Specialist train operator the Rail Operations Group (ROG) has announced it is acquiring two of Porterbrook’s innovative Flex trains for light logistics traffic. Capable of operating on both electrified and non-electrified routes, the new trains will help meet shippers’ needs for the rapid movement of goods and just-in-time delivery.

With congestion on the road network increasing, a shortage of HGV drivers and the rapid growth in on-line shopping, many shipping firms are now exploring rail as a key part of their logistics chains. A lack of suitable trains has thus far delayed the move, but ROG has identified Porterbrook’s Flex as filling this gap in the market.

In essence, Porterbrook has taken redundant Class 319 electric trains, which can already operate on both third rail and overhead power, and added an MAN diesel powerpack to create the Class 769 Flex, which can run on electrified and non-electrified lines.

Porterbrook Class 769 bi-mode train in Northern colours. ROG is the test operator for this new class.

ROG knows the trains well as the company was appointed by Porterbrook to be the test operator for the new class. Realising that the operational flexibility of the bi-mode Flex train complemented the flexibility it was planning to offer to light logistics shippers, ROG has ordered two of them and intends to make the trains available to single users ( when one customer secures all of the space within the train) or to multi-users, depending on the shippers’ day-to-day requirements and their need to meet deadlines.

Rail Operations Group CEO Karl Watts said: “The time is right for a modal shift from road to rail for logistics and express parcels services. ROG is leading the industry in delivering this shift and the Flex trains are the perfect rail-borne solution to make this happen. There is huge opportunity to re-establish a comprehensive network of express parcels trains and help reduce the number of commercial vehicles on UK roads which will, in turn, help to drive improvements in the UK economy.”

The new Flex parcels trains will be delivered to ROG in early 2020.