Inside Eversholt’s Swift light logistics project

Swift exterior (Eversholt)

Eversholt, the rolling stock leasing company, has released more details of its project to convert redundant passenger units into high-speed light goods trains. The intention is to serve the fast-developing logistics and delivery market. The project is codenamed, Swift.

A plan to convert redundant passenger multiple unit rolling stock into high-speed light goods trains has reached the prototype stage. Leasing agents Eversholt and their industry partners have rolled out a former passenger class 321 electric multiple units and are ready to take to the rails.

Trunk route delivery

According to the company, the pandemic has presented the rail freight industry with a huge opportunity to re-enter the light logistics market. They say the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend towards online shopping and home delivery. Their figures say over 17 million UK residents have made permanent changes to their shopping habits, and many of them are shopping more online, with ever greater demand for delivery services.

Each of the four cars in a converted class 321 can carry around ten tonnes (Eversholt)

Eversholt says the need for trunk route delivery, coupled with sustainable last-mile effort, is set to grow enormously. When put in the context of road congestion, a shortage of long-haul drivers, and environmental concerns, they see that rail’s time has come. With the expected long-term suppression of passenger traffic, there is capacity, rolling stock, and demand.

Slot into passenger paths

Technically, Eversholt has worked with partners Ricardo Rail and Wabtec to convert a former class 321 four-car EMU into a high-speed parcel and light goods carrier. Not quite the travelling sorting office of the Night Mail, but a secure, high-speed and reliable alternative to road transportation.

The interiors say Eversholt, are adaptable (Eversholt)

The project has obvious benefits for the leasing companies – since the 321 units are being retired from passenger service, and this conversion offers, literally, a new lease on life for the four-car units. With a top speed of 100 miles per hour (160kph), they can slot into passenger paths with relative ease. Eversholt say that diesel haulage on un-electrified routes is possible – and the possibility exists for alternative onboard traction in future. The units retain their interoperability and can be formed in 4,8, and 12-car trains. With a payload of around 40 tonnes per set, the project has already attracted interest from the logistics industry.

UK world’s third-biggest market

Regarding the UK, Eversholt research says there are currently 425 million tonnes of freight moved by road every year. A total of 3.8 billion parcels were delivered in the year 2019-2020 fiscal year. Parcel volumes have increased further by over 25% during the pandemic.

The UK seems more ready to adopt the delivery market. E-commerce is currently the fastest-growing retail market sector in Europe, and the UK is the third-largest market after China and the USA. Eversholt says the market is expected to increase by 40 per cent in the next three years and will be worth 264 billion pounds (310 billion euros) by 2024.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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