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Colas Rail

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Colas Rail
PredecessorSeco Rail
FoundedSeptember 2007
Area served
United Kingdom
ServicesFreight operating company
Rail infrastructure renewal

Colas Rail is a railway infrastructure and rail freight company primarily active in the United Kingdom. It is a subsidiary of Bouygues.

Colas Rail was founded as Seco Rail by SECO (Société d'Études et de Construction d'Outillage). In the twentieth century, its main activities were railway construction and maintenance. Seco Rail was involved in various major projects, such as in the construction of phase one of High Speed 1. During 2006, it became a rail freight operator in the British market, initially transporting aggregates using leased rolling stock. Seco Rail acquired its first locomotives and regular freight customer, Kronospan, during the following year. In early 2008, Colas Group opted to reorganise its rail subsidiaries following recent acquisitions, merging Seco Rail with AMEC-Spie and Carillion's former plant division under the name Colas Rail.

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, Colas Rail continued to pick up more freight services, becoming involved in the haulage of coal and steel amongst other traffics. Further locomotives, such as Class 56s, Class 66s and Class 70s were acquired. By late 2016, Colas Rail was amongst the five largest contractors to Network Rail, and had 1,500 staff in the UK alone. During the 2010s, Colas Rail was engaged as the primary contractor for the Al Boraq high speed rail line in Morocco. Other projects included major improvement works at London Waterloo station and the West Midlands Metro, as well as the construction of the Contournement Nîmes – Montpellier high speed line in France.


47739 and 66847 in August 2012

Colas Rail was founded as Seco Rail by French railway engineering company SECO (Société d'Études et de Construction d'Outillage). During the twentieth century, it was mostly concentrated on activities such as track maintenance, line construction, and urban transport services.[1]

During 2000, SECO was acquired by the road construction company Colas Group.[1] Whilst its activities has been historically centred around France, the company also operated subsidiaries in both the UK and Belgium. Amongst its achievements in the British market was its involvement in the construction of High Speed 1, having provided the detailed detail, supply, and installation of 46 miles of track, overhead electrification, and other systems during the first phase of the project.[1]

During 2006, it became a train operator, initially focusing on the transportation of aggregates. In the following year, Colas became responsible for the Kronospan timber trains from Carlisle to Chirk, which was previously in the hands of AMEC-Spie and subsequently became Colas' first regular freight contract; it was operated using hired-in locomotives. Also during 2007, Colas purchased three Class 47 diesel locomotives from the freight operator England Wales Scotland (EWS); all three were overhauled at Eastleigh Works ahead of commencing operations in September 2007 on railhead treatment trains in South West England on behalf of the national rail infrastructure owner Network Rail.[2][3][4]

On-track plant: a ballast regulator

In January 2008, Colas Group also acquired the Plant division of Carillion Rail, comprising 12 tampers, three regulators, one locomotive, one 125T Kirow Crane, 16 switch-handling units (Pem/Lem), and the freehold of the Mill Lane Plant Depot in Rugby, making the company the owner of the largest fleet of modern on-track plant in the UK.[5] Accordingly, the company decided to reorganise its rail operations, during which Seco Rail was merged with both Carillion Rail and another recently-purchased rail subsidiary, AMEC-Spie; the new entity operated under the Colas Rail brand.[6][7][8]

56 094 in June 2013

During late 2008, Colas Rail commenced operating steel trains from Immingham to Washwood Heath, hauled by Class 56 locomotives hired from Hanson Traction.[9] In mid-2009, on behalf of a separate customer, it commenced a further steel flow from Burton upon Trent to Dollands Moor, which was hauling by the company's own Class 47s.[10][11]

In late 2009, Colas leased four Class 66 (66 841–66 844) diesel locomotives that had last been used by the collapsed operator Advenza Freight.[12][13][14] These were joined by 66 845 which had last been used by Direct Rail Services. As a consequence of their owners concluding a deal to lease all five locomotives to the British freight operator GB Railfreight, Colas purchased five replacement locomotives (66 846–66 850, formerly 66 573- 66 577) that had previously been operated by Freightliner. This rolling stock rearrangement coincided with Colas' entering of the UK coal haulage market during the summer of 2011.[15][16]

60 096 in August 2019

During December 2011, Colas launched a new service on behalf of Kronospan, moving timber from Gloucester to Newton Abbot, typically hauled by its Class 66 fleet.[17] In late 2012, a single Class 86 electric locomotive (86 701) was briefly operated by the company on a trial service on the West Coast Main Line, hauling former First Great Western Motorail wagons;[18] two years later, a similar trial service was conducted using a Class 60 locomotive instead.[19]

During April 2012, Colas purchased four Class 56 locomotives.[20] By January 2014, the company had a total of 11 members of the type in its inventory.[21] During May 2012, it also purchased the Pullman Rail rolling stock maintenance business based in Cardiff.[22][23]

In April 2013, Colas formed a joint venture with the British transport conglomerate Go-Ahead Group to bid for the concession to operate the Docklands Light Railway franchise, and was successfully short-listed during the competitive bidding process.[24] However, during August 2013, it was announced that the bid had been withdrawn.[25]

70 809 in June 2019

In November 2013, Colas placed an order for ten Class 70 diesel locomotives with the American railway manufacturer GE Transportation.[26][27] Around the same time, it separately purchased four Class 37 locomotives formerly in preservation to return them to mainline operations.[28][29]

During 2014, Colas Rail purchased ten Class 60 locomotives from DB Schenker, the deal included an option to purchase a further ten at a later date.[30][31] In mid-2015, it made preparations to commence operating infrastructure trains on behalf of Network Rail; as a part of these preparations, a further four Class 37s were purchased by Colas to haul them.[32][33] By late 2016, Colas Rail was amongst the five largest contractors to Network Rail, and had 1,500 staff in the UK alone.[1]

In December 2017, Colas Rail sold its three Class 47 locomotives to GB Railfreight, as they had been deemed to be no longer useful to its core operations.[34] During July 2018, it also sold all ten of its Class 60 locomotives to GB Railfreight.[35]

During the 2010s, Colas Rail was active as the primary contractor for the Al Boraq Moroccan high speed rail line, being responsible for the delivery of the railway infrastructure.[36] It was also one of several contractors that were engaged in major improvement works at London Waterloo station during the mid-to-late 2010s.[37] The company has also been involved in delivering enhancements to the West Midlands Metro.[1] Colas Rail was also one of the companies involved in delivering the Contournement Nîmes – Montpellier French high speed line. It has also stated its interest in, and has advocated for, the High Speed 2 project.[1][38]

In 2018, Colas Rail publicly called for Network Rail to provide greater certainty on future rail freight paths, stating that investment in new services, such as rail-based parcel traffic, was being jeopardised by a lack of safeguards on capacity.[39]

During August 2021, Colas announced the sale of its Pullman Rail engineering operation to the government-owned not-for-profit organisation Transport for Wales.[40][41]

In February 2022, it conducted a trial service hauling timber from Devon to Monmouthshire on behalf of Euroforest Ltd.[42]

Fleet details[edit]

Colas Rail owns and operates a mixed fleet of on-track plant for maintenance operations. By 2016, this fleet was reportedly the largest of its type in the UK.[1]

Current fleet[edit]

Class Image Type Built Fleet Size
09-16 CSM Tamper / Liner Tamping Machine 1988 1
08-16(32)U RT Plain Line Tamper Tamping Machine 2002 1
08-4x4/4S-RT Switch & Crossing Tamper Tamping Machine 1998-2010 14
08-12/4x4C-RT Switch & Crossing Tamper Tamping Machine 2000 1
08-16/4x4C100-RT Tamper Tamping Machine 2001-2002 6
B41UE Tamper Tamping Machine 2005-2006 2
USP5000C Ballast Regulator Ballast Regulator 1983 1
USP5000RT Ballast Regulator Ballast Regulator 2003 1
Unimat 09-4x4/4S Dynamic Tamper Tamping Machine 2018-2020 4
Self-Propelled Heavy Duty Twin Jib Crane Railway Crane 1980 2
KRC1200UK Heavy Duty Diesel Hydraulic Crane Railway Crane 2005 1
Total 34
Class Image Type Introduced Fleet Size Wheel Arr
37 37421 Diesel locomotive 1960-1965 12 Co-Co
43 1975-1982 10[43] Bo-Bo
56 56302 1976-1984 10 Co-Co
66 66849 1998-2015 5
67 1999-2000 2 Bo-Bo
70 70803 2014
17 Co-Co
Total 56

Past fleet[edit]

Class Image Type Introduced Number Wheel Arr Numbers Sold to
37 Diesel locomotive 1960-1965 1 Co-Co 37521 Locomotive Services Limited
43 1975-1982 3 Bo-Bo 43045, 43050, 43060[44]
47 47749 1962-1967 3 Co-Co 47727, 47739, 47749[34] GB Railfreight
60 1989 10 60002, 60021, 60026, 60047, 60056, 60076, 60085, 60087, 60095–60096[35]
66 Diesel-electric locomotive 1998-2015 5 66841–66845
86 86701 Electric locomotive 1965-6 1 Bo-Bo 86701 Exported to Bulgaria.[45]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Clinnick, Richard (21 November 2016). "A fine track record". railmagazine.com.
  2. ^ "Colas Rail 47s ready to go at Eastleigh". Today's Railways UK. No. 71. November 2007. p. 54.
  3. ^ "Colas unveils Class 47s". The Railway Magazine. No. 1279. November 2007. p. 89.
  4. ^ "The new operators". Rail. No. 614. 25 March 2009. p. 59.
  5. ^ "Colas swoops on Carillion's rail plant business". New Civil Engineer. 9 January 2008.
  6. ^ "Freight/renewals firm Amec Spie Rail to be sold to Colas". Rail Express. No. 131. April 2007. p. 11.
  7. ^ "Colas Rail". On Track Plant. 2 February 2008.
  8. ^ "Company". Colas Rail. Archived from the original on 19 October 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  9. ^ "Hanson Class 56s in Colas steel trial". The Railway Magazine. No. 1293. January 2009. p. 84.
  10. ^ "Colas Rail wins steel traffic". Rail. No. 614. 25 March 2009. p. 10.
  11. ^ "New steel flows for Colas Rail". Today's Railways UK. No. 89. 1 May 2009. p. 7.
  12. ^ "66s added to Colas operations". Rail. No. 639. 18 November 2009. p. 20.
  13. ^ "Colas takes on Advenza 66s". The Railway Magazine. No. 1304. December 2009. p. 9.
  14. ^ "Last two ex-Advenza GMs join Colas Rail". Rail Express. No. 166. March 2010. p. 31.
  15. ^ "Colas Rail begins running coal trains from Wolsingham". Rail Express. No. 183. August 2011. p. 11.
  16. ^ Foster, Stefanie (17 April 2013). "Fifteenth anniversary of the Class 66". railmagazine.com.
  17. ^ Clinnick, Richard (7 March 2012). "Devon-sent". railmagazine.com.
  18. ^ "Colas to use 86701 for a trial". electric-traction.co.uk. 3 September 2012. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 26 January 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  19. ^ Prentice, Paul (25 June 2014). "Freight returns to Euston for second night-time trial". railmagazine.com.
  20. ^ "Colas Rail buys four Class 56s". The Railway Magazine. No. 1332. April 2012. p. 9.
  21. ^ "Who owns UK's main line locomotives". Rail. No. 741. 5 February 2014. p. 56.
  22. ^ "Colas buys Pullman Rail". Railway Gazette International. 30 May 2012. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  23. ^ "Colas takes over Pullman Rail". Rail Express. No. 194. July 2012. p. 7.
  24. ^ "Go-Ahead shortlisted for Docklands Light Railway with partner Colas Rail Ltd". Go-Ahead Group. 17 April 2013. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  25. ^ "Go-Ahead pulls out of DLR competition". Global Rail News. 30 August 2013.
  26. ^ "Colas Rail orders 10 GE Transportation PowerHaul locomotives". Railway Gazette International. 21 November 2013. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  27. ^ "Colas Rail orders Class 70s". Today's Railways UK. No. 145. January 2014. p. 60.
  28. ^ "Colas Rail buys preserved Class 37 for main line operations". Rail. No. 740. 22 January 2014. p. 26.
  29. ^ "Colas buys three preserved 37s for main line work". Rail. No. 741. 5 February 2014. p. 31.
  30. ^ "Colas snaps up Schenker's redundant Class 60s". The Railway Magazine. No. 1358. May 2014. p. 76.
  31. ^ "Test run for overhauled 60". Rail. No. 779. 22 July 2015. p. 29.
  32. ^ "Colas Class 37s readied for main line duty at Barrow Hill". Rail. No. 778. 8 July 2015. p. 29.
  33. ^ "Colas gears up for IM deal". Railways Illustrated. September 2015. p. 18.
  34. ^ a b Clinnick, Richard (18 December 2017). "GB Railfreight buys three Class 47s". railmagazine.com.
  35. ^ a b Clinnick, Richard (1 August 2018). "GB Railfreight buys more locomotives". railmagazine.com.
  36. ^ Clinnick, Richard (25 March 2017). "Foreign legion". railmagazine.com.
  37. ^ Prentice, Paul (18 May 2015). "Consortium appointed to deliver increased Waterloo capacity". railmagazine.com.
  38. ^ Roden, Andy (10 February 2020). "Freight companies urge PM to 'green light' HS2". railmagazine.com.
  39. ^ "Colas calls for commitments on future freight paths". railmagazine.com. 22 May 2018.
  40. ^ Holden, Michael (10 August 2021). "Transport for Wales purchases Pullman Rail Ltd from Colas Rail". RailAdvent. Archived from the original on 10 August 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  41. ^ "Transport for Wales signs deal to purchase Pullman Rail Limited". Transport for Wales. 10 August 2021. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  42. ^ Smith, Roger (28 February 2022). "Colas Rail completes trial delivery of timber by rail from Devon to Monmouthshire". railadvent.co.uk.
  43. ^ Colas Rail expands its Class 43 power car fleet Railways Illustrated issue 250 December 2023 page 22
  44. ^ Third 43 with Colas Rail issue 924 10 February 2021 page 28
  45. ^ "Class History AL6/86". The AC Locomotive Group. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2017.

External links[edit]