehicles complete the final mile transportation into city centres.

“The shift from road to rail transportation delivers economic, environmental and social benefits. Each 8-car train removes 24 diesel powered vans from our roads thereby reducing congestion, lowering carbon emissions and improving inner city air quality.”

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, said: “It is really positive to see companies exploring innovative methods like this to transport rail freight. Repurposing former passenger trains will allow light goods to travel to consumers in a faster and greener way, helping to decarbonise our railway, reduce congestion on our roads, and support growth in the rail freight market.

“Through our reforms in the Williams Shapps Plan for Rail we are committed to unlocking the economic and environmental benefits rail freight can deliver, as we look to level up the country and build back greener.”

Some of the UK’s largest parcel carriers have expressed interest in using the new high-speed logistics service using the converted trains.

The first will start running later this year between the Midlands and Scotland.

More routes could be added in 2022 dependent on customer need and available train paths.

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited sign a contract for the new Class 93 tri-mode locomotives


Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives, which will support rail decarbonisation requirements in the UK. An initial batch of 10 locomotives are due for delivery in early 2023.

Stadler and the British company, Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives. The advanced locomotives will significantly reduce CO2 emissions for both rail freight as well as potential passenger transport services, underscoring Stadler’s green credentials and demonstrating its commitment to decarbonisation. Deliveries are expected to start in early 2023.

Class 93 is a Bo’Bo’ mixed-traffic locomotive based on Stadler’s Class 68 and Class 88 locomotives that have been operating successfully in the UK for some years. It is capable of reaching higher speed than the previous ones; i.e.110 mph instead of 100mph.

Stadler’s first tri-mode locomotive has three different power sources. In electric mode, it is able to run on 25kV AC overhead lines with a power of 4,000 kW. In addition, the locomotive features a CATERPILLAR C32 engine and Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) traction battery packs, allowing it to operate over non-electrified lines. The diesel engine has a nominal power of 900 kW and meets EU 97/68 Stage V emission requirements. The two LTO battery packs provide 400kW extra power to supplement the engine when the locomotive is running in diesel/battery hybrid mode as well as last mile carbon free shunting operation.

Iñigo Parra, CEO Stadler Valencia added, “The innovative and cost-effective solution will provide environmentally-friendly rail transport services, supporting national decarbonisation strategies and promoting modal shift to rail”.

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O Come All Ye Freight-Full: Avalanche of Christmas goods to be delivered by rail freight this year

New figures reveal that rail freight is set to play a key role in the run up to Christmas this year delivering millions of tonnes of festive goods to shops around the country. Almost a third of Tesco’s Christmas range will reach their shelves by rail freight including a huge amount of Christmas crackers, trees and bottles of wine.

The supermarket giant is increasing the amount of goods they transport by rail freight to boost reliability and reduce emissions to help tackle the climate emergency and has announced a £5million investment in September in their new rail freight equipment. This year 30% of their Christmas products will be transported by rail 70% more than last year including:

  • Nearly 8 million bottles of wine
  • Over 350,000 Christmas crackers
  • 80,000 Christmas trees
  • Half a million boxes of lights
  • Nearly 5 million gift wrapping accessories
  • Around 1.5m boxes of decorations
  • Over 1.5 million Christmas cards

Throughout the pandemic the railway played a vital role getting key workers where they were needed with rail freight keeping supermarkets stocked and power stations fuelled as more people worked from home. Now that COVID-19 will mean a very different Christmas for many people across the country, rail companies are working hard to ensure people have everything they need for the holidays.

Last month alone, freight trains have transported more than 1.6m tonnes of intermodal goods on almost 3,700 trains. This year, freight trains will deliver festive food, drink, decorations and toys across the country, and also transport the millions of Christmas cards sent to loved ones as well as the all-important letters to Father Christmas.

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions for the Rail Delivery Group said,

“It’s been a challenging year for many people across Britain so we’re happy that rail freight can play a central role in delivering Christmas cheer, ensuring families have everything they need to celebrate in style. With only a fraction of the emissions compared to road haulage, every tree, pudding and toy transported by rail is helping to make this a green Christmas.”

The amount of intermodal freight transported has increased since last year and by almost 20% over the last decade delivering significant benefits for the environment. Each freight train can carry as many as 76 heavy goods vehicles with only a fraction of the emissions meaning a modal shift from road haulage to rail will not only help tackle the climate emergency but can help cut traffic jams too.

Chris Connelly, Managing Director for Direct Rail Services who operate rail freight transportation for Tesco said,  

Every month we transport around 12,000 containers of vital goods across the country to ensure shelves are stocked and Christmas presents available.  

“Using our state-of-the-art Class 88 locomotives we can move huge loads hundreds of miles and, when running on overhead electricity, with zero exhaust emissions, making it absolutely fantastic for the environment.” 

Rail Minster, Chris Heaton-Harris MP whose constituency Daventry contains the international rail freight terminal DIRFT said

“The sheer volume of festive goods that are currently being transported across the country daily is reflective of the crucial role that the rail freight industry plays at this time of year.

“Rail freight has been fundamental in ensuring that the country, and the economy, has kept moving through the pandemic, and I am thankful to everyone working so hard to keep Christmas on track.”

Britain’s new high-speed railway, HS2, is now under construction, and once complete it will provide additional capacity on the existing network to grow the amount of goods transported by rail, alongside increasing local and regional passenger services. Building HS2 frees up a massive amount of space on the existing railway by placing fast inter-city passenger services on their own pair of tracks. Once HS2 is operating, trains on existing lines can run much closer together, meaning there will be more paths available for rail freight operators.

Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd’s CEO, said:

“It is fantastic that more of what we eat, drink and gift each other at Christmas is now travelling by rail, removing lorries from our roads and reducing the amount of carbon emitted by transport. However, many of our major railway lines have already run out of room for more freight trains, so if we want to grow the amount of goods we move by rail we need to create more space for them.

“As well as offering low carbon journeys to hundreds of thousands of people every day, HS2 will also take pressure off the existing network for more local, regional and freight services. By unlocking much-needed capacity across the country, we can continue to see more freight travelling by cleaner, greener rail, as each tonne of freight transported by rail reduces carbon emissions by 76% compared to road.”

ROG Makes History with HydroFLEX Unit Testing

Rail Operations Group made history last week commencing main line testing of the bi-mode hydrogen and battery powered HydroFLEX unit. The tests were operated on behalf of Porterbrook between its base at Long Marston and Evesham. The service was accompanied by Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport and CEO of Porterbrook, Mary Grant.

Rail Operations Group Managing Director David Burley said “This is a real milestone in rail de-carbonisation, led by Porterbrook and BCCRE. ROG are proud to have supported this amazing project over the last two years. Becoming the UK’s first authorised operator of vehicles using such novel fuel sources gives ROG and our wider Group a new suite of options as we seek to ensure that de-carbonisation remains at the very core of what we do as our businesses continues to grow”.

Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook, said “Porterbrook is committed to innovation and the delivery of a carbon neutral and sustainable railway. Today’s mainline testing of HydroFLEX achieves another important milestone on this journey. I’m also delighted to be able to announce our intention to start producing HydroFLEX trains, creating the world’s first electric and hydrogen powered bi-mode rolling stock, as well as generating significant opportunities for the UK supply chain.”

Railcam joins with Rail Operations Group for new Derby camera launch

Railcam UK is delighted to reveal the latest addition to its camera portfolio with the addition of two new cameras at Derby. The first is now ready to broadcast with the second due online in the near future.

Railcam UK comes to Derby

In partnership with Rail Operations Group, the cameras are situated on the Derby Headquarters building at the Country end of platform one.

A grainy picture (apologies) of the cameras on the exterior of ROG Headquarters Derby

Railcam UK have invested heavily on this installation with two Axis M3115-LVE cameras to give the best quality streams possible.

The two Axis M3115-LVE cameras and microphones ready for installation at Derby

Derby is on the Midland Main Line and serves huge areas of the country with direct links. The station is managed by East Midlands Railway and also serves CrossCountry services.

EMR HST and Super Voyager at Derby are current visitors which will be seen on the new cameras.

Additionally, there will be traffic from Rail Operations Group and Colas on a regular basis. Etches Park depot is on the far side of the station with Bombardier adjacent. Chaddesen sidings are on the country side with EMR HSTs currently running in. Sadly the ROG siding beside the offices is no longer in place.

Ok a slight cheat on a ROG catch but Railcam installers like to have fun too!

Railcam UK believes this could be one of the most popular cameras on offer and as an introduction to the public one of the views will be offered on YouTube at some point soon for a one-week period. The camera will then become a subscription-only camera on the main website. Subscriptions are £23 for 12 months and include access to over 100 cameras, live signalling diagrams and real-time data feeds.

Rail Operations Group Project Manager, Andrew Cowell said:

“Rail Operations Group are pleased to support Railcam in bringing the lineside to your armchair during these difficult times. Our Derby HQ gives a unique viewpoint on the railway allowing people to see the changing face of the Midland Mainline.”

CrossCountry Voyager as seen from Camera 2 Derby

Railcam Director Adrian Bradshaw said:

“We have had discussions with ROG at Derby over the last couple of years so it’s great that we’ve managed to get this done – and don’t they look great?! Of course, working with another high-profile rail industry partner is yet another boost for Railcam and we look forward to working with Rail Operations Group on other projects very soon. Derby is another high-profile site for us in a successful year, despite the challenges we have all been facing.”