British Rail Class 68

The Class 68 is a type of mainline mixed traffic diesel-electric locomotive manufactured by Stadler Rail (and previously by Vossloh España) for Direct Rail Services (DRS) in the United Kingdom. The design is derived from the Stadler Eurolight, and Stadler's product name for this variant is the UKLight.

British Rail Class 68
68005 and 68 number 018 Leeds to Canterbury West 1Z68 The Retro Canterbury Belle (28192732875).jpg
Direct Rail Services Class 68 No. 68005
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
ModelStadler UKLight[1]
Build date2013–2017
Total produced34
 • UICBo'Bo'
 • CommonwealthBo-Bo
Gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Wheel diameter1,100 mm (3 ft 7+13 in)
Loco weightapproximately 85 t (84 long tons; 94 short tons)[2]
Fuel typediesel
Fuel capacity5,000 L (1,100 imp gal; 1,300 US gal)
Prime moverCaterpillar C175-16[3]
AlternatorABB WCqx560pb6
Traction motorsFour ABB 4FRA6063 (600 kW)
MU working
  • Within class and class 88.[4]
  • 68008-68015: AAR system (Classes 59, 66, 67 and 73/9)
Train heatingElectric,
HEP inverter up to 500 kW (ETH index 96[5])
Loco brakeBlended: Rheostatic braking (2100kW); electropneumatic.[2]
Performance figures
Maximum speed100 mph (160 km/h)
Power output3,800 hp (2,800 kW) at 1,740 rpm
Tractive effort317 kN (71,000 lbf)
Official nameUKLight
Axle load classRA 7[4]
First run2014
Current ownerBeacon Rail
Sources: Technical parameters.[6] (except where noted)

On 5 January 2012, DRS announced the placement of an order for fifteen Class 68 locomotives, the first of which arriving in the UK during January 2014. DRS testing determined the type to have satisfied its specification and to be suitable for operations. The first batch of Class 68s was quickly followed by a second batch, also intended for DRS and the first to be built by Stadler; the delivery of these units was completed during April 2016. A third batch of Class 68s was also ordered, deliveries of which were completed during July 2017. The Class 68 has since been followed by two closely-associated locomotives, the Class 88 and Class 93.

Since its introduction in 2014, the Class 68 has been used on numerous passenger and freight operations, including DRS's nuclear flask trains. In addition to DRS's freight operations, the operator has also used the type to haul various charter trains. Several units have been subleased to other operators, including Chiltern Railways, Abellio ScotRail, and TransPennine Express, for passenger services, hauling various rakes of carriages to do so, in some cases being outfitted with Association of American Railroads (AAR) push-pull apparatus.



During the 2000s, the British train operating company Direct Rail Services (DRS) recognised that its small fleet of British Rail Class 20 diesel locomotives were increasingly outdated and suffering from ever-decreasing viability as a result of the very low numbers still in service with any operator.[7] Accordingly, management examined several alternatives that could potentially be operated with greater profitability while also being practical for the company's core business of transporting nuclear materials by rail. While DRS did acquire newer diesel traction, such as the ubiquitous British Rail Class 66 locomotive, these did not satisfactorily fill the Class 20's niche, partly due to Class 66's two-stroke engine being somewhat inefficient compared with some alternatives and unable to satisfy the latest EU emission standards.[7] It also incurs a higher operating cost than several contemporary locomotives, along with a relatively high rate of wheelset wear and a less than hospitable cab environment. Thus, there were doubts over the suitability of the Class 66s for hauling nuclear waste trains.[7]

In light of these factors, by 2009, DRS were convinced that a clean-sheet approach would be needed for its technical requirements, with management intended to not only support the business' core activities but without any subsidy but also increase its locomotive fleet.[7] One stated requirement for the envisioned locomotive would be to satisfy the bulk of DRS’s traction needs through to 2036. Various manufacturers and their platforms were examined, including Brush Traction, General Electric, Bombardier, Siemens, with particular attention paid to the British Rail Class 70.[7] However, the relatively small quantity sought by DRS proved to be an adverse condition during this search. The rolling stock leasing company Beacon Rail suggested approaching the Swiss manufacturer Stadler Rail, who was relatively receptive of the construction of a bespoke locomotive to meet DRS's needs based upon its existing Eurolight platform.[7]

To explore the concept in detail, Stadler produced a modified EUROLight demonstrator that conformed with the relatively restricted dimensions imposed by the British loading gauge as well as the specification produced by DRS, and subjected it to tests at the Velim railway test circuit in the Czech Republic.[7] Areas of modification extended beyond the physical bodyshell and the mechanical systems, as British railway regulations necessitated wiring changes and the fitted equipment. Furthermore, whereas the EUROLight platform had been geared for a maximum speed of 75 mph (121 km/h), DRS sought a top speed of 100 mph (160 km/h); as a part of the modifications made to achieve this, the axle-hung traction motors had to be relocated to the body to produce a reduction in the locomotive's overall unsprung mass.[7] The development effort, which took roughly 18 months from start to finish, was greatly aided by the firm's experience from prior work undertaken in the manufacture of the British Rail Class 67 locomotive. Stadler's performance and responsiveness to DRS' interest led to the latter placing its confidence in the former.[7]

As a result of another DRS stipulation, an electric train supply was incorporated into the UKLight's power train, capable of supplying up to 500 kW so that large trains, such as a British Rail Class 390, could be readily hauled.[7] The locomotive's propulsion system is compliant with Stage III A of the European emission standards, but not the more stringent Stage III B requirements.[8] While DRS had envisioned their ideal locomotive using a Co-Co wheel arrangement, the performance demonstrated by the EUROLight demonstrator at Velim was such to convince the company that the requirement could be satisfactorily fulfilled using a four-axle traction unit. This is partially a consequence of its relatively low centre of gravity and its balanced and evenly spread weight, which to minimise weight transfer between the axles when pulling heavy trains and helps ensure a consistent delivery of the maximum tractive effort.[7]

Order and productionEdit

On 5 January 2012, DRS announced it had placed an order with Stadler for fifteen 100 mph (160 km/h) Eurolight locomotives for both intermodal and passenger work; these would be leased from Beacon Rail and the first example to be delivered during late 2013.[9][10] The value of the contract has been estimated at £45 million.[4] During February 2013, it was announced that the locomotives were to be known as the Class 68 under TOPS;[11] while Stadler refer to the design by its product name of UKLight.[12]

Placement of this first order to delivery of the first Class 68 locomotive took 28 months. The UKLight's detailed design had not been finalised at the time of the order; according to rail industry periodical Rail, it took four months to select the power train.[7] The selected powerplant was a single 16-cylinder 3,800 hp (2.8 MW) C175-16 engine supplied by Caterpillar Inc.; this was paired with an ABB-built traction package incorporating a six-pole brushless synchronous alternator and two ABB Bordline CC1500 DE compact converters, which use rectifiers to generate an intermediate DC supply, braking chopper, and to power onboard electronics.[7] The Class 68 incorporates an identical vehicle control unit and driver’s advisory system to those fitted on the standard EUROLight platform. It has proved to be compliant with DRS's relatively stringent adhesion demands, and that it can achieve a maximum tractive effort of 317 kN.[7]

The first locomotive, 68001, underwent several months of testing at Velim Test Centre in the Czech Republic prior to being shipped to the UK. Thus, during January 2014, the second locomotive in the class, 68002, was the first to arrive in the UK.[13][14][15]

An option for ten further locomotives was confirmed to have been taken up in September 2014.[16] Further to this, on 28 July 2015, Vossloh España announced an order for a further seven locomotives from DRS.[17]

Current operationsEdit

Direct Rail ServicesEdit

DRS 68007 "Valiant" approaching the River Ribble with the daily engineering train to Basford Hall

The Class 68 is a mixed-traffic locomotive intended for use on both passenger and freight trains. Customer trials of the type commenced during February 2014, which were initially conducted between Carlisle and Crewe.[18] During mid-2014, DRS indicated that the type were be typically operated on container traffic, as well as on Network Rail trains for which the company has been contracted to operate.[19]

The first passenger trains hauled by Class 68s were DRS special services for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.[20] Furthermore, the type is routinely used on DRS nuclear flask trains. According to Rail, operations of the Class 68 has proved it to be a highly effective locomotive.[7]

Chiltern RailwaysEdit

From December 2014, the train operating company Chiltern Railways has sub-leased six Class 68 locomotives (68010 to 68015) from DRS; the type has entirely replaced the older Class 67 locomotives on Chiltern Main Line services between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill.[21][22]

These locomotives have been painted in Chiltern's silver Mainline livery and are fitted with Association of American Railroads (AAR) push-pull equipment, which allows them to operate with Mark 3 coaching stock sets. Furthermore, two DRS-liveried locomotives (68008 and 68009) have also been fitted with AAR push-pull equipment.[23]

TransPennine ExpressEdit

TransPennine Express (TPE) initially sub-leased fourteen Class 68 locomotives (68019 to 68032) from DRS, for initial use on the Liverpool Lime Street to Scarborough route. Once more sets are delivered and staff have been trained they will also work Manchester Airport to Redcar Central services. These will haul five-car rakes of Mark 5A coaches, with a driving trailer at the opposite end.[24][25]

The TPE-vinyled locomotives do not feature yellow front ends, following a change to the regulations.[26] In April 2020, locomotives 68033 and 68034 were added to the TPE pool, to provide added resilience to the sub-fleet. In November 2017, 68021 Tireless was moved from the Crewe Gresty Lane TMD to Southampton Docks and ultimately transported to the Velim Test Track in the Czech Republic for testing with the new Mark 5A coaches. Testing included brake-force tests and door-interlock testing before the locomotive was returned to Great Britain in July 2018.[citation needed]

Former operationsEdit

Abellio ScotRailEdit

Abellio ScotRail sub-leased two Class 68s, to haul sets of six Mark 2 coaches, for use on peak hour services on the Fife Circle Line. These were 68006 and 68007, which carried the Saltire livery. These services commenced on 1 April 2015, the first day of Abellio Scotrail operation, with the last service operating on 29 May 2020 as the PRM-TSI derogations for the non-compliant Mark 2 coaches ended on 31 May of that year.[27]


68008 Avenger

Before delivery, each of the first nine locomotives was named. All of the other Class 68 locomotives (except 68011, 68012 and 68014) have also been named.[28] Locomotive 68010 was named Oxford Flyer on 12 December 2016, in celebration of Chiltern Railways new London-Oxford services. Locomotive 68033 was named The Poppy in honour of the 100th anniversary of the Royal British Legion on 30 October 2021, in a ceremony at London Euston.[29] Locomotive 68006 was renamed Pride of the North as a tribute to the work that DRS do in Northern England and Scotland.[30]

Class Operator Sub-leased to No. Built Year Built
Class 68 Direct Rail Services Direct Rail Services 14 2013–2017
Chiltern Railways 6
TransPennine Express[25] 14

Named locomotivesEdit

The names given to Class 68 locomotives are as follows:[31]

Loco Number Loco Name Operator Notes
68001 Evolution Direct Rail Services
68002 Intrepid Direct Rail Services
68003 Astute Direct Rail Services
68004 Rapid Direct Rail Services
68005 Defiant Direct Rail Services
68006 Pride of the North Direct Rail Services Formerly Daring. Formerly operated with ScotRail.
68007 Valiant Direct Rail Services Formerly operated with ScotRail.
68008 Avenger Direct Rail Services
68009 Titan Direct Rail Services
68010 Oxford Flyer Chiltern Railways Named on 12/12/2016
68011 Chiltern Railways
68012 Chiltern Railways
68013 Peter Wreford-Bush Chiltern Railways
68014 Chiltern Railways
68015 Kev Helmer Chiltern Railways Named on 17/04/2022
68016 Fearless Direct Rail Services
68017 Hornet Direct Rail Services
68018 Vigilant Direct Rail Services
68019 Brutus TransPennine Express[25]
68020 Reliance TransPennine Express
68021 Tireless TransPennine Express
68022 Resolution TransPennine Express
68023 Achilles TransPennine Express
68024 Centaur TransPennine Express
68025 Superb TransPennine Express
68026 Enterprise TransPennine Express
68027 Splendid TransPennine Express
68028 Lord President TransPennine Express
68029 Courageous TransPennine Express
68030 Black Douglas TransPennine Express
68031 Felix TransPennine Express Named after the Huddersfield station cat
68032 Destroyer TransPennine Express
68033 The Poppy Direct Rail Services Named on 30/8/2021
68034 Direct Rail Services


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "References Vossloh Rail Vehicles". Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Vossloh España unveils Direct Rail Services Class 68". 16 December 2013.
  3. ^ "DRS Class 68 Next Generation Diesel-Electric Locomotive" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 May 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Johnson, Marc (1 April 2014). "Sleek lines". The Rail Engineer.
  5. ^ Pritchard, Robert; Hall, Peter (2018). British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock 2018. Sheffield: Platform 5. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-909431-44-7. Wikidata Q105959010.
  6. ^ "UK LIGHT Diesel-Electric Locomotive" (PDF). Vossloh Rail Vehicles. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Ready for the '88' revolution". 19 December 2016.
  8. ^ Bickerdyke, Paul (June 2014). "Future of locos is 'in the secondary market'". Rail Express. No. 217. p. 9. ISSN 1362-234X.
  9. ^ "Direct Rail Services orders 15 Vossloh EuroLight UK locomotives". Railway Gazette. Railway Gazette International. 5 January 2012.
  10. ^ Barrow, Keith (12 September 2013). "DRS confirms order for Vossloh electro-diesels". International Railway Journal.
  11. ^ "Direct Rail Services reveals Class 68 design". Railway Gazette International. 1 February 2013.
  12. ^ "The diesel-electric EUROLIGHT picks up speed toward the UK and Asia". Vossloh. Archived from the original on 5 February 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  13. ^ Baldwin, Gary (10 December 2013). "Exclusive: Class 68 in new DRS livery". Direct Rail Services. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  14. ^ "DRS unveils new Class 68 diesel in Crewe". Railnews. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  15. ^ "BRL Home". Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  16. ^ Barrow, Keith (12 September 2014). "DRS orders more Vossloh locomotives". International Railway Journal.
  17. ^ "UK and Italian operators order Vossloh locomotives". 27 July 2015.
  18. ^ "Class 68 - a new face on the line", North Wales Coast Railway - Notice Board, 10 February 2014
  19. ^ Pritchard, Robert (May 2014). "DRS showcases first Class 68". Today's Railways. No. 149. Platform 5 Publishing. pp. 62–63.
  20. ^ Direct Rail Services, Ryder Cup 2014 Archived 10 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Chiltern to lease six Class 68 locomotives from DRS". Railway Herald. Scunthorpe. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Chiltern leases six Class 68 locos for Mainline services in £15m deal". Rail Technology Magazine. Manchester: Cognitive Publishing. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  23. ^ "68s equipped with push-pull". Rail. No. 754. Peterborough. 6 August 2014. p. 33.
  24. ^ Briginshaw, David (23 May 2016). "CAF to supply trains to TransPennine Express". International Railway Journal. Falmouth: Simmons-Boardman Publishing. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  25. ^ a b c Clinnick, Richard (1 March 2017). "New-build DRS Class 68s to operate TPE's Mk 5 rakes". Rail. Peterborough. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  26. ^ "Yellow front ends become optional". Railway Gazette International. Sutton. 12 March 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  27. ^ Clinnick, Richard (28 May 2020). "End of the line for locomotive-hauled Fife Circle trains". RAIL. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  28. ^ "Diesel Locomotives". AbRail. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  29. ^ "The Poppy". Direct Rail Services. 30 October 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  30. ^ "NTS unveil new Class 68 locomotive livery in Scotland". Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  31. ^ "BR Class 68". Retrieved 10 November 2021.

External linksEdit