GBRf unveil partnership to transform railways weed control maintenance

GB Railfreight (GBRf), one of the largest rail freight operators in the UK, is delighted to announce a landmark cooperation with Bayer Environmental Science, Network Rail, and a number of start-up companies, which will transform essential weed control maintenance on the UK’s railways.

Introducing innovative technology, three new Smart Weed System trains will commence service on the British railway network later this spring. They will have the capability to eliminate potentially dangerous weed infestations with advanced precision. Responsible for supplying the end-to-end rail operations, GB Railfreight will provide rail expertise for this project.

By detecting the weeds using cameras mounted on the trains, only the most appropriate herbicide will be use, thus improving the environmental footprint. The data generated will be uploaded to a cloud database using GPS software, which will enable weed control to be monitored and reported 24/7 from a central point.

This innovative GPS tracking system will also automatically shut off spray nozzles when the train approaches a ‘Non-Treatment Zone’, such as a watercourse or bridge, a move which further enhances the environmental impact by adding a second layer of protection for the operators.

Mark Wyborn, Head of Strategic Development at GB Railfreight, said:

“The higher efficiency of the three new trains combined with the modern technology and asset life will provide a more efficient weed control program for years to come. Aiming for a safer rail industry for all should be a priority. This investment from Bayer into the collaboration will bring a new level of scientific expertise and knowledge to the rail industry and will help to drive forward weed control and safety for future years. The first train will be introduced and in service on UK railways from May 2021, with the second and third train planned for use in April 2022.”

Commenting on how the partnership will increase the safety of the railways, Alan Morris, Bayer Environmental Science UK country head said:

Weeds can cause contamination of valuable equipment and lead to a range of health and safety issues for both workers and passengers. This technology is not only an innovation for the rail industry but weed control globally, so we’re delighted to be involved in this collaboration with key members of the rail industry.”

GBRf unveils new Intermodal Service in partnership with MSC

GB Railfreight are delighted to announce the start of an additional intermodal service, which began on 18 November.

The service, which operates to the Port of Liverpool from the East Midlands is in partnership with Mediterranean Shipping Company (UK) Ltd and will run five times a week.

Despite the economic turmoil brought about by COVID-19, GBRf have successfully continued making inroads into the Intermodal market with this being GBRf’s 21st Intermodal service to date. It also shows the resilience and flexibility of the GBRf business model which is built on robust relationships even in times of uncertainty.

In addition, with climate change front and centre of the political agenda, this announcement is further proof of GBRf’s commitment to moving more and more goods in a sustainable way. This is because GBRf are committed to increasing the amount of goods and materials transported via rail freight, reducing emissions and delivering a more sustainable logistics solution.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“We are delighted to have begun services between the East Midlands and the Port of Liverpool.  Despite the economic challenges we all face, GB Railfreight continues to grow as a business, and we are showing ourselves to be leaders in the field of innovation and a customer delivery. I couldn’t be prouder to unveil our newest intermodal service – proof we are the industry’s most trusted intermodal carrier.

“I cannot thank MSC enough for allowing us to establish and launch a new service for them. We look forward to developing this partnership even further in the months and years ahead.

“GBRf prides itself on being supportive and committed to long standing and inspiring partnerships. We like to be challenged.  We are delighted to be working with our customer MSC, Peel Ports and Maritime Transport in delivering a new intermodal service into the Port of Liverpool- one which will see 20,000 lorry journeys off our roads.”

Jonathan Burke, Operations Director at MSC UK said:

“We are very pleased to announce that, together with our partners, we have launched the first daily intermodal rail connection between the Port of Liverpool and the East Midlands. This new service enhances our nationwide port and intermodal network, further strengthening the breadth of our offering to clients whilst helping to reduce carbon emissions.”

GB Railfreight renew contract with 3Squared for its RailSmart platform

GB Railfreight have announced that it has signed a contract with digital transport solutions provider, 3Squared, for renewed and expanded use of its award winning RailSmart software platform.

This renewed three-year contract marks the third successful renewal of the partnership between 3Squared and GB Railfreight which has continued to develop over more than half a decade. The renewal further cements the long-term commitment of both parties to advancing the use of digital solutions whilst exploring even more ways to innovate and add value to GB Railfreight. 3Squared and its freight operating client have a shared commitment to make the UK rail freight sector more efficient, sustainable and cost effective while keeping Britain moving through current challenges.

Alfredo Giangregorio, Head of IT at GB Railfreight, commented:

“GB Railfreight first engaged with 3Squared back in 2014 with the introduction of its Railsmart EDS (Employee Development System), and they have been instrumental in partnering with us to deliver our digital roadmap over the last 6 years. Our latest collaboration, the award winning Railsmart RCM (Remote Condition Monitoring) provides us real time locomotive telemetry and alerts, allowing our Control, Engineering and Operations teams greater asset and resource management.

“I look forward to further collaboration with 3Squared in the coming years, not only benefiting GB Railfreight but also the wider rail freight community.”

Tim Jones, Managing Director of 3Squared, added:

“We are delighted to be working with GB Railfreight for another 3 years. This renewal solidifies a fantastic and successful partnership. This long-term renewal provides both parties with a strong platform to continue working together towards achieving an improved railway.

“This investment from GB Railfreight is a significant demonstration of its commitments to digitalisation.  This is more pertinent than ever considering the current challenges that our industry faces at present. It is also testament to the value and benefits our RailSmart platform delivers for operations when implemented correctly. We look forward to our continued working relationship”

RailSmart is an award-winning suite of software applications that support the operations, safety and compliance of today’s modern transportation companies. A platform that turns information into insight and helps drives efficiencies all across the business.

GB Railfreight Announce Lineas Partnership Extension

GB Railfreight (GBRf) are very pleased to announce an extension to their European freight operation in partnership with LINEAS, the largest private rail freight operator in Europe.

The existing traffic flow from Antwerp through to Irvine will continue for an additional two years. This announcement marks the extension of the existing contract which will now run until the end of December 2021, marking a 5-year relationship with LINEAS for this ‘hook and haul’ flow. The service has so far averaged around 30 trains a year and will continue to run approximately between two and three times per month.

The trains, which arrive in Calais from the LINEAS Rail operation, will consist of roughly 20 ICA Tank Rail Wagons and will carry 1200 tonnes of product per train. It will be transporting kaolin clay for the process of whitening paper which is produced at the UPM Caledonian Papermill in South Western Scotland.

GBRf will normally collect the product on a Tuesday night, run through the channel tunnel with Electric Traction. A Class 66 Loco then hauls through to UPM Irvine to arrive at around 7pm on the Wednesday night. Following unloading, GBRf return the empty set of wagons back to the Channel Tunnel by Friday night for a path back to Calais.

GBRf are currently operating intermodal services to and from the three largest ports in the UK. The Antwerp to Irvine operation builds on the company’s existing Intermodal services which is currently being managed by Julie Garn. This follows other European Traffic flows that GBRf have operated in the past.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“I am delighted to announce that we are continuing our partnership with Lineas. Our strong relationship goes back many years and we are pleased to continue it until December 2021. This service will be the longest term of operation for running services through the Channel Tunnel for GBRf, something we are extremely proud of.

“In addition, the shift to rail freight is a vital part of decarbonising our transport system. Our partnership with LINEAS shows our commitment to doing our part to reach the ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2050 and we hope to build on this going forward.”

Geraldine Leyman, Senior Key Account Manager at LINEAS added:

“We are extremely pleased to have extended this contract. Our relationship with GB Railfreight is one we are extremely proud of and is the greatest example of the importance of cross-border cooperation.

“We couldn’t be happier with the service GBRf provide on the UK side and this contract extension is proof of that. We look forward to continuing this successful partnership in the years ahead.”

GB Railfreight agrees deal for five new Class 66 locos

GBRf is pleased to announce an agreement to bring an additional five Class 66 locomotives from Germany in cooperation with Beacon Rail Leasing.

The first two, classified as 29004/29005 have been delivered to EMD Doncaster ready for conversion to GBRf’s specification and UK railway standards. The remaining three locomotives will be delivered throughout 2021.

The first two locomotives are low-geared heavy haul 60mph locos which will benefit GBRf’s heavy-haul capability, while the remaining three are 75mph locomotives.

The locos will be delivered into GBRf service commencing early April 2021 with the programme of conversions being undertaken by EMD at their Doncaster and Longport facilities, this will include the fitting of air conditioning, sound proofing, cab improvements, and new cab double glazing. In addition, the locos will be fitted with the most up to date GSMR and TPWS safety systems and be painted in GBRf livery. Once in service they will become GBRf 66 793-797 locos.

Today’s announcement reinforces GB Railfreight’s status as one of the fastest growing and most exciting transport companies in the UK. The locos will provide additional capacity to build on GBRf’s long track record of successful delivery for its customers

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“Today’s announcement is another important milestone for GB Railfreight’s continued expansion as a company. We are delighted to be bringing these five locomotives to the UK and adding them to GB Railfreight’s Class 66 fleet.

“This agreement also shows that despite the economic uncertainty our country faces, GBRf leads the way with continued investment to put the UK economy back on track. We look to the future with optimism.”

Adam Cunliffe, CEO of Beacon Rail, said:

“Beacon Rail is delighted to be supporting GB Railfreight with these latest additions and further expanding the long-term relationship between our two companies. The class 66 is a proven performer, being the backbone for the movement of essential goods over recent months.  Beacon is committed to further growth of the UK rail freight market through the introduction of these additional locomotives.”

GB Railfreight Announces Contract Renewal with Tarmac

GB Railfreight Announces Contract Renewal with Tarmac



GB Railfreight (GBRf) is delighted to announce Tarmac has renewed its contract for five years from January 2020 to 31 December 2025, for the transportation of aggregate materials. The contract will include the supply of hopper and box wagons from GBRf.


This is an extension to the current contract which covers the northern package of Tarmac’s rail operations, encompassing services mainly from Arcow and Swinden railheads in North Yorkshire to a variety of destinations including Leeds, Hull and two sites in Manchester.


The new contract builds on the successful relationship that has been established since GBRf started services in the northern package over four years ago in January 2016.


Managing director of GBRf John Smith said:


“We are absolutely delighted to have signed a contract extension with Tarmac. Our relationship goes back many years and we have built on the strong partnership forged in 2016.


“During the ongoing pandemic, we are doing our bit to keep the economy moving and our partnership with Tarmac is testament to that. We look forward to working with Tarmac in the months and years to come to spur the recovery of the construction sector.”


Chris Swan, head of rail at Tarmac, said:

“Effective use of the rail freight network is key in supporting the UK’s transition to a net-zero society and supporting a green recovery as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. Collaborative working has a vital role to play in this and we’re looking forward to continuing our relationship with GB Railfreight as the industry focuses on continued modal shift, as well as driving forward efficiencies and innovation.”

GB Railfreight Announce New Asset Director


GB Railfreight is delighted to announce the appointment of David Golding as Asset Director. David started officially his new role on 14 September.

David does not have the traditional rail background having served in the British Army for 23 years as an engineering officer that culminated in 2008 with a job that put him in charge of the military logistics supply chain and equipment support, maintenance and engineering organisation in Iraq during combat operations in Basra.

His career in the business world has included supply chain, operations and continuous improvement director roles with British Sugar and The Silver Spoon Company, both part of the AB Foods conglomerate, before his last appointment as the Group Corporate Services Director with the Go-Ahead Group.

Outside of work, David is married with two teenage boys and the family are very active, spending their free time skiing, walking, and going for long bike rides.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“A big GBRf welcome to David Golding. We are delighted to have him joining our team and I can’t wait to work with him.

“We continue to grow our business, despite the economic uncertainty. We are also attracting top talent from beyond the rail industry which demonstrates the good work we are doing. We are at the cutting edge of the industry and the appointment of a new Asset Director will help us improve even more.”

David Golding said:

“It’s a privilege to join GBRf and to become a part of such a successful and growing business.  The company has an outstanding reputation in the industry and the team spirit and willingness to do a great job for our customers is evident wherever you look.  I look forward to playing my part in the team and helping the business to continue to grow and play an increasingly important role in providing carbon-efficient logistic solutions.”

GB Railfreight and Rail Stone Solutions win two major HS2 contracts

GB Railfreight (GBRf) and Rail Stone Solutions (RSS) are delighted to unveil two contracts to support construction on the first phase of HS2.

The deals, with HS2 contractors EKFB (Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial BAM Nuttall) and BBV (Balfour Beatty VINCI) will see GBRf join forces with RSS to deliver aggregates by rail to the high speed rail project’s main construction compounds.

As part of the deal with EKFB, GBRf  will support the training of new train drivers  at their new state-of-the-art twin-simulators near Peterborough where the UK’s first and only full-cab freight European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) simulator centre is located.

The announcement follows news last month that GB Railfreight will be moving aggregates in a deal struck with RSS – part of the GRS Group – and Balfour Beatty VINCI..

One hundred box wagons have been procured specifically for Balfour Beatty VINCI to utilise for rail deliveries to construct HS2. GB Railfreight will provide traction, drivers, ground staff and timetabling services to ensure delivery on time, and in full. The source point for aggregate will be a Tarmac quarry in the Derbyshire Peak District, one of the aggregate supply locations that is strategically critical for the supply by rail to support HS2.

The partnership between GBRf and RSS, running up to Christmas, will initially see up to 157 trains deliver 235,000 tonnes of Type 1 aggregate for the first phase of construction work for HS2. Ten trains per week, conveying up to 77 tonnes in 20 box wagons, will transport 1500 tonnes of product per train. This amounts 15,000 tonnes delivered to site per week. The first trainload arrived at Balfour Beatty VINCI’s Washwood Heath construction site last week. GBRf will act as Facility Operator, essentially operating the railhead. Rail Freight Services (RFS) – also a GRS joint venture with Aggregate Industries – are managing train unloading and material handling.

This announcement reinforces GB Railfreight’s commitment to decarbonise transport and help reduce the UK’s carbon emissions. The transportation of aggregate by rail will eliminate the need for an average of four HGV road movements for every loaded freight wagon. For the services operating to Washwood Heath, moving 3000 tonnes of aggregate using HGVs would require around 150 trucks, whereas GBRf can transport the same quantity using only two trains. Averaging this over a four-month period, transporting 235,000 tonnes of aggregate would require 11,750 long distance road movements from the Peak District to Birmingham.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“We are thrilled to be unveiling this partnership with RSS. Not only have we delivered the first freight train to an HS2 site since the green light was given to the project, we have also reinforced our commitment over the next few months to continue on this important project.

“We at GBRf are committed to increasing the amount of goods and materials transported via rail freight, reducing emissions and delivering a more sustainable logistics solution. During the course of the next four months we will be taking 11,750 trucks off the road to transport the 235,000 tonnes of aggregates, meaning GBRf will continue to play a leading role in the decarbonisation of transport and of the UK economy as a whole.

“A special thank you for their outstanding work on this should go to my colleagues Tom Mainprize and Jack Eagling. They are the unsung heroes of this story and I pay tribute to their hard work.”

Jon Fisher, Chief Executive of GRS which operates RSS said:

“Our partnership with GBRf gives RSS unparalleled capability when it comes to supplying the massive volume of aggregate needed for major infrastructure schemes like HS2. We’re proud to have made the first delivery to the project – the time and effort we have invested in planning the delivery of materials to this landmark scheme is beginning to pay off. As a preferred supplier to several sections of HS2 we’re looking forward to working with GBRf throughout the project to deliver bulk materials in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.”

GB Railfreight and Drax Extend Rail Contract to Transport Biomass Until 2025

Photo courtesy of Ken Short

GB Railfreight (GBRf) and Drax have agreed to extend their contract to transport supplies of sustainable biomass from UK ports to Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire until 2025.

Teams at GBRf have worked closely with Drax for the past decade to maintain the supplies of sustainable biomass needed for the UK’s largest power station to continue generating the flexible and reliable renewable power for millions of UK homes and businesses. This deal is critical to Drax’s global biomass supply chain and another step on its journey to negative emissions.

Drax supplies 11% of the UK’s renewable electricity. Using sustainable biomass instead of coal at Drax Power Station has reduced emissions by more than 80% and helped the UK power system decarbonise faster than any other country in Europe.

Under the terms of the contract, GBRf will run all of Drax tonnage from the Ports of Tyne and Liverpool to Drax Power Station.

The partnership between GBRf and Drax dates back to 2010 when GBRf began moving biomass by rail from the Port of Tyne. Originally, GBRf used wagons that had been converted from coal hoppers by adding lids and these remain in use under the new contract. As Drax converted more of its coal units at the power station to sustainable biomass, Drax invested in new purpose-built biomass wagons that are larger and therefore more efficient at carrying the pellets.

In the past year, the longstanding relationship between Drax and GBRf has helped overcome challenges such as the local floods in February to the Drax branch line and then the Covid-19 crisis, ensuring continuous flows of biomass that helped keep the power station running and the lights on in Britain.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“I am delighted to be continuing GB Railfreight’s ongoing partnership with Drax. We will continue to deliver vital supplies of sustainable biomass for a further five years, ensuring power is generated in a clean and sustainable way as well as reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.

“The announcement also comes at a time of great economic uncertainty for our country. We at GBRf remain committed to getting the UK economy back on track and having worked with Drax over the last few months during testing times I know we will continue to work closely in the months and years to come as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.”

Mike Maudsley, UK Portfolio Generation Director at Drax said:

 “GBRf’s rail deliveries are a critical part of our global supply chain for sustainable biomass that supports thousands of jobs and has delivered economic growth across the north of England, while supplying renewable electricity to millions of homes and businesses.

 “We’re very pleased to extend our existing contract with GBRf for another five years and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with the team.”

GB Railfreight Announce New Business Development Director

GB Railfreight is delighted to announce the appointment of Tim Hartley as Business Development Director. The appointment confirms GB Railfreight’s commitment to remaining one of the fastest growing transport companies in the country and is a sign of GBRf’s confidence in the resilience of the UK economy.

Tim has extensive experience in the rail sector. Over the last 20 years he has advised on the appointments of many of the most senior leaders in the UK rail industry, including the CEOs of the Rail Delivery Group, the Office of Rail and Road, Crossrail, HS2, and a range of passenger train operating companies, rolling stock companies and manufacturers.

Tim also has experience in providing leadership and organisational consultancy not only in the rail industry but also in the infrastructure and the real estate market. In addition, he has served as board director and trustee of the charity Railway Children for over 10 years. He is a judge for the Rail Business Awards and a mentor and supporter of the Women in Rail programme.

In his spare time, Tim is very active, having completed the Three Peaks by Rail and the London Marathon. He also coaches and referees rugby union matches.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“I am absolutely delighted to be welcoming Tim Hartley to the GBRf family. In the weeks and months to come we will continue to consolidate GBRf’s position as one of the fastest growing transport companies and the appointment of Tim sets us on the course to grow our business even further.

“At this time of economic uncertainty, I am pleased GBRf is leading the way to get the economy back on track and I look forward to working with Tim to keep going from strength to strength.” 

Tim Hartley said:

I am delighted to be joining GBRf, a company that I have always known as an outstanding business, delivering innovative, reliable and high-quality services to its customers. GBRf is leading the way in decarbonisation, sustainability and has a long-term commitment to building collaborative relationship with its customers.  It is a brilliant team that I feel privileged to be part of.”