DB Cargo UK

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DB Cargo UK
Industry Rail freight
Predecessor Loadhaul
Mainline Freight
Rail Express Systems
Railfreight Distribution
Transrail Freight
Founded 1995
Headquarters Doncaster, England
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
Edward Burkhardt (Chairman & CEO 1995–1999)[1]
Keith Heller (CEO / Co-chairman) 2004–2010[2][3]
Alain Thauvette CEO[4]
Services Bulk freight and intermodal logistics
Owner Deutsche Bahn
Parent DB Schenker
Subsidiaries Euro Cargo Rail
Axiom Rail
Website www.uk.dbcargo.com

DB Cargo UK, formerly DB Schenker Rail UK and English Welsh & Scottish Railway, is a British rail freight company headquartered in Doncaster, England.

The company was founded in 1995 as North & South Railways, acquiring five of the six freight companies sold during the privatisation of British Rail,[note 1] becoming the UK market leader in rail freight transportation. In November 2007, EWS was sold to Deutsche Bahn, and in January 2009 rebranded as DB Schenker. In March 2016 it was rebranded as DB Cargo UK.



In 1988, British Rail's (BR) freight operations were split into two divisions Railfreight Distribution (RfD) and Trainload Freight (TLF).[5] RfD took over BR's Freightliner and Speedlink services and general wagonload and trainload services, excluding bulk coal, petroleum, aggregates and metals.[6] BR's bulk trainload services were handled by the Trainload Freight division.[7][8] In 1991 the Rail Express Systems brand was created, to handle mail and postal services.[9]

After the passing of the Railways Act 1993, five rail freight companies were formed from RfD and TLF.[5][10] On 1 April 1994,TLF was split into three separate geographical businesses: Trainload North East, Trainload West and Trainload South East, with each initially given existing contracts based on the geographic origin of the trainflow, plus some contract trainload services previously handled by RfD.[11][12] which were later renamed Loadhaul, Mainline Freight and Transrail Freight.[12][13][14]

The remainder of RfD was split into two companies: Freightliner (container operations between ports), with the residual RfD company operating freight trains through the Channel Tunnel.[5] The Mail and Parcels business were sold as Rail Express Systems and Red Star Parcels.[10]

These companies were subsequently put up for sale by competitive tender.[15]

English Welsh & Scottish Railway

EWS liveried Class 66 and coal wagons near Tupton, Derbyshire in May 2011
EWS liveried Class 92 at Crewe Works in June 2003

To bid for the ex-BR businesses being offered for sale, North and South Railways Limited was formed.[16] It was owned by a consortium headed by Wisconsin Central,[5][17] with additional financing provided by Berkshire Partners, Goldman Sachs and Fay Richwhite.[18]

On 9 December 1995, North and South Railways purchased Rail Express Systems for £24 million.[19][20] With this came the contract for the Royal Mail train service, including the Travelling Post Office trains, and the contract to haul the Royal Train.[21] A fleet of 164 locomotives and 677 postal vans were included along with depots at Bristol Barton Hill, Cambridge, Crewe and London Euston.[22]

Then on 24 February 1996, British Rail's three trainload freight companies, Loadhaul, Mainline Freight and Transrail Freight were acquired for £225 million.[19][20] The sale included 914 locomotives and 19,310 wagons.[23]

All four companies were subsequently merged into North and South Railways,[24] nullifying the government's effort to create multiple competitive rail freight firms through the privatisation;[25] the decision to allow the creation of a rail freight company with a dominant market position was justified by the additional competition faced from other transport modes.[17][26] At the time rail had a 6% share of the freight market.[27]

Initially, the four companies continued to trade under their existing names. On 25 April 1996, the EWS brand was unveiled.[28][29]

On 10 July 1996 the holding company's name was changed to English Welsh & Scottish Railway Holdings Limited.[16] In October 1996, Loadhaul and Mainline Freight were merged with Transrail Freight, and employees transferred to Transrail Freight, which was then renamed to English Welsh & Scottish Railway Limited.[30][31]

One of the first actions of the enlarged company was to seek volunteers for redundancy, as it sought to reduce staff numbers by around 3,000, from 7,600.[32]

On 24 December 1996, EWS was announced as the preferred bidder for the loss-making Railfreight Distribution,[33][34] for which it received grants and subsidies estimated to amount to £242 million over eight years .[35] including subsidies for the use of the Channel Tunnel.[36] Railfreight Distribution's businesses included international containerised freight, movement of cars and automotive components by rail, and freight services for the Ministry of Defence. The sale included 157 locomotives.[34] It was concluded on 12 March 1997.[37] At this point, EWS controlled 90% of the rail freight market.[38] Railfreight Distribution was renamed English Welsh & Scottish Railway International on 1 December 1998.[24][33]

The new company had over 900 locomotives, 19,000 freight wagons, and 7,000 employees. Track access charges were renegotiated and after 1,800 job redundancies the workers involved in profit sharing and other incentivised working plans; as a result shipping rates were reduced by over 30%.[39] Many locomotives inherited on foundation were considered unreliable, and expensive to maintain;[40] the company invested heavily in modernisation of its rolling stock; by 2002 £750 million had been invested,[41] including 280 new locomotives and over 2,000 new wagons.[42][note 2]

Services included mail, locomotive hire, wagonload traffic (branded 'Enterprise', founded by Transrail Freight), cross channel trains via the Channel Tunnel, trainload freight including oil, aggregates, cement and traffic related to the coal, electricity generation and steel industries, and infrastructure trains for Railtrack.[43] Following privatisation EWS began to compete for Intermodal contracts,[note 3] while it faced competition from Freightliner in its core markets.[44][45] Turnover in 1999 was £533.7 million, an 80% market share by value.[46]

On 1 April 1998, open access operator National Power's rail division was taken over with six Class 59 locomotives and 106 wagons.[47][42]

In January 2001, the Canadian National Railway announced it had agreed to purchase Wisconsin Central.[48] The deal, which included Wisconsin Central's 42.5% stake in EWS, was concluded in October 2001.[30][49]

The contract with Royal Mail was lost in 2003 to road transport.[50][51] EWS acquired the assets of wagon bogie company, Probotec Limited in 2005,[52][53][note 4] It was formed into a new subsidiary, Axiom Rail that also took over responsibility for some of the depots and leasing surplus locomotives overseas.[57]

In October 2005, a subsidiary in France trading as Euro Cargo Rail commenced operating.[58][59][60] Several Class 66 locomotives were transferred.

In November 2005, EWS acquired wagon maintenance business Marcroft.[38] As a result of the potential of the acquisition to reduce competition in the UK wagon repair market the acquisition was referred to the Competition Commission by the Office of Fair Trading, who required EWS to sell all or part of the business excluding Marcroft's works at Stoke on Trent.[61] That was incorporated into the Axiom business.

By 2006, turnover was approaching £1 billion.[62] In 2006 the Office of Rail Regulation fined the company £4.1million for anti-competitive practices in the coal haulage business, in which it had held a near monopoly, following complaints by Enron and Freightliner Heavy Haul in 2001 and 2002.[63][64][note 5]

DB Cargo UK

DB Schenker liveried 59206 at the National Railway Museum, York in January 2009

On 28 June 2007, Deutsche Bahn announced it had agreed to purchase EWS, subject to receiving regulatory approval.[66][67] for £309 million[68] At the time EWS had a market share of around 70% in the United Kingdom and around 5,000 employees.[69] After the transaction was approved by the European Commissioner for Competition,[70][71] the sale was completed on 13 November 2007.[72]

At the time of the sale, it was announced that EWS would not be rebranded,[73] but on 1 January 2009, EWS was rebranded as DB Schenker along with Deutsche Bahn's Railion and DB Schenker divisions.[74][75]

The first locomotive painted in DB Schenker livery was Class 59 59206 at Toton Depot in January 2009,[76] being formally unveiled at the National Railway Museum, York on 21 January 2009.[77][78] [note 6]

In 2009, DB Schenker Rail began work to enable Class 92 hauled trains to operate freight services on the High Speed 1 by installing in cab TVM signalling. The project received funding from the European Commission and it was originally anticipated services would begin in early 2010.[80] On 25 March 2011, for the first time a modified class 92 locomotive travelled from Dollands Moor to Singlewell using the TVM430 signalling system.[81] The first of five planned test trains ran as a loaded container train from Hams Hall, West Midlands to Novara, Italy on 27 May 2011.[82][83][84] DB planned to upgrade an additional five Class 92 locomotives to allow them to run on High Speed 1, making a fleet of six.[85][86][87]

In July 2011, a trial run of wagons carrying curtain walled swap bodies built to a larger European loading gauge was run from Dollands Moor, Folkestone to east London.[88] From 11 November 2011 a weekly service using European sized swap bodies has run between Barking, London and Wroclaw, Poland using High Speed 1.[89][90]

On 2 March 2016, DB Schenker was rebranded as DB Cargo UK.[91]

Services and rolling stock

Rolling stock

37411 at Carlisle station on an Arriva Trains Northern service in August 2004

EWS inherited a fleet of 1,231 locomotives from its British Rail acquisitions.[22][23][34]

In May 1996, an order for 250 Class 66s and 30 Class 67s was placed.[92] These replaced all of the 20, 31, 33, 37, 47, 56, 58, 73 and 86 class locomotives.[93] Through improved utilisation, they also replaced many of the newer 60 and 90 class locomotives.

Several of these redundant locomotives saw further use on infrastructure trains in Europe with Class 37s operated in France (40), Italy (2) and Spain (14),[94][95][96] Class 56s in France (30),[97] and Class 58s in France (26), the Netherlands (3) and Spain (8).[97][98]

EWS gained the attention of the Rail Regulator for scrapping serviceable locomotives rather than making them available for sale to potential competitors.[99]

As well as an extensive fleet of freight wagons, DB Schenker Rail operate a small fleet of Mark 2 and Mark 3 carriages. Some of the former are on lease to First ScotRail for use on Fife Circle services,[100] while the latter form the DB Schenker Company Train.[101][102][103]


DB Schenker's primary maintenance depot is Toton.[104] The electric fleet is maintained at Crewe. With a modern fleet requiring less maintenance, many of the depots EWS inherited have closed.[105] Some of its other facilities including Bristol Barton Hill, Cambridge, Eastleigh and Newcastle have been transferred to fellow Deutsche Bahn subsidiary LNWR.[106][107]

In 2001, EWS commenced a contract to service Virgin CrossCountry's Class 220/221 fleets at Bristol Barton Hill, Eastleigh, Newcastle, Old Oak Common and Three Bridges.[108]

Locomotive haulage for Passenger services

Since its inception, EWS has provided locomotives for the Caledonian Sleeper.[109] It inherited the contract from Rail Express Systems to provide Class 37 and Class 47s north of Edinburgh Waverley. In March 1998, it also began hauling the services south from Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central to London Euston with Class 90s.[110]

Class 67s replaced the Class 37s and Class 47s in the early 2000s.[111][112] This work has now ceased operating on 31 March 2015.[113] In April 2003, EWS purchased the Rail Charter Services business from William McAlpine with 70 Mark 1 carriages.[114]

As of October 2014, Class 67s haul passenger services for Arriva Trains Wales,[115] Chiltern Railways[116] and First ScotRail.[112] Class 67s are also used as Thunderbird rescue locomotives for East Coast.[117] EWS also provides locomotives for the Venice-Simplon Orient Express.[118]

EWS have previously hauled passenger trains for Anglia Railways,[119] Arriva Trains Northern,[120] First Great Western[121] First North Western,[122] National Express East Anglia, Valley Lines, Virgin CrossCountry[123] Virgin West Coast and Wrexham & Shropshire.[124]

Since its inception, EWS has held the contract to operate the Royal Train. Initially two Class 47s were dedicated to this work.[125] These were replaced in 2004 by two Class 67s.[126][127]


In April 1996, EWS adopted a maroon and yellow livery.[28] Initial repaints carried EW&S lettering, however this was simplified to EWS in January 1997.[128][129] In January 2009, the DB Schenker corporate red livery was adopted.[77][78] A few locomotives have been repainted in other liveries including Class 90s in GNER, First ScotRail and Direct Rail Services liveries, and Class 67s in Royal Train, Wrexham & Shropshire and unbranded Arriva Trains Wales liveries.[130][131][132][133]

See also


  1. The sixth rail freight company created during privatisation, Freightliner, was privatised through a management buyout.
  2. The main orders were: 250 EMD Series 66 locomotives from GM-EMD built in USA/Canada, 30 JT 42HW-HS from Alstom / Electro Motive Diesel (Spain/USA), and around 2500 wagons from Thrall Car Manufacturing Company, built at the Thrall Europa, York works.
  3. After 2002 began intermodal services from the ports of Felixstowe, Southampton, and Tilbury.[24]
  4. Probotec was formed 2004 from Powell Duffryn Rail.[54] Powell Duffryn Rail originated as the Cambrian Wagon Company, registered 1905, numerous amalgamations and changes of shareholding, became part of Powell Duffryn in 1935;[55] also acquired the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in 1986.[56]
  5. Complaints made in 2003 alleging predatory pricing in the passenger charter sector were not upheld.[65]
  6. Previously two EWS locomotives had received DB Schenker branding — including a light blue British Rail Class 60 60074 named "Teenage Cancer Trust"[79]


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  • Decision of the Office of Rail Regulation – English Welsh and Scottish Railway Limited (PDF), Office of Rail Regulation, December 2006<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "The Sale of Rail Freight Distribution" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions / National Audit Office. 26 March 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2012. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  • Parker, David (2012), "Popular Capitalism. 1987–1997", The Official History of Privatisation: Popular Capitalism, 1987–97, 2CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Butcher, Louise (18 March 2011). "Railways: privatisation, 1987–1996". www.parliament.uk. House of Commons Library. p. 13.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Nash, C.; Fowkes, T. (2004). "Rail Privatisation in Britain – Lessons for the Rail Freight Industry". European integration of rail freight transport (Round Table 125) (PDF). European Conference of Ministers of Transport. Economic Research Centre. OECD Publishing. pp. 61–94.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Sutton, Philip (August 2007). "Burkhardt on EWS". Rail Express. 135: 32–37.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links