CILT Logo Gradient1 The Scottish Region Website

"Direct Rail Services Ltd" by Sarka Oldham, DRS Account Manager - Glasgow meeting of 4 March 2008

Direct Rail Services works closely with WH Malcolm providing intermodal services.d

Direct Rail Services works closely with WH Malcolm providing intermodal services.

© Direct Rail Services Ltd. 2008

Direct Rail Services (DRS) was formed in 1995 to provide the parent company, then British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL), with a strategic rail transport service. Since April 2005, DRS is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), providing specialist transport services for the nuclear industry.

Since then the company has expanded to provide a comprehensive range of services complete with a 24 hour control centre and engineering support network and is now one of the leading providers of inter-modal services throughout the UK. The company is a fully licensed national rail operator and transports spent nuclear fuel from various sites in the UK as well as from overseas power stations to Sellafield for reprocessing.

Originally, the transportation of spent nuclear fuel accounted for 100 per cent of the company's business, but today due to older power stations coming offline, specialist freight only accounts for approximately 50 per cent of the work undertaken. The company also transports hazardous chemicals to Sellafield and provides a range of support services to both Network Rail for rail infrastructure treatment works and facilitate other rail operators with train crew and traction hire on a range of services.

The inter-modal services are operated on behalf of a number of logistics providers including W. H. Malcolm, J. G Russell and Eddie Stobart. Whilst DRS looks after the rail journey, the logistics providers look after the road transport from the rail terminal to the final destination. DRS first began operating an inter-modal service on behalf of W. H. Malcolm between Daventry and Grangemouth in 2001, and this service now operates 7 days a week.

One of Direct Rail Services class 66 locomotives in Stobart Rail livery.d

One of Direct Rail Services class 66 locomotives in Stobart Rail livery.

© Direct Rail Services Ltd. 2008

Other services soon followed and the company now provides services between Daventry and Mossend and Grangemouth to Aberdeen, along with a service between Daventry and Coatbridge. However, one of the difficulties in operating trains seven days a week is the ongoing upgrading of the railways and track possessions can make operations interesting if not challenging. This is one of the consequences of operating on a railway network that needs much reinvestment.

Direct Rail Services have their own fully equipped maintenance depots, one at Carlisle and the other at Crewe providing ideal in-house maintenance facilities as well as quality third party maintenance capability. These depots look after the fleet of 88 locomotives that includes classes 20, 37, 47. The company also operates 30 "environmentally friendly" class 66 locomotives.

The older locomotives have been refurbished and incorporate the latest technology, including GPS tracking. The locomotive fleet is all diesel, although the company has considered electric traction. Whilst electric locomotives have a number of advantages, they also have disadvantages and can be more expensive to operate, so DRS has chosen to remain with diesel locomotives for the time being.

In addition to the locomotives, DRS currently owns around 200 pieces of rolling stock. In order to meet customer requirements, DRS has designed rolling stock to meet specific customer requirements. The company has over 300 staff and more than 150 drivers. It has a dedicated in-house training school which allows the company to offer ongoing route and traction training and develop progressive methods of driver training that ensures that qualified drivers meet the highest standards of performance and service delivery as demanded by customers.

Direct Rail Services also works with JG Russell.d

Direct Rail Services also works with JG Russell.

© Direct Rail Services Ltd. 2008

As the company is developing the inter-modal market, it needs to be customer focused and employs staff from a number of disciplines in order to provide the customer with cost effective tailored services. The company has its head office in Carlisle, it with depots at the South East, York, Crewe, Sellafield, Grangemouth, Inverness and a new terminal in Aberdeen.

DRS is ideally sited for future expansion in the inter-modal business, especially with container services. The company has also pioneered the use of curtain side railway rolling stock and has also acquired a rake of Mark III coaches for use on charter trains on behalf of one of it's clients.

Following the presentation there was a lively debate with many questions from the audience and these were ably answered by the speaker. Further information on Direct Rail Services can be found on the company's website,

The Scottish Region would like to thank Sarka Oldham for taking the time to come to Glasgow to address the meeting, Eva Foran of DRS for her assistance with this report and provision of the photographs and First Scotrail for hosting the event.

Report by John Fender.


The CILT Logo is a registered trademark of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport
Unless otherwise stated, site and contents © John G. Fender 1997 - 2024
Site designed & maintained by John G. Fender