GB Railfreight

Industry Rail
Founded 1 April 2001
Founder GB Railways
Headquarters London, England
Key people
John Smith (Managing Director)
Services Freight Operating Company
Owner EQT Partners

GB Railfreight[1] is a rail freight company in the United Kingdom. It is owned by EQT Partners through its subsidiary holding company Hector Rail Group.


Class 66 in First GBRf livery at Doncaster station in September 2007
First GBRf logo

GB Railfreight was founded in 1999 by GB Railways.[2] Unlike competitors DB Schenker and Freightliner, the company was not formed from parts of the privatised British Rail freight sectors.

In April 2000, after winning an eight-year contract to operate infrastructure trains for Railtrack, GB Railfreight ordered seven Class 66 locomotives.[3][4] An operator's licence was granted in July 2000.[5] Operations commenced on 1 April 2001.[6] In February 2002, GBRf commenced operating its first Intermodal container contract from the Port of Felixstowe for MSC Mendite.[7] Also in 2002, GBRf began its first bulk freight contract for British Gypsum.[8]

In August 2003, GB Railways was purchased by FirstGroup and GB Railfreight was rebranded First GBRf.[9][10][11] In April 2004, GB Railfreight commenced operating a five year contract for Network Rail with four Gatwick Express Class 73 locomotives.[12]

In May 2005, First GBRf began operating Royal Mail services using Class 325s.[13][14] This was later extended until 2010.[15][16] Also in 2005, GBRf commenced operating London Underground infrastructure trains for Metronet.[8][17] In March 2007, First GBRf commenced operating coal trains for Drax Group and EDF Energy.[18][19][20][21]

In June 2007, the business was renamed First GBRf.[22][23]

In 2009, First GBRf was granted a passenger licence allowing it to operate charter services.[24] Between December 2009 and July 2010, First GBRf operated passenger services under contract to First Great Western. The services from Cardiff Central to Taunton operated with hired Virgin Trains Class 57/3s hauling Mark 2 carriages.[25][26][27]

Logo while under Europorte's ownership

In May 2010, FirstGroup put the business up for sale. Eurotunnel, Freightliner and SNCF were reported as being interested in the company.[28] The company was purchased by Europorte, a subsidiary of Eurotunnel, on 1 June 2010.[29][30] Following the acquisition by Europorte, the company reverted to its original name and a revised version of the original livery.

In February 2011, GBRf commenced operation of rail traffic at Cardiff Tidal/Tremorfa Works.[31][32] In 2012, GBRf commenced a ten-year contract to operate the 43 mile rail network at Sahavirirya Steel Industries Lackenby steelworks, Teesside.[33]

In April 2015, GB Railfreight commenced a contract to haul the Caledonian Sleeper. Class 92s haul it from London Euston to Edinburgh Waverley/Glasgow Central with rebuilt Class 73/9s to haul it from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William.[34] Until the latter are completed Class 67s continue to operate the latter services.

GB Railfreight have also won a contract to haul Class 800/801s. This will involve GBRf providing crews for the testing of the trains as well as hauling the sets.[35][36]

In October 2016, Eurotunnel announced it was in negotiations to sell the business to EQT Infrastructure II.[37]


Class 66 at King's Cross station in September 2004

To commence operations, seven Class 66/7s were ordered.[38] Subsequent orders brought the total purchased to 72 by the end of 2014[39] with a further seven due in 2016.

In October 2012. three unused Class 66s ordered by Crossrail Benelux, but stabled in the Netherlands were purchased, and later in 2013 a further two Class 66s that were previously in service in Europe were also obtained.[40]

GB Railways had purchased six former Gatwick Express Class 73s. After GBRf won a contract to operate Network Rail infrastructure trains in the south -east, four were overhauled by Frangonset Railways.[41]

GB Railfreight has 16 Class 92 locomotives acquired by Europorte before the purchase of GB Railfreight.[42]

GB Railfreight has also utilised heritage diesel locomotives. Class 20s are used on London Underground S Stock moves between Derby Litchurch Lane, Old Dalby Test Track and London Underground’s Neasden Depot. It hires these from various owners including Harry Needle Railroad Company. Since mid-2014, five Class 47s have been hired from Riviera Trains.[43][44]

It has also hired in preserved locomotives, including 55022 and D1015.[45][46][47][48][49][50]

GB Railfreight also has a pair of refurbished Vanguard 0-6-0DH locos (re-numbered DH50-1 and DH50-2) for use at Tremorfa/Cardiff Tidal works.[51]

To operate services on the Lackenby steelworks, Teesside network, eight 1996/97 built Maschinenbau Kiel built locomotives were purchased from Norwegian State Railways. They were classed as Di8.[33]

In August 2014, GBRf purchased 59003 from Heavy Haul Power International, Germany.[52][53]

In 2015, it was confirmed a further seven Class 66s would be purchased. Even though the locomotive type no longer conforms with emissions regulations, GB Railfreight had purchased some spare EMD 710 engines, shipped them to the United Kingdom before the 31 December 2014 deadline and then returned them to the United States for fitting to the new locomotives to be delivered in 2016.[54][55]

Fleet details

Class Image Type Built Number Wheel Arr Numbers
Class 08 Shunter 1953 2 0-6-0 08925, 08934
Class 09 Shunter 1959 2 0-6-0 09002, 09009
Class 20 Diesel locomotive 1957-68 11 Bo-Bo 20096, 107, 118, 132, 311, 314, 901, 905

On hire from HNRC. 901 & 905 in GBRf livery.

Class 47 Diesel locomotive 1962-68 5 Co-Co 47812, 815, 843, 847, 848

On hire from HNRC.

Class 59 Diesel locomotive 1985 1 Co-Co 59003 Yeoman Highlander purchased from Heavy Haul Power International, Germany[52][53]
Class 66 Diesel locomotive 2002-14 78 Co-Co 66701-733, 735-779
66734 since scrapped.
Class 73 Electro-diesel locomotive 1966 22 Bo-Bo 73107, 109, 119, 128, 136, 141,73201, 212, 213, 961-971
Class 92 Electric locomotive 1993 16 Co-Co 92006, 010, 014, 018, 020-021, 023, 028, 032–033, 038, 040, 043–046
Vanguard 0-6-0DH Diesel locomotive 2011 2 DH50-1, DH50-2


  1. Companies House extract company no 3707899 GB Railfreight Limited
  2. Schabas, Michael (October 2003). Memorandum by GB Railfreight. Hansard (Report). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  3. "GBR orders 66 fleet for Railtrack contract" Rail Magazine issue 382 3 May 2000 page 5
  4. "GB Rail signs freight contract with Railtrack" The Railway Magazine issue 1190 June 2000 page 10
  5. "GB Railfreight given licence" Rail Magazine issue 388 26 July 2000 page 4
  6. "GB Railfreight signs deal with West Coast Traincare" Rail Magazine issue 406 4 April 2001 page 13
  7. "GBRf starts container service to Selby" The Railway Magazine issue 1212 April 2002 page 95
  8. 1 2 "Making sure the mail on rail doesn't fail" Rail Magazine issue 609 14 January 2009 page 50
  9. "GB Rail Offer Unconditional". Corporate News (Press release). FirstGroup plc. 14 August 2003. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  10. "First Group buys GB for $22million" The Railway Magazine issue 1229 September 2003 page 10
  11. "GB Railways is bought by First Group for £22 million" Rail Express issue 88 September 2003 page 8
  12. "Network Rail hands GBRf more work: Class 73s acquired, wagons bought" Rail Express issue 94 March 2004 page 8
  13. "Mail to move by rail again". GB Railfreight News (Press release). 18 October 2004. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  14. "Mail back on rail: GBRf wins postal contract" The Railway Magazine issue 1244 December 2004 page 4
  15. "GB Railfreight wins Royal Mail contract". GB Railfreight News (Press release). 20 May 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  16. "FirstGBRf wins new contact (sic) with Royal Mail". GB Railfreight News (Press release). 15 June 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  17. "Welcome back Finedon Road Yard" Rail Express issue 122 July 2006 page 3
  18. "GBRF wins first coal contract" Today's Railways issue 54 July 2006 page 15
  19. "GB Railfreight expands into coal" Rail Express issue 122 July 2006 page 7
  20. "GBRf enters coal market" The Railway Magazine issue 1264 August 2006 page 6
  21. "GBRf aims to be first for freight" Rail Magazine issue 603 22 October 2008 pages 38-42
  22. "More new locos and wagons ordered as GB Railfreight becomes FirstGBRf" Rail Express issue 134 July 2007 page 7
  23. "GB Railfreight becomes FirstGBRf" The Railway Magazine issue 1276 August 2007 page 76
  24. "GBRf expands operations with charter trips" Rail Magazine issue 645 2 June 2010 page 34
  25. First Great Western Taunton Trains
  26. "First GBRf takes over on FGW Taunton diagram" Rail Express issue 164 January 2010 page 7
  27. "First GBRf to operate FGW contract" The Railway Magazine issue 1306 February 2010 page 61
  28. Barnard, Bruce (3 May 2010). "European Rivals Bid for GB Railfreight". The Journal of Commerce. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  29. "Eurotunnel buys GB Railfreight from FirstGroup". Railway Gazette. 1 June 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  30. "Eurotunnel buys GBRf" The Railway Magazine issue 1312 August 2010 page 10
  31. Bray, Martin (14 December 2011). "Cardiff Tidal Sidings". Tidal, Margam & Canton. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  32. "GB Railfreight takes over at Cardiff Tidal Yard" Rail Express issue 179 April 2011 page 50
  33. 1 2 "GBRf buys Norwegian locos for steelworks". The Railway Magazine (1329): 85. January 2012.
  34. "The Sleepers are stirring" Rail Magazine issue 756 3 September 2014 page 70
  35. "GBRf wins IEP test contract for Class 800/801 trains". The Railway Magazine (1351): 80. November 2013.
  36. "IEP trains to undergo night testing on East Coast line". Rail Magazine (738): 16. 25 December 2013.
  37. Groupe Eurotunnel launches the sale of GB Railfreight Groupe Eurotunnel 18 October 2016
  38. "GB Railways Class 66s" The Railway Magazine issue 1188 April 2000 page 11
  39. "GBRf welcomes the first five of 21 new 66s onto UK soil" Rail Magazine issue 753 23 July 2014 page 28
  40. "GBRf to Bring Trio of Euro 66s to Britain" The Railway Magazine issue 1340 December 2012 page 11
  41. "New lease of life for GB Railways Class 73s" The Railway Magazine issue 1236 April 2004 page 67
  42. "GBRf spends £50m on new Class 66/7s and Class 92s" Rail Magazine issue 741 5 February 2014 page 6
  43. "More Riviera Trains 47s lined up for GBRf duties" Rail Magazine issue 750 11 June 2014 page 28
  44. "Three 47s on hire to GBRf" Today's Railways issue 152 August 2014 page 62
  45. GB Railfreight hires 55022 Royal Scots Grey 10 April 2011
  46. "Deltic joins GBRf fleet" The Railway Magazine issue 1322 June 2011 page 9
  47. "GBRf hires Deltic to haul EMUs" Rail Magazine issue 722 page 15 May 2013 page 35
  48. "GBRf hires a Western to haul Midlands freight" The Railway Magazine issue 1353 December 2013 page 7
  49. "First a Deltic, now a Western for GBRf" Today's Railways issue 145 January 2014 page 61
  50. "D1015 to stay with GBRf" Railways Illustrated February 2014 page 8
  51. Trotter, Phil. "Industrial Diesel & Electric Locomotives" (photo gallery annotation). Retrieved 18 October 2012. GBRf's DH50-1 … to replace ageing class 08s here with reconditioned industrial locomotives; … as rebuild no. 9376 of 2011.
  52. 1 2 GB Railfreight brings hardy 'Yeoman Highlander' back to the UK GB Railfreight 19 August 2014
  53. 1 2 Yeoman Highlander to return to the UK Rail Express 20 August 2014
  54. "More Class 66s for GB Railfreight to arrive next year?" Rail Magazine issue 764 24 December 2014 page 15
  55. "Loophole sees GBRf order another seven 66s" Today's Railways issue 158 February 2015 page 54
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