Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Who’d think it?

Posted in Great Britain, High Speed, Infrastructure, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 13 January 2011

Back in November, I wrote that Eurotunnel had purchased a pair of surplus Class 6400 locomotives from DB Schenker Nederland to strengthen its Class 0001 fleet. The intention of this purchase, which was done in conjunction with Eurostar, was to try and ensure that the difficulties suffered in the winter of 2009/10 (when Eurostar suffered several embarrassing train failures in the Tunnel) could be avoided by having more “Thunderbird” locomotives available to rescue stranded trains. However, I also stated that perhaps it might be an idea for Eurostar to purchase its own small fleet of “Thunderbirds” that it could station at key points along the route of High Speed 1 as necessary, so that the “difficulties of jurisdiction” over who did what were nullified (harsh words went back and forth between Eurostar and Eurotunnel over the incidents in 2009). But, we’re getting to the stage where ever more operators are being allowed access to High Speed 1 – there’s Eurostar obviously, plus Eurotunnel (who operate the car and lorry trains as well as freight trains through Europorte), but also Southeastern. In the future DB Schenker will begin running freight services, while a number of high speed rail operators, led by Deutsche Bahn, are seeking to start running passenger trains to London. Given all of this potential additional traffic using the route, how about the new owners of High Speed 1 Ltd purchase some of their own “Thunderbird” locomotives? As it happens, DB Schenker (UK) have put a total of 12 Class 90 locomotives up for sale as redundant. While obviously these are electric locomotives powered from OHLE, if the wires were still up they would be perfectly usable to rescue a failed train. And how often do you see the wires come down on a new build HS line? Certainly not as often as you do on the ECML. Having these operated directly by the infrastructure owner of HS1 ensures there are no management difficulties (given that Eurotunnel is the infrastructure operator of the Tunnel, not HS1) in the event of a train failure on the line itself – Eurotunnel’s locomotives could remove a failure in the Tunnel, while HS1 Ltd’s would deal with a failure between London and the Tunnel. Purchase enough of them, and there’s the potential for HS1 Ltd to become a locomotive spot-hire company as well, creating an even bigger dividend for all of those retired public sector employees in Ontario (to explain, HS1 Ltd is now owned by two institutions – the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System).

DB Schenker Locomotive Disposals – January 2011
Class 90 Eletric Loco Group – Special Announcement

Would Class 90s be able to do the Thunderbird job for High Speed 1?

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