BRITISH leasing company Eversholt Rail has the first of what could be a fleet of freight electric multiple units ready to go on lease with an operator this month.

A four-car former passenger class 321 has been converted by Wabtec Rail at Doncaster by removing its seats and adding new flooring.

Branded Swift Express Freight train, the four-car EMU is the first of what could be a fleet of 20 trains, should trials with an unnamed operator prove successful. The leasing company would not confirm who the operator would be, but admitted it was one of the existing freight companies operating in Britain.

Eversholt Rail client services director Mr Paul Sutherland confirmed that a further four class 321s currently in store are likely to be converted for freight use by the end of the year, with the aim of possibly having them ready for the anticipated busy Christmas period when more goods are carried by rail.

The class 321s are planned to be used on existing electrified main lines. They will have a payload of 38,550kg per four-car train and are expected to operate, eventually, in eight and 12-car formations.

They retain their toilets and a handful of seats as Eversholt believes there is the possibility that some clients may want staff to travel on the class 321 when it’s in service.

Sutherland says of the freight EMU: “One of the things that have piqued our interest back in 2019 was speaking to freight operators about the idea of transporting light goods and parcels, a long distance via rail, and then the ability to do the last five or 10 miles that would have been in a sense, in a city centre with electric van.

“So, as well as it being a service that was very much in demand, transporting stuff in the electric train clearly had a real ‘in’ with his green credentials.”