Friday, April 29, 2022

New Hybrid Locomotive to Plug the Freight Gap Whilst UK Waits for Full Electrification

Model Averts Problems of Government Tardiness
Shipping News Feature

UK – With many accusing the government of dragging its feet over the complete electrification of the nations's rail system, one cargo carrying group has taken pro-active measures to maintain the push for environmental improvement with a suitably current solution.

GB Railfreight (GBRf), one of the UK’s largest national rail freight operators and carrier of goods, has unveiled its new hybrid Class 99 locomotive, which it says marks a major development in the decarbonisation of UK supply chains and consumer and business purchases.

Designed and built in collaboration with Swiss group Stadler and Beacon Rail, based in the UK, the new hybrid locomotive type, the first Heavy Freight Locomotive capable of hauling mainline speeds and tonnages on UK rail networks, will run from 2025 and is intended to replace existing diesel-only powered Class 66 locomotives. John Smith, CEO of GB Railfreight, said:

“Rail freight is not just the backbone of the UK’s economy; it is now leading the push to decarbonise supply chains. Our new and cutting-edge locomotives will immediately make a huge impact on reducing CO2 emissions, improve choice for businesses and consumers, and cut their carbon footprints when purchasing goods. If scaled, with the help of the UK government to electrify more routes, the Class 99 locomotive can play an even greater role in helping supply chains and business operations become significantly more climate friendly.”

The current situation means if only a short stretch of track on a route is devoid of power a diesel locomotive must be employed for the entire trip. The UK government’s electrification rollout, which it assures will be taking place over the next decade, will enable the Class 99 to run on electricity across all UK routes and reduce emissions by 585,000 tonnes of carbon per year. Industry Minister, Lee Rowley said:

“Making our rail networks more sustainable is hugely important to ensuring our supply chains can continue to be the cornerstone of the UK’s economic growth. The launch of the Class 99, the first hybrid locomotive to run on UK rail networks, is a big moment for the British rail and freight industry. By helping GB Railfreight to cut emissions by half per journey, it will help to usher in a new age of low carbon goods transport in the UK.”

Carrying millions of consumer and business goods from ports and terminals, such as Felixstowe, to logistics hubs, the new trains will operate along electrified and non-electrified tracks across the UK. The Class 99s are expected to cut emissions by circa 50% per journey and become the most sustainable mode of moving goods for the UK public and businesses.

It is anticipated that the new hybrid model will reduce GBRf’s carbon footprint by 428 tonnes per working day across intermodal services operating along partially electrified lines. Beacon CEO, Adam Cunliffe said the train is the result of a collaboration between the three companies and Inigo Parra, CEO of Stadler Valencia concluded:

“Stadler has extensive experience in the UK locomotive market. Over recent years we have introduced with Beacon the Class 68 diesel-electric locomotive and the Class 88 bi-mode locomotive. We are very proud to go one-step further with the development of the Class 99, a versatile, high-performance locomotive that will provide environmentally-friendly and cost-effective rail transport services.”

Photo: A type 99 Locomotive, image courtesy of GBRf.