Old locomotives out and a new managing director in for DRS
UK freight operator Direct Rail Services has announced it is retiring its fleet of class 37 diesel locomotives. The elderly units, approaching 60 years in service, are being replaced by brand-new diesels and bi-modes. The company says it marks the end of an era for the rail industry. The decision comes as part of DRS’s commitment to the environment, fleet modernisation and adapting to evolving operational needs.
Retiring the class 37 fleet is the most public announcement by Direct Rail Services since the company appointed Gottfried Eymer as its managing director for rail. Eymer moved to the post after a short spell in the Middle East and a long career in Austria. However, his length of service is dwarfed by the class 37s. The locomotives have been in service under various management since the 1960s.
Sunset for “tractors”, sunrise for bi-mode traction
The distinctive engine note of class 37 has been crackling down the lines of most British railway routes for over six decades. Direct Rail Services has been one of the most persistent operators to use the locomotives and one of the most dedicated. The company had bought up examples of the class to haul specialist cargo, specifically nuclear fuel flasks, for which the units were deployed “top and tail” to meet stringent reliability demands. They have also been used on general freight services and for industry support roles, such as snow clearing.
Gottfried Eymer is unlikely to have seen anything as elderly as the class 37s during his short spell with Etihad Rail in the Middle East. However, he fully appreciated the locomotives’ role in developing DRS from a specialist arm of the UK nuclear power industry into a full-service rail freight operator. “It is the end of an era for the Class 37s at DRS”, he said. “They have been a firm favourite with staff and enthusiasts alike, but the time is right to focus on more modern and efficient engines such as our excellent Class 68 and 88s.”
Work of vital national importance
The writing has been on the wall for the class 37s. Purchasing modern, bespoke diesel (class 68) and ground-breaking bi-mode class 88 locomotives (derived from Stadler designs) elevated DRS from oldest to youngest fleet operator almost overnight. According to a statement from DRS, the decision to retire the Class 37 locomotives is driven by the need to modernise their fleet, embrace newer technologies, and meet the environmental and operational challenges of the future. They say the move aligns with DRS’s commitment to providing efficient and sustainable rail services.
The new managing director of rail, Gottfried Eymer, wants to continue developing business for Nuclear Transport Solutions, the corporate parent of DRS. He says he intends to achieve that without compromising their operations for customers in the nuclear and wider rail freight and logistics sectors. “NTS’s work is of vital national importance”, he said. “I am very much looking forward to working with everyone in the rail business and the wider organisation to build on its reputation as a leading transport and logistics solutions provider.”