Direct Rail Services

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Direct Rail Services
Vossloh EuroDual at Innotrans 2016 05.jpg
Class 88 locomotive 88003 at InnoTrans 2016
Main region(s)United Kingdom
Fleet size107 locomotives
(January 2018)
Parent companyNuclear Decommissioning Authority
Other Edit this at Wikidata

Direct Rail Services (DRS) is a rail freight company in Great Britain. It was created in 1994 by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd to take over British Rail's handling of nuclear material, and in 2005 transferred to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). It has since diversified into other freight operations and providing haulage for passenger services. DRS is one of five publicly owned railway companies in the United Kingdom, the others being NI Railways (the passenger rail operator in Northern Ireland), LNER, Northern Trains and Transport for Wales.

Since April 2021, DRS, as well as its sibling NDA subsidiaries Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited (PNTL) and International Nuclear Services (INS) have been operated by a newly-created NDA division, Nuclear Transport Solutions (NTS).[1]


The haulage of nuclear flask traffic had been handled by British Rail until British Nuclear Fuels Ltd decided to bring this operation in house in 1994.[2] Up until 1998, it had only moved nuclear fuel rods from overseas for processing at Sellafield. It then took over the movement of rods from UK nuclear power stations at Heysham, Valley (for Wylfa), Bridgwater (for Hinkley Point), Berkeley (for Oldbury), Hunterston, Torness, Seaton Carew, Dungeness and Sizewell.[3]

It first diversified into other traffic in 1997, when it started operating milk traffic from Penrith to Cricklewood.[4][5] In 2002, it commenced running intermodal freight trains from Grangemouth to the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal using Class 66/4 locomotives. It carries containers for both the Malcolm Group and Asda.

Class 20 hauling a nuclear waste train, the original and continuing core service

Ownership of DRS was transferred from BNFL to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), when the NDA was created on 1 April 2005, under the terms of the Energy Act 2004.

In 2006, DRS started 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.[6][7]

Passenger services[edit]

In 2007, seven Mark 3 carriages from Virgin Trains were refurbished at the Oxley depot.[8][9][10] The following year saw the coaches used to operate charter services under the Stobart Rail banner[11][12] but the Stobart Rail operation ceased in July 2008.[13]

In June 2009, DRS commenced operating rescue locomotive duties on the Great Eastern Main Line for National Express East Anglia as well as hauling Class 90 electric locomotives from Norwich to {{Stnlink|Great Yarmouth)) on summer Saturdays.[14] This included Summer Saturday Wherry Lines services. DRS have periodically operated services on the Wherry Lines during periods of diesel multiple unit shortage. In October 2014, it commenced operating a two-year contract to operate services on the Wherry Lines under contract to Abellio Greater Anglia.[15] It was operated by top and tailed Class 47s hauling Mark 2s, top and tail Class 37s were introduced in mid-2015.

DRS Class 37 and Class 68 cross with Mark 2 passenger stock at St Bees on the Cumbrian Coast line.

From 30 November 2009 until 28 May 2010, DRS ran a service on the Cumbrian Coast Line between Maryport and Workington following a road bridge being destroyed by floods.[16] The trains were made up of Class 37s, Class 47s and Class 57s top and tailing DRS' Mark 3 carriages.

DRS commenced a five-year contract in April 2011 which provided motive power for the Northern Belle.[17]

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.[18][19][20] Although the trial was reported to have been a success, plans to introduce regular services from December 2012 did not materialise until May 2015. To operate these services, DRS purchased a fleet of Mark 2 carriages and had these overhauled at Eastleigh Works.[21][22][23] In May 2015, the company started to operate some services on the Cumbrian Coast Line under contract to Northern Rail (later Arriva Rail North) using top and tail Class 37s which hauled Mark 2 coaches.[24] On 27 July 2015, one of the Class 37s was replaced by a DBSO, with the other replaced at a later date.[25] On 29 January 2018, one set was made to be Top and Tail Class 68's, while the other stayed a Class 37 and DBSO. On 21 May 2018, there was only one set out, which was the Top and Tail Class 68's only running between Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness. This service was ultimately replaced by Class 156 Diesel Multiple Units (transferred from ScotRail) on 28 December 2018, with special commemorative 'farewell' service being run for charity on 11 January 2019.[26][27]


A Class 66 locomotive being serviced at Crewe

Direct Rail Services initially operated from a base at the nuclear reprocessing plant in Sellafield, but in 1998 moved into Carlisle Kingmoor depot which had been disused since 1987.[28][29] A second depot was opened at Crewe Gresty Bridge in March 2007. This is on the site of disused wagon works.[30][31] It also operates the Motherwell depot, where it carries out inspection work and re-fuelling.[32]


The initial fleet of locomotives were five Class 20/3s which were overhauled at Brush Traction, Loughborough for their new duties.[33]

DRS locos awaiting overhaul at Eastleigh in 2009

In 1997, six Class 37/6s were purchased from Eurostar.[34][35] DRS would later build up an extensive fleet of Class 37 and 47 locomotives. In 2001, some Class 33s were purchased.[36] In 2004, three Class 87s were trialed but returned to their leasing company after six months.[37][38] DRS began to acquire Class 57s from 2008. It now operates nine former Freightliner 57/0s and 12 former Virgin Trains 57/3s.[39][40]

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. These would become Class 88.[41] DRS took delivery of the first of 15 new Class 68s in February 2014. These are diesel-only versions of the Class 88s which would arrive later.[42] In October 2014, a further ten were ordered followed by another seven in July 2015.[43][44] From December 2014, six commenced operating services for Chiltern Railways.[45] In April 2015, two Class 68s commenced operating Fife Circle Line services for Abellio ScotRail. A further batch of six Class 68s (68020–68025) were delivered by on 5 April 2016.[46]

On 8 January 2016, DRS announced it would sell 12 locomotives, one Class 20 locomotive (20312), six Class 37 locomotives (37503/510/521/608/611/670) and five Class 47 locomotives (47810/13/18/28/53) along with two Mark 2 coaches.[47]

Current fleet[edit]

Class Image Top speed Number Built
mph km/h
Diesel-electric locomotives
37/0, 37/4, 37/6 & 37/7 Direct Rail Services 37059 in revised Compass livery.JPG 80 130 19 1960–65
57/0 & 57/3 57310 Direct Rail Services Leamington 18-06-15 (18748171009).jpg 75 121 21 1998–04
95 153
66/0, 66/3 & 66/4 66407 Castleton.jpg 75 121 24 2002–08
68 Loco 68022 at Norwich.jpg 100 161 34 2013–17
Bi-mode locomotives
88 Crewe DRS open day 2018 - 88002 (37403).JPG 100 161 10 2015

Future fleet[edit]

In September 2017, Direct Rail Services issued a tender for ten brand new diesel-electric locomotives.[48]


  1. ^ "The NDA will bring its transport and logistics expertise together". Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  2. ^ "RFS 20s in main line deal" Rail issue 238 26 October 1994 page 9
  3. ^ "DRS take over nuclear traffic" Rail Express issue 29 October 1998 page 6
  4. ^ "Britain's first piggyback milk train starts running" Rail issue 308 2 July 1997 page 7
  5. ^ "DRS wins milk traffic haulage contract" Rail Express issue 15 August 1997 page 6
  6. ^ Piggott, Nick, ed. (October 2009). "Blow for DRS as DBS wins Stobart Contract". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 155 no. 1, 302. London: IPC Media. p. 8. ISSN 0033-8923.
  7. ^ Milner, Chris (January 2013). "DRS wins back Tesco train". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 159 no. 1, 341. Horncastle: Mortons Media. p. 86. ISSN 0033-8923.
  8. ^ Sutton, Phillip, ed. (December 2006). "Direct Rail Services buys passenger coach rake for possible charter use". Rail Express. No. 127. p. 4. ISSN 1362-234X.
  9. ^ Fox, Peter, ed. (September 2007). "DRS unveils refurbished Mk 3s". Today's Railways. Sheffield: Platform 5 (69): 65. ISSN 1475-9713.
  10. ^ Milner, Chris (September 2007). "DRS launches luxury charter set". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 153 no. 1, 277. p. 71. ISSN 0033-8923.
  11. ^ Yearsley, Alan (April 2008). "DRS/Stobart launch new Pullman train". Today's Railways. No. 76. p. 74. ISSN 1475-9713.
  12. ^ Bickerdyke, Paul (April 2008). "Stobart launches new charter operation". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 154 no. 1, 284. p. 67. ISSN 0033-8923.
  13. ^ Yearsley, Alan (September 2008). "Stobart pulls plug on charter operation". Today's Railways. No. 81. p. 74. ISSN 1475-9713.
  14. ^ Milner, Chris (August 2009). "DRS launches Thunderbird contract". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 155 no. 1, 300. p. 75. ISSN 0033-8923.
  15. ^ Pritchard, Robert (October 2014). "DRS coaches in use on GA loco-hauled". Today's Railways. No. 154. p. 63. ISSN 1475-9713.
  16. ^ Free Cumbria Floods Train Service to Finish Next Week Archived 7 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine News and Star (Carlisle) 21 May 2010
  17. ^ Marsh, Phil (July 2011). "Direct Rail Services to operate Northern Belle". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 157 no. 1323. p. 73. ISSN 0033-8923.
  18. ^ Loco-hauled Cumbrian Coast Commuter Service January 2012
  19. ^ Brown, Murray, ed. (February 2012). "DRS begins its own service to ferry workers to Sellafield and return". Rail Express. No. 189. p. 7. ISSN 1362-234X.
  20. ^ Piggott, Nick, ed. (March 2012). "Sellafield workers train launched". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 158 no. 1, 331. p. 11. ISSN 0033-8923.
  21. ^ Russell, David (May 2013). "Overhauled DRS Mk2s emerge from Eastleigh". Rail Express. No. 204. p. 51. ISSN 1362-234X.
  22. ^ Russell, David (August 2013). "Further DRS coaches emerge from Eastleigh". Rail Express. No. 207. p. 53. ISSN 1362-234X.
  23. ^ Pritchard, Robert (October 2013). "DRS launches refurbished Mark 2s". Today's Railways. No. 142. p. 68. ISSN 1475-9713.
  24. ^ "Loco-hauled Services to Return to the Cumbrian Coast". Railway Herald. 8 January 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  25. ^ Harris, Nigel, ed. (5 August 2015). "Cumbrian top and tail 37s phased out". Rail Magazine. No. 780. Peterborough: Bauer Media. p. 22. ISSN 0953-4563.
  26. ^ "Special Cumbrian Coast service to commemorate Class 37s". Direct Rail Services. 4 January 2019. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Special Cumbrian service to commemorate Class 37s". Arriva Rail North (Northern). Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  28. ^ "Direct Rail Services to lease Carlisle Kingmoor diesel depot" Rail Express issue 21 February 1998 page 6
  29. ^ Harris, Nigel, ed. (30 June 1999). "DRS moves to Carlisle Depot". Rail Magazine. No. 360. p. 12. ISSN 0953-4563.
  30. ^ Sutton, Phillip, ed. (May 2007). "DRS opens Crewe Gresty Bridge loco depot". Rail Express. No. 132. p. 5. ISSN 1362-234X.
  31. ^ Piggott, Nick, ed. (June 2007). "Thornaby to close – but new DRS depot opens". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 153 no. 1, 274. p. 8. ISSN 0033-8923.
  32. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Inside Direct Rail Services". Rail Magazine. No. 842. 18 January 2018. ISSN 0953-4563. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  33. ^ "Nuclear power" Rail issue 263 11 October 1995 page 6
  34. ^ "Direct Rail Services buys Eurostar locomotives and doubles its fleet" Rail issue 308 2 July 1997 page 6
  35. ^ Marsden, Colin (September 1997). "Direct Rail Services traction fleet expands to 23 locos". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 143 no. 1, 157. p. 63. ISSN 0033-8923.
  36. ^ Brown, Murray (July 2001). "DRS treatment for a Crompton". Rail Express. No. 62. p. 9. ISSN 1362-234X.
  37. ^ Milner, Chris (December 2004). "DRS to use Class 87s on freight". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 150 no. 1, 244. p. 65. ISSN 0033-8923.
  38. ^ Milner, Chris (August 2005). "DRS hands back Class 87s". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 151 no. 1, 252. p. 74. ISSN 0033-8923.
  39. ^ Milner, Chris (September 2008). "Two more Class 57s for DRS". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 154 no. 1, 289. p. 82. ISSN 0033-8923.
  40. ^ Milner, Chris (March 2013). "Remaining Class 57/3s snapped up by DRS and West Coast Co". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 159 no. 1, 343. p. 80. ISSN 0033-8923.
  41. ^ DRS orders 10 electro-diesel locomotives from Vossloh Railway Gazette International 12 September 2013
  42. ^ Harris, Nigel, ed. (5 February 2014). "First Direct Rail Services 68 delivered to UK". Rail Magazine. No. 741. Peterborough: Bauer Media. p. 17. ISSN 0953-4563.
  43. ^ "10 More 68s for DRS" Modern Railways issue 793 October 2014 page 18
  44. ^ Piggott, Nick, ed. (August 2015). "DRS orders seven more Class 68s". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 160 no. 1, 373. p. 6. ISSN 0033-8923.
  45. ^ Pritchard, Robert (June 2014). "Chiltern signs deal for Class 68s". Today's Railways. No. 150. p. 60. ISSN 1475-9713.
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^ Barrow, Keith. "Direct Rail Services launches tender for 10 locomotives". Rail Journal. Rail Journal. Retrieved 12 January 2018.

External links[edit]