Orion's Class 768 freight unit breaks cover

Orion's long-awaited converted Class 768 freight unit has been shown to potential customers at London Euston station today, 7 July, ahead of entry into revenue service later this year.

The bi-mode train - leased from Porterbrook - has been converted from a Class 319 passenger EMU - and the first trains will start running between the Midlands and Scotland this year. More routes could be added in 2022 subject to demand and train paths.

Pallets, rollcages and custom containers can be loaded onto the trains depending on configuration, with an online booking system aimed at making collection and delivery as easy as possible.

There is potential for a network ranging from Plymouth in Devon to Aberdeen, using a mixture of existing logistics terminals and passenger stations with suitable facilities to load and unload at.

With a maximum speed of 100mph (around twice the average speed of road traffic), the trains can run in four, eight or 12-car formations, with each car capable of holding around the same amount of goods as an articulated lorry. An eight-coach train can remove 24 diesel vans from the roads. 

A key claimed benefit is the ability to deliver into city centres, with bicycle or van couriers taking light goods for final delivery. Emissions are less than air or road haulage over long distances. 

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris says the government is 'committed to unlocking the economic and environmental benefits rail freight can deliver.'