New-build DRS Class 68s to operate TPE’s Mk 5 rakes
SEVEN of the nine Class 68s currently being built for Direct Rail Services by Stadler in Valencia (Spain) will go on hire to TransPennine Express.
The operator is introducing 13 rakes of Mk 5s to operate in pushpull mode using fixed formations of five, running between Liverpool Lime Street/Manchester Airport and Scarborough/Middlesbrough from May 2018.
RAIL sources explained that 14 Class 68s are required to operate the trains. Those currently under construction (68026-68034) will be joined by seven locomotives already in the UK (68019-68025).
A further two locomotives (68033/034) are also being built in Spain, and will be modified for use by TPE, but will be spare.
This is the same arrangement that DRS has with Chiltern Railways, whereby 6801068015 form the core fleet and carry Chiltern livery, with 68008/009 modified to work for CR but retaining DRS livery.
The Mk 5s are being built by Construcciones y Auxiliar Ferrocarriles (CAF) in Beasain (northern Spain), and a rake will be sent to the Velim test track in the Czech Republic this autumn for testing, ahead of their delivery to the UK. A ‘68’ will also be sent to Velim.
TPE is hiring Class 68s from DRS. The locomotive-hauled trains release Class 185 diesel multiple units that can be cascaded elsewhere.
Sources said that while 6801968032 will carry TPE livery (with no yellow front end), 68033/034 will carry DRS colours. It is expected that 68033/034 will only be used if one of the core fleet is out of action for an indefinite period.
DRS also hires 68006 Daring and 68007 Valiant to ScotRail (although 68006 is currently unable to haul passenger trains due to a heating fault, and so is covered by other ‘68s’). However, this deal ends in 2019 when SR will have sufficient multiple units. The DRS deal for 68010-68015 ends in 2021.
TPE is introducing three new fleets before the end of 2019. As well as the Class 68/Mk 5 sets, it has 12 five-car Class 397 electric multiple units on order from CAF for trains between the North West and Scotland, and 19 five-car AT300s from Hitachi Rail Europe for trains from the North West to
Scotland via the East Coast Main Line.
When the new trains are introduced, 22 Class 185s will be returned to their owner Eversholt Rail, with 29 retained for use on the south trans-Pennine routes. Ten Class 250/4s will also be cascaded from TPE to the new West Midlands Rail franchise when the ‘397s’ enter traffic.