Swift Express Freight multiple-unit impression

UK: Leasing company Eversholt Rail and Ricardo have teamed up to develop an electric multiple-unit intended to demonstrate a cost-effective and low carbon way of transporting parcels.

Dubbed Swift Express Freight, the demonstrator is to be converted at Wabtec’s Doncaster site from a surplus Class 321 outer-suburban 25 kV 50 Hz EMU. Work on unit 321 334 is due to start in April, with trials of the ‘service ready’ demonstrator scheduled to begin in June.

The modifications will include the removal of passenger facilities, the installation of new flooring and equipment to retain containers, and the application of a new livery. Able to operate at up to 160 km/h, and to run on a wide range of routes, the converted unit will have a capacity of up to 12 tonnes of freight per vehicle.

Eversholt is in discussion with a number of potential operators. ‘We, and the operators we’re in discussion with, can see that the potential for rail-hauled parcels traffic is huge’, said a spokesperson. ‘Swift Express Freight will help meet that demand.’

Eversholt Client Relations Director Paul Sutherland said ‘the Swift Express Freight train will help to support customers with a cost-effective solution to help them meet the growing demand for home delivery of parcels around the UK.’

Jonathan Brown, Technical & Innovation Engagement Lead (Rail) at Ricardo, said the demonstrator ‘will show the potential for a modal shift of parcel freight to rail for rapid delivery to urban centres around the UK, removing trucks from our streets, reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality’.

Separately, leasing company Porterbrook and Rail Operations Group are undertaking a similar project using surplus Class 319 multiple-units. And on March 17 the Office of Road & Rail approved the safety certification for the Varamis Rail venture which is also seeking to become an operator of express parcel services.