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Railwatch 078 - December 1998

Railwatch - Piggyback pioneer

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While American-owned English Welsh & Scottish Railway is importing new freight locomotives from General Motors, Freightliner has chosen to have British-built class 47 locos rebuilt by Brush as a class 57. The first rebuilt loco, named Freightllner Pioneer was used to launch Freightliner's piggyback service from Manchester and Tilbury, Essex. One of the partners in the piggyback venture is Exel Logistics Tankfreight.

One effect of the influx of imported locomotives will be that some old British locos will be made redundant. Rather than scrapping them, they too could be cost-effectively rebuilt for other purposes.

Also soon to be made redundant will be large numbers of good quality Mk2 and Mk 3 coaches currently being operating by Virgin which is planning to buy tilting trains and diesel multiple units for CrossCountry.

There is a good case for overhauling and refurbishing at least some of these coaches, rather than letting them be broken up or sold abroad.

With the rebuilt locos - possibly re-engined class 47s - they could work as push-pull sets on the busiest parts of the former Regional Railways network, while also providing high-capacity train sets for major tourist destinations at the height of the season. With a push-pull set-up, the trains would be able to reverse at such stations as Ely, Swansea and Carmarthen.

Because of the fragmented structure of the privatised railways, it may be difficult for any one operator to contemplate such a venture but small conversion grants from the new rail authority could give the railway enormous flexibility to cope with market fluctuations at very low cost to the industry and the taxpayer overall.

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