UK: The first of 15 Vossloh UKLight diesel-electric locomotives for freight and charter train operator Direct Rail Services is now under construction at the Vossloh España plant near Valencia in Spain.

DRS expects the first locomotive to be sent to the Velim test circuit in the Czech Republic for trial running in September, and the second to arrive at DRS’s Crewe depot by the end of October to start the UK approvals process. Vossloh is already supplying DRS with telemetry data from the two pre-series EuroLight locomotives currently running in Germany and Italy.

Designated Class 68, the UKLight is based on the EuroLight freight and passenger locomotive family which Vossloh unveiled at InnoTrans 2010. Intended for both freight and passenger operation, the 21·5 tonne axleload Bo-Bo will have a 2 800 kW Caterpillar C175 engine and AC traction equipment supplied by ABB.

Differences from the EuroLight design include a smaller-profile to suit Britain's more restricted loading gauge, a higher top speed of 160 km/h rather than the 140 km/h and an increase in fuel tank capacity from 4 000 litres to 5 000 litres.

The Class 68’s mixed-traffic capability means that it is likely to undertake a wide variety of duties for the operator. DRS says it would be capable of ‘at least matching’ the performance of its EMD Class 66 fleet on intermodal services, which include daily time-sensitive flows between southern England and Scotland over the West Coast Main Line operated in partnership with logistics group WH Malcolm.

DRS also remains hopeful of expanding its passenger operation, which is currently focused on the charter train market. It is in negotiations with the Department for Transport and franchised passenger operator Northern over the potential launch of scheduled passenger trains along the Cumbrian Coast line in northwest England, which serves the Sellafield nuclear engineering complex.

DRS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the UK government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.