New electric locomotives could operate from Felixstowe

Class 99 locomotive

New locomotives from GB Railfreight should start running to Felixstowe in 2025. - Credit: Beacon Rail

A new fleet of electric freight locomotives is set to arrive in the UK later this decade and could be hauling trains to and from Felixstowe port from 2025.

The 30 new Class 99 locomotives have been ordered by GB Railfreight, one of three operators to use the port, and would replace the company's current fleet of diesel locomotives.

They will take power from overhead lines where it is installed - but will also have a diesel engine to provide power on non-electrified lines like the Felixstowe branch.

Most of GB Railfreight's services travel cross-country using the non-electrified line from Haughley to Peterborough but there are long-term hopes that this could be wired up in the future.

GB Raifreight at Felixstowe

GB Railfreight currently uses diesel locomotives like this Class 66. - Credit: Port of Felixstowe

The locomotives have been ordered by leasing company Beacon Rail and will be built in Spain by Stadler - the same company that built the new passenger trains for Greater Anglia's Intercity and regional services.

It is estimated that with current infrastructure the new locomotives will cut carbon emissions by about 50% with the current infrastructure - and that proportion will increase as more electrification is introduced during their long lifespans on the rail network.

GB Railfreight chief executive John Smith said: "I want to thank the teams at Stadler and Beacon Rail for their collaboration in producing a train fit for a greener future.

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"Rail freight is already a more sustainable alternative to moving goods by road, but the Class 99 will increase our industry’s levels of sustainability and propel us further towards meeting the UK government’s task to decarbonise the rail industry by 2040 in support of the UK’s net zero ambitions.”

Beacon Rail chief executive Adam Cunliffe added: "The Class 99 order underlines Beacon’s drive to support the UK’s journey towards a greener and more efficient rail network.”

The government aspires to make rail travel carbon neutral by 2040, electrifying more lines and replacing diesel locomotives with electric, battery, or hydrogen-powered alternatives.

Greater Anglia's new bimode diesel/electric units have diesel generator in the middle which could be replaced by batteries or a hydrogen engine in the future as technology advances.

And new electric or electro-diesel locomotives are built with an expected service life of 40 years - some diesel locomotives on the network today date from the early 1960s.