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An important milestone for ROUK

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The first Class 93 bodyshell has been completed by Stadler in Valencia, Spain, representing a significant milestone for Rail Operations UK (ROUK).

This is the first of up to 30 tri-mode locomotives ordered by ROUK in January 2021. Decarbonisation has been at the forefront of the rail freight industry for several years now, but it was ROUK that decided to order the first tri-mode locomotives.

Until now, ROUK has relied upon various diesel fleets, mainly the Class 37, with one member of its fleet dating from 1961, to service its various contracts. The company has been operating for less than a decade and so has relied upon second-hand traction to help build its portfolio. It has dabbled with bi-mode and electric traction in the form of converted Class 319 and Class 768 freight multiple units, as well as operating Class 91 locomotives on Midland main line electrification test trains, but the Class 93 fleet is the first brand new fleet it is ordered.

The Class 93 is also the first tri-mode locomotive ever built by Stadler. The Swiss manufacturer has developed a reputation for building niche products that are often ground-breaking, as can be seen from its Class 745 electric multiple units and Class 755 bi-modes in use with Greater Anglia.

Initially 10 locomotives will be constructed, but there are options for a further 20 as part of the framework agreement signed last year.

The Class 93 is based on the Class 68 diesel and Class 88 bi-mode locomotives ordered by Direct Rail Services, and which entered traffic in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Just like these locomotives, the Class 93 will be a mixed-traffic Bo-Bo design, however the ROUK locomotive has a higher 110mph maximum speed compared with the 100mph of the DRS examples.

The ROUK locomotives will be able to operate at 4,600kW on 25kV AC overhead power, which is not-too-similar to the Class 88 (4,000kW) on electric. The diesel engine will be a Stage V 900 kW, which meets European Union emissions regulations, and is also more powerful than the Class 88. There will also be two Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) traction battery packs which will allow the locomotive to operate on non-electrified routes. These also provide 400 kW extra power to supplement the diesel engine when it is operating in diesel/battery hybrid mode.

ROUK’s work is typically moving trains for refurbishment, rebuilding or scrap via its Rail Operations Group business. Being able to offer an electric locomotive that can also operate under its own power in non-electrified facilities will give it the lead in this market.

However, ROUK has also previously spoken of using the Class 93 for its Orion logistics operations. The performance of the Class 93 is such that, with wagons capable of more than 75mph running, there is no reason to suggest that intermodal trains could not operate at far quicker timings than they currently do.

Stadler said that the next stage of the project involves the assembly of the components and sub-systems. Testing will then be undertaken and the first Class 93 is due in the UK in March 2023. It is expected to enter service a few months later.

Iñigo Parra, CEO of Stadler Valencia, commented: “This is a project of firsts: the Class 93 is not only the first tri-mode locomotive to run in the UK, but it’s Stadler’s first tri-mode locomotive, illustrating our commitment to green technology and genuine desire to help governments and businesses around the world de-carbonise their cities, towns and villages. We are delighted to see these locomotives take shape and look forward to continued working with our customer and partner, Rail Operations UK.”

Karl Watts from Rail Operations UK said: “We’ve been working with Stadler for four years now to specify and design a locomotive for the future. The end product, the Class 93 tri-mode, is a locomotive of great operating versatility, incredible energy efficiency and packed full of technology which, not only allows us to transform UK train operations but lead the way in UK rail decarbonisation.

“The locomotive also enables Rail Operations UK to penetrate new operating markets, in particular express freight, previously unavailable using its existing locomotive fleet.”

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