Clayton battery loco for GB Railfreight

Class 18 hybrid+ shunting locomotive

UK operator GB Railfreight has taken delivery of a new battery powered locomotive from British suppliers Clayton. The shunting locomotive has been delivered on a three-month trial from Beacon Rail Leasing. Designated Class 18 Hybrid+, the locomotive could be the beginning for a wave of cleaner alternatives for switching operations across the UK.

The locomotive has been delivered to the GB Railfreight operated facility at Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire. The site is used extensively for recycling operations in the rail industry. If successful in trails, the Clayton locomotive will be the first of a batch of the environmentally advantageous units deployed across the network.

A wide range of sustainable benefits

The delivery of a Class 18 hybrid+ shunting locomotive is part of a three-month trial with Beacon Rail Leasing. GRRf is expanding its fleet, with an emphasis on reducing emissions, and working towards the UK government’s mandated net-zero carbon targets.

“The Class 18 hybrid+ shunting locomotive has the power to play a key role in the decarbonisation of our future fleet”, said David Golding, Asset Director at GB Railfreight, who already have a number of shunting operations contracts around the UK. “Going forward, it will offer a wide range of sustainable benefits capable of significantly reducing the environmental impact of our operations.”

The locomotives will be supplied via a leasing agreement with Beacon Rail

Looking at the broader environment, the shunting locomotive will help enable low noise operations – something that has been a matter of disturbance for those living nearby marshalling centres. “The Clayton Equipment Hybrid+ CBD90 will support GBRf with sustainable environmental benefits which meets their commitment to invest in new technology and provide real cost savings”, said Clive Hannaford, the managing director of the manufacturers Clayton Equipment.

A key technological milestone

Clayton has been a major supplier to the UK rail industry for many decades, having been among the pioneers of the switch from steam powered traction in the 1950s. Very much embedded in the twenty-first century, the highly developed Class 18 is powered by an onboard battery that provides emissions-free operation where charging facilities are available. In off-grid operations, the locomotive’s regenerative braking system recharges the unit on the move. As a backup, when challenges with range or operation occur, an efficient onboard Stage V compliant diesel engine helps increase the locomotives running time.

“We are very pleased to have delivered the first of our order of 15 Class 18 hybrid+ shunting locomotives, from Clayton Equipment, to GB Railfreight”, said Rob Dee, the Chief Commercial Officer at Beacon Rail Leasing. “This is a key milestone in our delivery program and we look forward to working with GB Railfreight through their trial period. This locomotive will offer our customers a greener and sustainable option for rail freight operations in the UK against the backdrop of targets to reduce emissions.”

New tech for historic site

The locomotive was delivered to Whitemoor yard earlier this week. It will undergo a series of testing to understand its capabilities and performance. Clive Hannaford at Clayton is confident the design will meet the requirements of a fast-changing environment with decarbonisation targets, the increased demand for lower emissions, new technology and more capacity.

The Whitemoor site in Cambridgeshire (Network Rail image)

The location chosen has much of historic significance. In the Second World War, Whitemoor was an important marshalling yard in the Cambridgeshire countryside. It was so vital for the supply chain that a ‘decoy site’, nominated March down yard, was set up locally in case of enemy bomber attacks. Whitemoor continued as a marshalling yard from the 1920s to the 1980s, but then lay dormant until 2004, when a phased reintroduction of the site began. In 2011 a recycling plant opened on the site, dealing primarily with railway materials.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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