BR Class 70 (Powerhaul)

The BR Class 70 Powerhaul is a 3,690 bhp locomotive built by GE Transportation in Erie, Pennsylvania, for Freightliner in the United Kingdom. This locomotive is designed primarily for freight use and promotes fuel efficiency as well as reliability.

In 2007, Freightliner looked to expand its locomotive roster to include increasingly fuel efficient locomotives that were in compliance with the EU Tier IIIa Emissions Standards. Freightliner looked towards General Electric to construct these units utilising their new Powerhaul prime mover. Freightliner decided to place an initial order for twenty locomotives, and launched what the company called, “Project Genesis”, which was to usher in a new generation of motive power. Surprisingly, this was the first order of GE locomotives from a UK operator, and the first to ever traverse the British Rail network. GE harnessed this opportunity to procure Freightliner as a launch company to enter into the European market, and expand their overall market.The Class 70 was introduced to the UK market to compete with the GM-EMD Class 66, as EMD proved dominant in the UK rail freight industry.

Richard Stewart

GE envisioned their partnership with Freightliner would be their entry into the UK, as well as the mainland European market. This resulted in the contracts from various entities within mainland Europe, eventually expanding their Powerhaul series in Asia and the Middle East.

The development of these new Powerhaul locomotives are the part of GE’s ecomagination, an effort to reduce carbon footprint and create more energy efficient products. According to GE, the Class 70 locomotives emit less carbon per gross mile than electric locomotives. In addition, compared to road transport, the Class 70 boasts a ten percent more environmentally friendly. According to GE, the locomotives produce 13% more horsepower, 32% more starting tractive effort, and 61% more continuous tractive effort than the GM-EMD Class 66. Additionally, the locomotive has a fuel saving capacity of 9% compared to other locomotive on the British Rail network.

These new units were unique compared to other locomotive in the country, as they were built with exposed side walkways and non monocoque body shell, much like the earlier Class 58 locomotives. The cab of the locomotive was designed with the driver as the priority, as driver input was taken into consideration throughout construction. A result of these crew considerations resulted in the addition of air conditioning, heavy cab insulation, and completely electronic interfaces.

Richard Stewart

Upon completion, the first two units underwent well over one-hundred different tests to ensure sufficient ride quality, pulling power, and emissions. When these tests concluded, the locomotives were loaded onto the ship Beluga Endurance, arrived in the UK via Newport Docks in South Wales. Various testing was then carried out in the UK, hauling decently sized trains with impressive results. According to GE, the locomotives have 13% more horsepower, 32% higher starting tractive effort, and 61% higher continuous tractive effort, than the GM-EMD Class 66 locomotives. Additionally, the locomotives is 9% more environmentally friendly when compared to its counterparts.

With increased fuel efficiency now a sales tactic for GE, they sought to compare the Class 70 to the Class 66 for their customers. The test results favored the Class 70, as the class used 18% less fuel than the Class 66. This is mainly due to its updated electronics, especially the start/stop feature that allows the locomotive to save fuel by shutting itself down when idling.

All Freightliner Class 70s were delivered to the UK by December 2011, however, one unfortunate unit 70012, was damaged upon unloading and was sent back to Erie with a bent frame. The locomotive never returned to the UK, instead it was repaired and used as a test bed for GE. In 2013, Colas Rail Freight placed an order for ten Class 70 locomotives, and another seven in 2015.

Gary Severn

Unfortunately, the Class 70 fleet did not perform as adequately because of various design flaws, most notably, the bogies and wheelsets. As a result, many of the Class 70s are in storage, with a few undertaking mainline workings upon request. Additionally, because these locomotives are more technologically advanced than the Class 66, the locomotives would spend more time out of service for repairs or regular maintenance due to the company not familiarizing their employees with the units.

Colas Rail Freight seems to have taken a significant interest in the locomotives, however, as they picked up the additional option of ten that was reserved for Freightliner, in addition, they ordered seven additional units.

Duncan Cotterill/railography


The GE Class 70 ( GE model PH37ACmi), is a 3,690 bhp diesel electric locomotive, powered by a twin turbocharged,GE Powerhaul P616 prime mover, powering a GE GTA series alternator, which feeds power to six GE 5GEB30 axle hung traction motors. The traction motors included within this locomotive are unique, as they feature individual axle control. A unique feature of this locomotive includes the addition of regenerative braking, which stores excess energy from the braking system until it is needed. This feature increases fuel efficiency, and contributes to the sustainability of the locomotives. Another feature of this locomotive is the addition of dynamic braking, which occurs when energy is taken from the prime mover, therefore, slowing the locomotive. Dynamic braking is useful for areas with mountainous topography, as the locomotive can slow down without the need to apply the air brakes.

These technological advancements allowed Freightliner to improve services, as they could now traverse through more mountainous terrain due to the locomotive’s advanced traction motor technology. Additionally, the locomotives gave Freightliner the opportunity to haul longer trains, which would result in less congestion, and additional locomotive availability.

Build Date2008-
Number Built37
Wheel ConfigurationCo’Co’
Wheel Diameter1,067 mm
Length21.710 m
Width2.642 m
Height3.917 m
Weight129 t
Fuel Capacity6,000 litres
Prime MoverGE Powerhaul P616, twin turbo
AlternatorGE GTA Series
Traction MotorsGE 5GEB30
Max Speed75 mph
Horsepower3,690 bhp
Tractive Effort120,000 lbf
Route Availability7

Locomotive Names

70004The Coal Industry Society


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