Direct Rail Services

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Direct Rail Services
Founded 1995
Headquarters Carlisle, United Kingdom
Area served
United Kingdom
Services Freight transportation
Parent 1995–2005: BNFL
2005 onwards: NDA

Direct Rail Services (DRS) is a freight operating company created by British Nuclear Fuels Limited. The company started rail operations in 1995 using five heavily refurbished Class 20/3 diesel locomotives. Since then it has expanded greatly, and has acquired many more locomotives, most bought second-hand and subsequently refurbished. Ownership of DRS was transferred from BNFL to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority when the NDA was created on 1 April 2005, under the terms of the Energy Act 2004. DRS is the only remaining publicly owned rail freight company in the United Kingdom.

DRS Class 66 locomotive 66412, in 'Compass' livery at Castleton. This loco was later given to Malcolm Rail and reliveried
DRS Class 37/0 no. 37038 at Crewe Works on 1 June 2003.
A Stobart Pullman liveried rake of coaches, headed by a DRS liveried Class 47 locomotive number 47712 Pride of Carlisle
DRS Class 37 no. 37607 and Rail Head Treatment Train at Dereham, Mid-Norfolk Railway (2008)


Nuclear flask trains[edit]

DRS operates all nuclear flask trains in Britain which, until the late 1990s, were previously operated by EWS (and British Rail before it). Destinations served include the UK nuclear power stations at Heysham, Valley (for Wylfa), Bridgwater (for Hinkley Point), Berkeley (for Oldbury), Hunterston, Torness, Seaton Carew, Dungeness and Sizewell.

The company formerly operated trains to the railhead at Southminster for fuel from Bradwell nuclear power station, however this installation is now in the process of being decommissioned.

There are also occasional trains from Ramsden Dock at Barrow-in-Furness to the processing plant at Sellafield, carrying nuclear waste from nuclear power stations in Japan and the Netherlands for treatment. DRS also have a contract to supply the Royal Navy's Devonport Dockyard with fuel for Britain's nuclear submarine fleet. These trains only run as required. There is also a train from Hull to Sellafield which reprocesses Russian spent fuel.

Low-level nuclear waste is carried by rail in containers from Sellafield to the Low Level Waste Repository at Drigg, several miles down the Cumbrian Coast.

There are plans to start running trains between Sellafield and Georgemas Junction in 2012, returning spent fuel from Dounreay to Sellafield.

Intermodal freight trains[edit]

The company commenced running intermodal trains from Grangemouth to the Daventry International Railfreight Terminal in 2002, now using Class 66 locomotives, for The Malcolm Group logistics company, carrying containers for both The Malcolm Group and Asda. There is also a daily operation running from Grangemouth to Elderslie. Elderslie previously saw DRS trains from the gypsum works at Kirkby Thore, Cumbria, though this traffic no longer runs.

In 2006 DRS commenced a new service, the "Tesco Express", on behalf of Eddie Stobart in partnership with Tesco, the UK's largest food retailer, to move containers from Daventry north to Mossend and Inverness using a new dedicated low-emission Class 66 locomotive in Eddie Stobart livery, 66411 "Eddie the Engine". A daily service from Grangemouth to Inverness followed in 2009, with another Class 66 in a promotional livery - this time 66414 "James the Engine". The Daventry - Scotland "Stobart" contract transferred to DB Schenker in January 2010, along with the onward daily service to Inverness, though this reverted to DRS operation in summer 2011.

DRS also operates several intermodal trains on behalf of JG Russell, another logistics company, between Daventry and their marshalling yard at Coatbridge. There is a "sugarliner" train running from Purfleet to Daventry, also run by DRS for Russells. There was a short-lived intermodal trial service which ran between Coatbridge and Inverness, though the recession saw this draw to a close in early 2010.

Three further daily Stobart/Tesco trains have since commenced operations over the winter of 2011/12 - Daventry to Tilbury (which has, on occasion, combined with the Russell "sugarliner" train), Daventry to Cardiff Wentloog and Teesport to Ditton. It has been reported in RAIL magazine that it is possible that further trains will be added to the Stobart roster.

Passenger services on the Cumbrian Coast Line[edit]

From 30 November 2009 until 28 May 2010 DRS ran a service on the Cumbrian Coast Line between Maryport and Workington following a bridge being damaged by floods.[1] The trains were made up of Class 37s, Class 47s and Class 57s top and tailing DRS Mark 3 carriages.

On 9 January 2012 a trial service was introduced for six weeks by the NDA for its workers with DRS supplying a Class 37 to haul four Mark 2 carriages between Carlisle and Sellafield.[2] Although the trial was reported to have been a success plans to introduce regular services from December 2012 did not materialise.

From May 2015, DRS will run some services on the Cumbrian Coast Line on behalf of Northern Rail.[3]

Other trains[edit]

In September 1999 three DRS Class 20 locomotives hauled the Kosovo Train for Life charter train providing aid and rolling stock to Kosovo in conjunction with the Kosovo Force peace-keeping efforts.

For the first half of 2008 DRS also operated the Stobart Pullman railtour trains, using Class 47 locomotives. DRS has also won traffic from other railfreight operators, taking over the Russell container trains previously run by EWS and also the right to operate some Network Rail sandite trains during the autumn leaf-fall season, currently in the vicinity of Stowmarket and Carlisle. Several locomotives are supplied to DB Schenker Infrastructure Monitoring, based at Derby's Railway Technical Centre, which are then employed to work track monitoring trains for Network Rail.

DRS won the prestigious Northern Belle contract in early 2011, hauling dining trains and excursions for one of the British arms of Venice-Simplon Orient Express. In addition to this, a contract for running trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh and the ocean liner terminals of Southampton, on behalf of Cruise Saver Travel, began in 2011. This is similar to the short-lived Ocean Liner Express trains, which ran in 2008.

Since June 2009 DRS has supplied Class 47 locomotives to National Express East Anglia and Greater Anglia at Norwich Crown Point Depot for Thunderbird duties on the Great Eastern Main Line, as well as for hauling Class 90 electric locomotives from Norwich to Great Yarmouth on summer Saturdays and additional trains for the annual Lowestoft air show. This work was previously undertaken by Cotswold Rail. To cover for a lack of servicable DMUs, on several occasions, the locomotives have been used on Norwich - Great Yarmouth service trains, in top and tail formation with Mark 3 carriages.


DRS has a number of train crew depots, located at Carlisle Kingmoor TMD, Sellafield, Crewe Gresty Bridge TMD, York, Grangemouth, Inverness, Stowmarket and London. A new train crew depot was opened at Daventry in January 2012.

Carlisle, Kingmoor

Its locomotive fleet is based at Kingmoor depot in Carlisle, which reopened during 2000. Most repairs to the fleet are conducted here, and it has been the site of successful open days on a bi-annual basis since 2003.


Prior to the reopening of Kingmoor depot in 2000, DRS used facilities on-site at Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria from 1995, owned by parent company BNFL, however these are now no longer used. Several sidings inside the Sellafield Ltd compound, at the southern end of the transfer sidings complex, are used as a stabling point for locomotives on nuclear duties.

Crewe, Gresty Bridge

A new depot at Crewe Gresty Bridge was opened by Gwyneth Dunwoody, MP for Crewe and Nantwich on 23 March 2007. This, like Kingmoor, can handle all but the heaviest maintenance and overhaul work. Prior to the opening of Gresty Bridge, Pete Waterman's LNWR, Crewe facility was utilised by the company. This facility is still used for locos needing wheel turning. DRS also makes use of the compound in Crewe Coal Sidings, for stabling nuclear trains overnight.


Facilities for loco servicing in East Anglia are concentrated at Stowmarket, with a small stabling point at Marsh Lane. This is mainly used during the Autumn leaf-cleaning Sandite season, although locomotives can sometimes be found there at other times of the year, such as when working stoneblowers and other maintenance vehicles between Ashford and the Mid-Norfolk Railway at Dereham or moving vehicles for Greater Anglia to and from Wolverton Works or Crewe IEMD for maintenance and overhaul.


Throughout the year, locomotives or multi-purpose vehicles may be stabled in the Parcels Sidings at York railway station.


DRS operates a wagon maintenance depot at Motherwell, mainly concerned with the overhaul and maintenance of flatbed wagons used for container transport. They also stable a few locomotives for Scottish traffic as well as their Scottish snowplough fleet.

Fleet details[edit]

Reference: [4]

Class Image No. Loco numbers Notes
Class 20 20303 and 20309 Work 6M95.jpg 8 20301-305, 308-309, 312 20308-9, 312 in traffic. 20301-305 stored.
Class 37 37423 & Caroline Danesmoor.jpg 34 37038, 059, 069, 194, 218, 259
37401-2, 405, 409, 419, 422-23, 425
37503, 510, 521, 667, 682, 688
37703, 714
37038, 059, 194, 218, 259, 402, 405, 409, 419, 423, 425, 601-12, 667, 682, 688 in traffic. (26)
37401 & 37407 & 37422 and 37424 under overhaul.
37069, 503, 510, 521, 703, 714 stored. (6)
Class 47 Direct Rail Services 47810 Peter Bath MBE 1927-2006 at Colchester (1).jpg 8 47790, 805, 810, 813, 818, 828, 841, 853 47790, 805, 810, 813, 818, 828, 841, 853 in traffic. (8)
Class 57 57012 Castleton East Junction (1).jpg 21 57002-4, 007-12
57003-4, 007-010, 301-312 in traffic. (18)
57002, 011, 012 under overhaul.
Class 66 66422 Slittingmill Crossing.jpg 19 66301-5
66301-5, 421-34 in traffic. (19)
Class 68 Class 68 - 68008 At DRS Open day.jpg 15 68001-15 The first locomotives arrive on a ferry at Southampton Docks in early February 2014 numbers 68002-04.[5] It was announced the week after the first batch of locomotives arrived, that DRS had signed a sub-lease with Chiltern Railways for 6 locomotive to replace class 67. The Locomotives were painted in the 2 tone Chiltern Railway Mainline Livery in the Spanish factory and arrived during the summer of 2014. The first class 68 ran a revenue earning service on the 6th of December. At present the locomotives are in unbranded Chiltern Mainline livery. It is unknown if they will receive names like the rest of the class [6]
Class 88 Vossloh Euro Dual 10 88001-10 To be delivered during 2015.[7]

Future locos[edit]

On 12 September 2013 it was announced that DRS would be the launch customer for the new Vossloh Euro Dual dual-mode freight locomotive by Vossloh España .[8]


  1. ^ Free Cumbria Floods Train Service to Finish Next Week News and Star (Carlisle) 21 May 2010
  2. ^ Loco-hauled Cumbrian Coast Commuter Service January 2012
  3. ^ "Loco-hauled Services to Return to the Cumbrian Coast". Railway Herald. 8 January 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Vossloh España unveils Direct Rail Services Class 68". Railway Gazette. DVV Media Group. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Chiltern Railways Hires 68's". 
  7. ^ "Beacon Rail and DRS order dual-mode locos". Modern Railways. Key publishing limited. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "DRS orders 10 electro-diesel locomotives from Vossloh". Railway Gazette International. 12 September 2013. 

External links[edit]