UK Leasing

Codenamed Swift: A bespoke light logistics train hits the road

The changing face of UK rail operations has taken a big step forward. An example of the old class 321 high density suburban electric multiple passenger unit has been deployed in a new form. Renamed Swift Express, the 100 mph (160 km / h) EMU is now ready to serve the rapidly growing parcel and light logistics market.

Rolling stock rental company Eversholt Rail has unveiled its rebirth of the 321 passenger EMU class as the “Class 321 Swift Express Freight Train”. With several potential operators behind the scenes, the project was eagerly awaited by the industry. The conversion, which began earlier this year, was supported by Ricardo Rail and engineers from Wabtec, who carried out the work at their factory in Doncaster in the north-east of England. Eversholt said the class 321 to express freight train conversion program has now been successfully completed and the train is ready for use.

Light logistics beat heavy congestion

Light logistics and parcels are widely seen as a growth area for rail freight. Since the demise in the mid-1990s of the national “Red Star” service operated by the state-owned British Rail, only a small number of specialist companies have operated light rail logistics – mainly in premium niches. However, that is expected to change with several potential operators keen to re-enter the market and respond to the exponential growth of the online delivery and logistics market. Eversholt predicted that the revamped Swift Express Freight Class 321 trains would provide a cost-effective, low-carbon solution to these operators for transporting packages across the UK.

Swift – the new name for the 321 EMU class, as converted by a consortium led by rolling stock rental company Eversholt

In direct conflict with the goals set by the government, the increased traffic of delivery vans and heavy trucks increases congestion, carbon emissions and air quality problems. The growing number of road vehicles and their size, as well as strict emissions legislation from urban local authorities, pose a significant problem for logistics companies and impact deliveries in city centers. With the proven potential to operate in existing passenger terminals, as well as dedicated rail logistics facilities, the resurgent Class 321 Swift Express Freight will, according to Eversholt, provide fast and reliable rail services, encouraging modal shift and contributing to the goal. net-zero emissions by 2050.

Quick commissioning this year

The train was designed to maximize capacity for packages and light cargo while ensuring the interior is flexible to meet the operational requirements of individual customers. In practice, this has meant removing passenger characteristics, installing new flooring and industry standard fasteners. Paul Sutherland, Director of Customer Services at Eversholt Rail, stressed that this was only the first example to be completed and ready to go into service. “Working with Ricardo and Wabtec on this project has delivered a train that will demonstrate the potential of a cost-effective, low-carbon solution to meet the growing demand for home parcel delivery across the UK and contribute to the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. targets, ”he said. “We look forward to seeing the Swift Express Freight train in service later this summer. “

Sutherland’s words were echoed by Jonathan Brown, head of technical engagement and innovation (rail) at Ricardo, and Andy Derbyshire, managing director of the Wabtec UK group. “Our team in Doncaster did a great job delivering this important milestone project, and we look forward to seeing the train deliver real carbon and cost reductions,” he said.

No window seats. In fact, no seat at all on the Swift version of the 321 (Eversholt)

Electric multiple units were originally developed by British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) just before the privatization of industry in the UK. They were first deployed between 1988 and 1990 on long-distance commuter services. About 70% of the production cycle of nearly 120 four-car units remains in service. The design remains successful, and although it has been replaced in some cases by more modern units, there are development plans for the fleet. These include tests of hydrogen fuel cell technology, with an operational target date of 2024.

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