GB Railfreight’s John Smith Recognised with Lifetime Achievement Award

GB Railfreight’s John Smith Recognised with Lifetime Achievement Award

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight was recognised last night for his dedication and service to the rail industry at the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Technology (CILT) Annual Awards for Excellence.

HRH Princess Anne presented John with the prestigious Presidents Award at the glittering ceremony surrounded by colleagues and friends.

John has worked on the railways for the past 42 years, founding GB Railfreight in 1999 and working tirelessly to grow the business. Today GBRf is the third largest rail freight business in the UK with ambitious plans to further develop their footprint in the intermodal market.

John is very deserving of this award. His experiences have afforded him a unique insight into the challenges and opportunities that rail freight faces, with the ability to compose solutions to guarantee the best possible service for GBRf’s highly valued customers.

Through strong leadership, taking the time to pass on his considerable knowledge to colleagues and generally being an approachable person, John has been an inspirational driving force and highly regarded by those working alongside him.

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Chair of Network Rail:

“John is a great present-day railway industry leader, and this award is richly deserved. He has made GBRf what it is and made a huge contribution to the wider industry. Well done, John!”

John Smith, Managing Director GB Railfreight:

“I am absolutely thrilled to have received this award. It is an honour and privilege. I first started out on the railways at the age of 16 as a Technician Apprentice at British Rail. This was an incredible opportunity for me and set me on the right path. Now, after 42 years in the sector I’m delighted to help play a role in bringing new talent into the sector and drive forward growth in freight. I feel we are entering an important and very exciting time for the industry.”

GB Railfreight Make History with Class 66 to Oban Station

GB Railfreight Make History with Class 66 to Oban Station

GB Railfreight made history on Thursday 12 September, when for the first time ever a Class 66 locomotive ran along the Oban branch in Scotland right to its terminus.

The achievement was two years in the making. GBRf worked with Network Rail to approve the use of Class 66s on the line, as previously they had not been permitted with only lighter locomotives, such as Class 37s, allowed.

Locomotive 66 746 successfully headed the Royal Scotsman into Oban Station, and a limited number of charter Class 66 locomotives a year will be able to run on the single track Crianlarich to Oban line in the West Highlands for rail excursions.

The use of Class 66s on the line was specifically designed to facilitate the Royal Scotsman excursions along one of the most scenic railway lines in the world, taking in the remote mountainous west coast of Scotland, on board an overnight luxury train.

The journey itself sweeps along the edge of Loch Awe, past Ben Cruachan (the highest point in Argyll and Bute) where travellers can take in the ruins of Kilchurn Castle, before heading to Loch Etive and then to Oban. From Oban, travellers can then take ferries on to Mull, Iona and the Outer Hebrides.

John Smith, Managing Director GB Railfreight, said:

“This is an historic achievement and a lot of hard work has gone into making Class 66s on the Oban branch a reality. The first journey was a resounding success and just goes to show the expertise of the GBRf team in meeting and exceeding challenges to deliver innovative services for our clients across the whole of the UK. The whole team is very excited to see further Class 66s arrive at Oban station.”

Andy Saunders, Freight Delivery Director, said:

“Network Rail were delighted to support this important charter service through the Oban line and being able to permit a limited number of Class 66 movements a year for the operation of the Royal Scotsman”.


GB Railfreight Celebrates Locomotion’s 15th Anniversary with Class 66 Naming

GB Railfreight Celebrates Locomotion’s 15th Anniversary with Class 66 Naming

GB Railfreight are pleased to announce the naming of one of our Class 66 locomotives as part of the celebrations around the 15th anniversary of the opening of Locomotion, Shildon, on Saturday 21 September.

In honour of the occasion, a Class 66 ‘Locomotion 15’ has been named. GBRf hope to see the museum carry on its inspiring work for another 15 years, educating all generations about the important role of the railways and its technological developments.

GBRf actively work with both the National Railway Museum and others to promote railways of yesterday, today and the future, and to preserve our wonderful heritage especially in such a unique and exciting venue as Locomotion.

By naming the Class 66 loco ‘Locomotion 15’ GBRf are delighted to be part of the museum’s history. Locomotion has played an important role in showcasing the national collection of railway vehicles in an historic railway town, and GBRf have been a long-time supporter of the museum. Previously, GBRf provided locomotives for display, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the best in modern traction in the rail freight sector.

Bob Tiller, GBRf Engineering Director, said;

“We are thrilled to unveil ‘Locomotion 15’ to celebrate the success of the museum on its 15th anniversary. The work Locomotion do to showcase the history of the railways is an inspiration and I hope visitors are encouraged to find out more about the important role rail freight plays across the country.”

Sarah Price, Head of Locomotion, said:

“The newly named ‘Locomotion 15’ is a wonderful way to mark our anniversary. GBRf have provided us with much support over the years and we hope that our visitors keep an eye out for the locomotive as it travels across the UK.”

GB Railfreight Announce New Ownership

GB Railfreight Announce New Ownership

GB Railfreight announced on Monday 23 September that EQT’s infrastructure portfolio company, Hector Rail Group, has sold the business to Infracapital – the unlisted infrastructure equity arm of M&GPrudential.

Over the past three years under EQT’s tenure, GB Railfreight has grown considerably, expanding across the length and breadth of the UK and into new markets. The most exciting for the company being the intermodal market, with a range of new routes. This includes a new Southampton to Manchester intermodal service which launched earlier this month, serving one of the UK’s leading deep-sea container ports.

Together EQT and GB Railfreight have seen the business become the third largest rail freight operator in the UK, with over 900 employees and a turnover in excess of £200 million a year. GB Railfreight now operates over 1,000 trainloads a week, moving approximately 23% of UK’s rail cargo.

It was been an incredibly successfully time for GB Railfreight and under Infracapital the business will continue grow to deliver a reliable and high-quality service for customers.

John Smith, Managing Director at GB Railfreight, said:

“We have grown at an incredible rate under EQT. It has been a real pleasure working with EQT over the past three years to become a leading rail freight provider. As a business we are now entering an exciting time with Infracapital – I look forward to working closely with our new owners to maintain and surpass our growth ambitions.”

Martin Lennon, Head of Infracapital, said:

“GB Railfreight has shown strong growth in the UK rail freight sector and expanded into new markets, identifying the business as a leader in rail freight. It not only leads in innovation but its environmental credentials set it apart from competitors. We are delighted to be part of the business’s future growth and success.”

GBRf Announce New Southampton to Manchester Intermodal Service

GBRf Announce New Southampton to Manchester Intermodal Service

GB Railfreight are delighted to announce the start (Monday 2 September) of another new intermodal service, this time from Solent Stevedores, Southampton, to Maritimes Terminal in Trafford, Manchester. This will be the third daily service GBRf offer from one of the UK’s leading deep-sea container ports.

This new service marks GBRf’s continued expansion into the intermodal market and the vital role rail freight plays in delivering goods around the country.

GBRf continues to prioritise converting volume from road to rail in the intermodal market and this new service demonstrates the success of our service delivery and expertise being provided to customers across the network.

The new service will run five days a week, and represents GBRf’s 17th intermodal service to date, following unprecedented growth in this market over the last two years. Intermodal traffic now accounts for approximately 36% of all rail freight industry wide.

GBRf are committed to increasing the amount of goods and materials transported via rail freight, reducing emissions and delivering a more sustainable logistics solution. An average freight train removes 80 HGV journeys from roads every day.

When combined with rail’s advantageous performance in terms of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter emissions, rail freight demonstrates a clear contribution to the challenge of meeting the UK’s carbon-cutting targets.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“I am thrilled to see the beginning of this new service. Our growth in intermodal shows GBRf’s dedication to innovation, offering flexible door-to-door solutions that meet our customer’s needs, as well as a consistently reliable service. We are very proud of the hard work that has been put in to be the industry’s trusted intermodal carrier.”

Stuart Cullen, CEO of Solent Stevedores, said:

“We are delighted that GB Railfreight has started a new service from Solent Stevedores to Manchester. We have a strong working relationship and are thrilled that our partnership is flourishing through their new intermodal services from our terminal”.

GBRf honour long serving employees with loco naming

On Wednesday 14 August, GB Railfreight celebrated two long-serving and highly dedicated members of staff by naming Class 66 locomotives in their honour.

The naming of ‘Maria’ and ‘Amanda’ took place during a special service from Doncaster, calling at Cleethropes for the official naming by John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight. This continues a long tradition of naming locomotives after the key women who make GBRf the successful and fast-growing company it is today.

Maria Dennison, an Assistant Train Manager in Peterborough joined GBRf in 2003, and Amanda Wilson, Business Manager, Bulk Services, started with the company in 2012. Both employees have been a considerable asset to the GBRf team and are very deserving of this accolade.

Guests of honour Maria and Amanda were presented with commemorative replicas of the engines and the name plaques that will adorn the locomotives as they move across the length and breadth of Britain.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight said:

Both Amanda and Maria are hugely valued members of the team and it was my pleasure to name two new locomotives after them. Our staff are the lifeblood of GB Railfreight and we are delighted to be able to recognise their contribution to our success in this way.

 “It is a longstanding GBRf tradition to name locomotives after some of our most hardworking female members of staff and apart from celebrating their hard work it is also a sign of the diverse makeup of our workforce – something we are incredibly proud of.”

 Amanda Wilson, Business Manager, Bulk Services said:


Having started in the industry in 1983 on a youth training scheme, this is my 35th year of fulltime employment so the timing of this couldn’t be better or seem more appropriate.”

 This is a huge honour, and as a lover of trains I am delighted there is now one named after me on the railways”

GB Railfreight Unveil New Brighton Pride Rainbow Locomotive

In celebration of this year’s Brighton Pride, GB Railfreight are delighted to announce the naming of a Class 66 locomotive held on the eve (2 August) of the Pride weekend festivities at Brighton Station.

The special rainbow livered GB Railfreight locomotive – ‘Pride of GB Railfreight’ – was unveiled by Times columnist Matthew Parris and Engineering Director Bob Tiller, alongside representatives from Brighton and Hove City Council: Cllr Amanda Grimshaw, Council lead for Equalities; and Cllr Alan Robins, Chair of the Tourism, Development and Culture Committee.

GBRf is the UK’s fastest growing rail freight company, employing over 900 people across the UK. The new livered locomotive recognises LGBT+ employees across the rail industry and celebrates the businesses ongoing commitment to ensuring diversity and equality in the sector.


Bob Tiller, Engineering Director at GBRf said:

“We are delighted to be part of Brighton Pride this year. Our newly named rainbow loco is symbolic of the changing nature of the rail sector and how important our LGBT+ employees are. As a business, we are keen to ensure that diversity and equality shines through, and the ‘Pride of GB Railfreight’ helps us in our mission.”

 Stuart Meek, Train Services Director, Govia Thameslink Railway said:

“We are pleased to be able to work in partnership with GBRf to promote diversity in the rail sector and are thrilled to be part of the unveiling of the ‘Pride of GB Railfreight’ at Brighton station which is joining our Thameslink ‘trainbow’ out on the Brighton Main Line and beyond. It’s a real testament to the company’s commitment to showing everyone is welcome on board both freight and passenger trains.”

GBRf’s £2 Million Refurbished Class 92 to Enter Caledonian Sleeper Service

GB Railfreight are pleased to announce that Locomotive 92006 has re-entered service following a £2 million refurbishment at Wabtec’s Brush Traction facility in Loughborough. The Class 92 will be used on the Caledonian Sleeper route once it has completed testing.

Originally completed in 1996, the Class 92 last ran in 2006 before being placed into storage in France. The full overhaul and re-instatement of this locomotive is the last in a series of successful programmes of work developed jointly with Brush Traction, part of the Wabtec Group.

With the introduction of Mark 5 Coaches on the Caledonian Sleeper, GBRf have fully rebuilt 92006 to haul the Coaches on both the Lowlander Caledonian Sleeper route between Euston and Edinburgh and Glasgow, and in due course the Highlander Caledonian Sleeper routes to Fort William, Aberdeen and Inverness.

The Class 92 has been fitted with special Dellner couplings, providing additional safety measures, improved communication equipment, and power upgrades to operate the more intensive services offered on this route.

The locomotive has been painted in Caledonian Sleeper Livery and will now undergo test runs before entering traffic.

John Smith, Managing Director of GBRf, said:

“Our investment in the refurbishment of Class 92s for the new Caledonian Sleeper service means that customers will experience a reliable, state of the art, modern locomotive on their journey from London to Scotland.

We are delighted with the work Wabtec has carried out on the 92006 and we look forward to continuing our partnership to meet the growing demands in the rail freight sector.”

Paul Bain, Managing Director of Brush Traction, said:

“Brush are proud to have been involved with this truly collaborative project where we fully utilise our highly experienced skills. We look forward to continuing our strong working relationship with GBRf as a value-added solution provider”.

GB Railfreight and Newell & Wright unveil new ‘Made in Sheffield’ Locomotive

(Photo credit: Richard Gennis)

GB Railfreight and Newell & Wright are pleased to announce the naming of the new Class 66 locomotive at a dedicated naming ceremony held today (9 July) at DP World’s, London Gateway site, in Thurrock.

The new locomotive, called ‘Made in Sheffield’, was unveiled by John Smith, Managing Director of GBRf, and Frank Newell, Managing Director of Newell & Wright. The naming ceremony was also attended by local dignitary Cllr Piccolo, the Mayor of Thurrock.

GBRf ran its first service to the Newell & Wright terminal in Rotherham from the Port of Felixstowe in 2017, with Newell & Wright Transport contracting 50% of the freight capacity. Last year, GBRf added a five days per week service carrying containers for Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and Newell & Wright between London Gateway and the Rotherham terminal. The Newell & Wright terminal is now becoming a key strategic hub for end users.

John Smith, Managing Director of GBRf, said:

“We are delighted to unveil our ‘Made in Sheffield’ locomotive, which celebrates the success of our shared services into the Newell & Wright Rotherham terminal. The container market is an important source of growth for the industry and we are proud to be delivering a reliable service that also helps the UK cut carbon emissions and improve air quality.

“‘Made in Sheffield’ signifies the close working relationship we have with Newell & Wright and is an important part of the operations we run across the UK.”

Frank Newell, Managing Director of Newell & Wright, said:

“It is fantastic to have a locomotive named after our Sheffield roots. The service GBRf provides into our terminal in Rotherham offers Yorkshire a reliable, seamless rail service which is an integral part of the supply chain.”

EVENING STANDARD: More rail freight can help London be greener

By John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight

When we think of London’s rail network, images of commuters packed tightly onto trains heading into the capital for the daily grind comes to mind. The well-worn route for millions of people is a reminder of the dependence London has on its rail network.

Transporting the capital’s workers is certainly important but is only half the picture. Rail supports London’s growth through the movement of freight too. While the role of rail in moving goods is barely noticed by most people, it is important to the city’s economy and in delivering on the demands of Londoners for action on air pollution and climate change.

London is undergoing a green transport revolution. Cycling is being prioritised and there is a shift to electric cars and vans. Business is facing pressure to move to more sustainable ways of delivering goods.

The London-based business I run, GB Railfreight, is the UK’s fastest-growing rail-freight business. I believe rail freight can play a much bigger role in helping London become a greener city.

Freight trains can carry the equivalent of up to 70 lorries, while producing a quarter of the carbon emissions. They already move 40 per cent of all construction material into London, and there is the potential for this to grow, reducing lorry miles on the capital’s roads.

Londoners are the most active users of online shopping in the UK, but there is increasing concern about the environmental impact of parcel deliveries. We’re asking ourselves how rail could play a role in making these deliveries more sustainable. We are exploring converting old Intercity 125 high-speed trains into fast freight services that can move internet shopping orders into London overnight, ready for delivery next morning. This would increase the speed of deliveries and lessen their environmental impact.

For a greener London we need to see the expansion of rail freight into our city. For this, we require action from both policymakers and business.

Access to freight terminals in London needs to be preserved. This requires appropriate planning policy from the Mayor and London’s boroughs to protect sites from being developed for other uses and, importantly, allowing them to operate at night, so freight services can make the best use of less congested lines. Central government must also deliver investment to remove bottlenecks on routes into London.

Business can play a role by looking at the sustainability of their deliveries into the capital. Like all major cities, London is constantly feeling the pains of growth. Over the decades rail has played a huge role in allowing the city to expand while remaining an attractive place to live. I believe rail freight has an important role to play in helping London’s ever-changing economy grow while reducing air pollution and carbon emissions.

This article originally appeared in the Evening Standard on Friday 5 July.