BR Class 68

The British Rail Class 68 locomotive is a 3,800 bhp locomotive built by Vossloh and Stadler Rail between 2013-2017. The locomotive is designed as a multi use unit, seeing use on both freight and passenger traffic. The locomotives were purchased by Direct Rail Services for both their usage with various examples sub-leased to Abellio Scotrail, First Group’s Transpienne Express, and Chiltern Railways.

With the ever expanding railways in the UK, new locomotives are constantly needed to satisfy the demand. The Class 68 encompasses advanced technology and evokes many advances in crew comfort and safety. Direct Rail Services sought to satisfy the need to order a locomotive that was both powerful and fuel efficient for its ever expanding operations.

James Welham

Introduced in 2013, the BR Class 68 is a technologically advanced locomotive ordered by Direct Rail Services at a cost of 45 million, for use on their expanding intermodal traffic contracts. The locomotives were designed after the Stadler Eurolight locomotives, Stadler appropriately coined them UKLight locomotives. Among the differences between these units and their counterparts in other countries is the stringent UK loading gauge. The units were to be equipped with a 16-cylinder Caterpillar C175-16 prime mover. Although the locomotives were ordered by Direct Rail Services, they are owned by Beacon Leasing Company, and are leased to DRS. These locomotives were designed with the driver in mind, as Vossloh worked with the drivers employed by Direct Rail Services to design a cab suitable to their needs. The first produced locomotive, 68001, was extensively tested in the Czech Republic’s Velim Test Centre, where it underwent several tests including, brake force, acceleration, pulling power, and emissions. 

Production of the Class 68 is unique however, as during the first half of production (2013-2015), Vossloh Espana was constructing the locomotives at their facility in Spain, however, in 2015, Vossloh was succeeded by Stadler, who continued production of the class until 2017.

Although all locomotives are leased by DRS, the rail operator has struck contracts with other rail companies to sub-lease the locomotives. Routine maintenance of the locomotives will be performed by the sub-lessee, however, heavy maintenance and repairs will be administered by DRS at either their Gresty Hill Depot in Crewe or their depot in Carlisle.

Hugh Llewelyn

On DRS, these locomotives were given the duty of transporting the nuclear flask train from the Scottish highlands, replacing the Class 20s and 37s that commanded the train for years. They are also employed on various intermodal workings, as their high speed capability equates to much faster services, which allows DRS to compete both with other rail carriers and with road transport.

Chiltern Railways subleased six locomotives from DRS will replace the current Class 67’s operating on their London Marylebone to Birmingham services in an effort to further improve services on the Chiltern Main Line. The locomotives operating for Chiltern Railways will feature the Association of American Railroads (AAR) equipment capable of working with the Mark 3 coaches currently operating the route.

Two examples of the class will be used on Scotrail with Mark 2 coaches on the Fife Circle Line, which runs from Markinich, which connects to the Edinburgh-Aberdeen Line, and Edinburgh Waverly, serving as a connection to the East Coast Main Line (ECML). Introducing the class into Scotland will assist Scotrail to improve various areas of service, including the ability to improve reliability and sustainability.

Fourteen members of the class, along with the new Mark 5a coaches, operating on Transpennine Express services will haul trains on their route between Liverpool Lime Street and Scarborough, with the possibility of being used on services to the Manchester Airport in the future.


The Class 68 is powered by a 3,800 horsepower Caterpillar C175-16 prime mover, giving power to 4 frame mounted ABB traction motors, producing 71,000lbf of tractive effort. The locomotive’s unique design gives it the ability to generate high horsepower, and remain within a lower axle load for higher route availability. The locomotive is equipped with various electronics, including the standard Automatic Warning System (AWS). This locomotive is among the most technologically advanced in the UK, and will serve as a benchmark for future traction.

BuilderVossloh Espana (2013-2015)

Stadler Rail (2016-2017)

Date Constructed2013-2017
Number Built34
Wheel ConfigurationBo’Bo’
Wheel Diameter1,100mm
Weight85 tons
Fuel Capacity5,000 Litres
Prime MoverCaterpillar C175-16
Traction MotorsABB
Max Speed100mph
Horsepower3,800 hp
Tractive Effort71,000lbf
OperatorsDirect Rail Services

Chiltern Railways

Abellio Scotrail

Transpennine Express

Route Availability7

Locomotive Names

68010Oxford Flyer
68028Lord President
68030Black Douglas

Class 88 Electro-Diesel

Recognizing the success of the powerful Class 68, DRS placed an order with Vossloh for an additional ten electro-diesel locomotives capable of running on either a Caterpillar prime mover or overhead 25KV overhead lines. Based on the Stadler Euro Dual, this locomotive was the first of its kind in the UK upon introduction in 2015, as electro-diesels manufactured in the past, such as the Class 73 & 74, gathered their electrical current from a third rail. The Class 88 is drastically similar to the Class 68, as it utilizes the same braking system, cab, electronics, bogies, and body shell.

Because of the need for a generator to direct the electrical current, the diesel prime mover does not harness similar power to the Class 68, as its Caterpillar C27 prime mover only generates 940 horsepower, compared to the Class 68’s 3,800. However, the unit makes up for this power loss in electric mode, as it is capable of 5,400 horsepower when generating electricity from the 25 KV overhead power lines.

Gary Severn

This locomotive is a mixed traffic locomotive designed for both passenger and freight work, however, it is primarily used by DRS on intermodal contracts. This form of motive power is especially prominent for DRS, as it prevents the need for the operator to hire electric traction from other operators, thus, making their operations more efficient.


ManufacturerStadler Rail
Build Date2015-2016
Number Units Manufactured10
Wheel ConfigurationBo’Bo’
Wheel Diameter1,067mm
Axle Load21.5t
Weight86 t
Electric Current25kV
Electrical PickupPantograph
Prime MoverCaterpillar C27
Max Speed100 mph
HorsepowerDiesel: 940hp

Electric: 5,400hp

Tractive Effort71,000lbf




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