Freightliner has confirmed that it will be withdrawing its entire fleet of electric locomotives in response to soaring electricity prices.

The company – which is the largest UK freight operator of electric locomotives – says it has been forced to replace its 23 Class 90s with diesel traction following a steep rise in wholesale electricity prices of more than 200% between September and October.

A Freightliner spokesman said: “As a result of an unprecedented increase in electricity prices, FL has taken the difficult decision to temporarily replace its electric freight services with diesel-hauled services in order to maintain a cost-effective solution for transporting essential goods and supplies around the UK.

19 thoughts on “Ahahahaha”

  1. And once everything is electrified, and depends on unreliable windmills, the rail system will break down entirely. As will everything else.

  2. And yet they want to ban internal combustion engines. All-electric, all the time!

    Until the power goes out…

  3. Now if they were honest and stated that they used this chance to find an excuse to mothball their geriatric, partialy leased(!), electric fleet…
    The things are over three decades old, built to british Union Standards, and have to cannibalise for maintenance..

    Plus I get the feeling that what they need to pay for their ‘leccie has a fair amount of bells and whistles added to the point where the actual wholesale price is but a rounding error.

    But hey…

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    And in related news, Bjoern Lomburg tweets:

    “ Electric cars net-bad everywhere

    Switching from gasoline to electric means less CO₂

    but electric cars 500kg+ heavier and therefore deadlier in accidents

    Using realistic carbon cost at $68/ton (EU)

    more deadly outweigh less CO₂

    New Nature study:

    Not surprisingly, this is not the preferred message,

    so Nature article uses unrealistic $150 CO₂ price

    Switching to heavier electric car on very clean electricity grids like Norway/France juust ok

    Even at $150, switching bad in US, Germany, Japan, China, India & Australia”


  5. Oh James! You poor deluded soul. I think we’re well beyond that now. It would need an Ecksian solution, plus assorted predators, and I don’t think the Great British Public are up for that yet. Look at other countries that have shithole electricity systems. The locals just suffer it. That may be because they’ve never known the 24/7 supply we’ve had since the late 50s apart from a few wobbles and industrial action. But then California used to have reliable electricity but now look at it and the public just get on with it. That may of course be because they are mostly Democrats and very embarrassed.

  6. This surprises me.

    In the US freight locomotives are “Diesel-electric,” power plants on wheels using powerful diesel engines to drive generators to supply electricity to electric motors which spin the wheels.

    There are multiple reasons including

    (1) Diesel engines have torque/speed problems resolved for cars, trucks & buses with gear-box transmissions so the diesel engine can run at a higher speed where it can supply the required torque while the gears lower the speed at the wheels to get the thing moving. Locomotives require so much power, that such gear-box transmissions are not practical.

    (2) Related to the torque/speed curve for Diesel engines is they are more efficient (power/$) at a particular speed so they can run at a constant speed while supplying as needed power to the electric generators.

    (3) Electric motors driving the wheels provides better control & electric motors provide maximum torque at 0 RPM.

    GE mfr’s locomotives & will or has developed battery powered locomotives but used WITH Diesel-electric locomotives in the same train. There are economic advantages running on batteries for a while as well as reduced noise near stations, but the article said they would only be providing the power for about 30 minutes.

  7. tex – yes, a hybrid diesel electric drive train for locomotives makes a lot of sense for the reasons you mentioned (especially efficient running and low end torque) . But in this case it’s electric locos running off overhead lines (from the grid) that they can’t afford to power right now. Hence run straight diesel instead. It’s what they’ve got available.

  8. Freightliners ‘diesel’ locos will actually be diesel-electric for the reasons Tex outlines. I wonder if the mainline passenger services on East & West coast main lines will go back to geriatric diesel-electric. I would love to see Deltics back on the main lines but that’s a forlorn hope.

  9. Harry Haddock's Ghost

    All diesel locos in the UK (perhaps with the exception of a few remaining DMU’s) are diesel electric, aren’t they? Always have been. Can you imagine the gearbox you would need otherwise!

  10. The class 90 electrics were built in the late ’80s, essentially they were a facelift of the class 87 which had been built in the early ’70s, and all the power systems are essentially the same designs from the late ’60s. In the intervening 50 years, power electrics have improved significantly: I would expect a modern electric loco to use around half the power to perform the same work, plus the modern loco will have regenerative braking so overall even more efficient. They mainly run on the west coast main line, where a load of HST diesel passenger services have been replaced with bi-modes, leading to a shortage of power on the railway independent to the current wholesale power costs.

    Freightliner use class 66 diesel-electrics which are 15-20 years old and use much more modern and efficient electrical systems than the class 90s. Essentially Freightliner are saying that it’s cheaper to use an efficient electric loco that carries a diesel generator with it than to pay Network Rail for electricity for an inefficient electric loco. Especially if there’s a little side-deal with Network Rail to ease their supply/demand issues in certain key locations.

    Freightliner own all their class 90s now, they bought them from the leasing company and added some more just a couple of years ago. While they were horrendously unreliable (union quality) when new, a few overhauls have seen them become quite reasonable. One is being cannibalised for spares, but that had fire damage to the chassis so would never be allowed to run again in service anyway. I think we probably can take it that Network Rail are really struggling with electricity supply (hence making it either expensive to buy or there’s some deal for not using it) and possibly that Freightliner have got themselves some cheap diesel that refineries couldn’t get shipped out to petrol stations over the last few weeks. So the press release is probably true to a significant extent.

  11. DMUs are just a truck engine on each unit with a fluid flywheel. In our area they’ve replaced those with electric units that have a diesel generator unit in the middle for when running on our local line.

  12. @Harry Haddock’s ghost
    Pretty much all diesel locos are diesel-electric. Very few diesel multiple units are (although the introduction of bi-modes is increasing this). Any DMU whose class number begins with ‘2’ is diesel-electric; any beginning with ‘1’ is diesel-mechanical, almost exclusively using turbo transmissions (essentially a torque converter). Turbo transmissions have the advantage of being physically smaller — the class 210 DEMU had to lose half a carriage for the engine, while the contemporary class 150 DMU sprinter had everything under the floor — and more reliable. Their disadvantage is in the range of speeds over which they can provide a decent amount of torque, so anything that needs to do more than 90mph will be diesel-electric (with the exception of the 172 which has a 6-speed ZF automatic gearbox rather than relying solely on a turbo transmission)

  13. Tractor, a GA ‘customer’ then……….

    Matt @7.46. Regen braking works really well on Multiple Unit trains (about a 10% reduction in energy use) but on a freight train only the loco will have it, all the wagons being traditional friction brakes.

  14. @Addolff
    On a modern freight train the loco does pretty much all the service braking*, the wagon brakes are only used in hard or emergency brake applications. Reduces wear on the wagon brakes and removes the risk that one will stick on. A class 66 diesel loco will do most of its braking as regen, but then use the generated leccy to heat resistors in the roof: prevents brake fade and improves serviceability. The class 22x DEMUs do the same — to the point that when Virgin Voyagers first worked the GW line through Dawlish, everything would go to pot if a wave broke over a train as it would short them out — I believe some waterproofing was added to fix that.

    An argument could be made that regen doesn’t matter so much on a freight train because it doesn’t change speed as much as a stopping passenger service, but the counter is that when they do start and stop they’re a lot heavier!

    * To be honest I don’t know what the operation is on a Class 90… but as it doesn’t regenerate anyway it’s somewhat irrelevant.

  15. If you want serious nerdery, just start a discussion amongst a group of Brit men of a certain age, about railway engines.

    See above for proof.

  16. Thanks Ltw.
    I should have thought of that, but while overhead lines may exist in the US, I’ve not seen them since a small boy (40’s or 50’s) when some street cars had overhead lines. I’ve also heard of the “3rd rail” providing the juice but I’ve never seen that either.

  17. @tex
    Electrified rail in the US is almost entirely East Coast (Bos-Wash), plus a few metro systems such as the Chicago L and the SF BART.

    I’ll get my anorak.

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