(UK) Limited

Keep up to date with all the latest news and developments here at Rail Operations (UK) Limited

Gold for Rail Operations Group in Ministry of Defence Awards

30 October 2023

Rail Operations Group has been celebrated at a glitzy award ceremony held in the Officers’ Mess at Prince William of Gloucester Barracks for being one of the East Midlands’ greatest champions for our Armed Forces.

Partnerships between Defence and civilian employers are a fundamental foundation of the UK’s Reserve Forces.

Thousands of such partnerships exist to support and advocate not just the Reserves but former and serving Armed Forces personnel and their families and Cadets across the East Midlands.

Some of these are informal, whereas others are formally recognised by entry into the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.

Each year the most extraordinary champions are awarded the Ministry of Defence’s highest accolade for employers – the Gold Award – which this year took place in Grantham on 19th October.

This honour recognises organisations which proactively demonstrate their Forces’ friendly credentials as part of their recruiting and selection processes. They also, amongst other policies, provide Reserves within their workforce with at least 10 days of additional paid leave for training.

In return, employers benefit from members of staff who return with new qualifications and skills.

For 2023, each recipient was handed their award by Lieutenant General Tom Copinger-Symes CBE, Deputy Commander of UK Strategic Command.

They were joined by special guests His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants of Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire and the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire.

The Officers’ Mess unique charm provided a special backdrop to what was a special occasion.

A display of light field guns courtesy of 103 Regiment Royal Artillery, a visit from The Mercian Regiment’s mascot Lance Corporal Derby, support from military musicians and also the Prince William of Gloucester Detachment Army Cadets added to the ceremony’s distinct atmosphere.

Dave Burley, Chief Executive Officer at Rail Operations Group said: “I am absolutely delighted that the Group have received this prestigious award. This is the result of a huge effort on behalf of many colleagues within the business. The importance of ensuring that those who serve, have served or support Cadet Forces are themselves supported by employers cannot be overstated. Since signing the Armed Forces Covenant in June 2020 and harnessing the full range of skills that veterans, reservists and Cadet Force Volunteers bring to the company we have worked through bronze and silver levels before achieving gold status. Rail Operations Group is truly honoured to join the increasing number of businesses that benefit from the scheme and commend it wholeheartedly to others”.

Fred Hopkins, Head of Engagement at East Midlands Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, added: “Achieving the Gold Award is a remarkable accomplishment and I would like to congratulate Rail Operations Group.

We are very proud of the support and advocacy our Gold holders provide to Defence, especially for Reserves and Cadets.

I very much look forward to building on these mutually-beneficial partnerships and establishing even more through the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme in the years ahead.”

Kirstie Lawrence, Regional Employer Engagement Director at East Midlands Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, said: “Award holders in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme celebrate the excellence of Defence people in the workplace routinely, having seen it for themselves and now gaining Gold for promoting it to others who have since shared that success. So it was a wonderful experience to thank them”.

Press Release - Appointment of Chris Weatherall

12 September 2023

Rail Operations Group are pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Weatherall to the Board of Directors as a Non-Executive Director. Chris joins the Board of Directors forthwith.

Chris will focus on the Groups strategy going forward and support the senior team. His appointment brings a wealth of industry experience to the group, much of which was gained during his hugely successful tenure as Group MD Wabtec UK.

Rail Operations Group CEO, Dave Burley, comments “I am delighted to welcome Chris to the Rail Operations team. His experience and knowledge bring a fresh perspective to the Group and further demonstrates Star Capital’s support”.

Class 93 Tri-mode Locomotives for Rail Operations Group

6 April 2023

Testing of the first class 93 tri-mode locomotive for Rail Operations Group has commenced at Stadler’s test facility in Valencia, Spain. This represents a significant milestone in the project which will deliver an initial 10 locomotives to Rail Operations Group for use across the UK rail network.

The advanced locomotives will significantly reduce CO2 emissions for both rail freight as well as potential passenger transport services, underscoring Stadler’s green credentials and demonstrating Rail Operations Group’s commitment to decarbonisation.

The first class 93 tri-mode locomotive for Rail Operations Group has completed the scheduled activities in Stadler’s facilities in Valencia, Spain, and will shortly be transported to the UK for further testing as soon as the requisite acceptance procedures are completed with the relevant authorities.

Commenting on the locomotives David Burley, Chief Executive Officer, Rail Operations Group, said “the class 93 fleet with its array of green credentials, will allow us to lead the way in supporting the rail industry in delivery of its decarbonisation targets. Further, with its impressive state-of-the-art specification, the class 93s also allow us to diversify and develop new markets whilst modernising many aspects of UK train operations”.

Press Release

11 November 2022

Karl Watts, Group President and founder of ROG is stepping down from his executive duties at the Rail Operations (UK) Limited Group. He remains a shareholder in the Group and plans to continue to support the company in a non-executive capacity.

Karl Watts founded the business in 2013 and led the development and growth of the Group through the past nine years. Karl's tenure has overseen the transformation of rolling stock delivery and testing and the birth of the high-speed logistics concept. Karl also led the ROG team in the acquisition of the Group by Star Capital in 2021 and the subsequent funding of the class 93 tri-mode locomotives due to arrive in the UK in 2023.

Both myself and the Star team would like to thank Karl for his vision and tenacity in the rolling stock services market and for building a strong and professional team.

Neil Bennett, Chairman, Rail Operations (UK) Limited

Rail Operations Group (ROG) provides specialist services to the rolling stock sector of the industry. Sister companies Orion and Traxion provide high speed logistics services and storage solutions to the industry.

Rail Reform and why now is the time for a Freight Revolution

3 August 2022

As industry stakeholders, Rail Operations UK and Fishbone (an engineering consultancy to the transportation industry) have written a paper ‘Rail Reform and why now is the time for a Freight Revolution’.

The paper has evolved from our unique perspective of the rail freight industry in the UK and a joint vision that understands the sector must modernise if it can rise to the challenges it faces; to be a viable alternative to road and the first choice for all freight operational demands arising today and tomorrow.

It focuses on dynamic but sustainable solutions that can deliver increased economic, environmental and social benefit to customers and the wider transportation industry. The paper discusses the industry today, in 5 years and 30 years and concentrates on the key priorities that would revolutionise the rail freight sector.

Please click the link below to access the paper:


The above photo is of Ed Johnson (Director, Fishbone) and Karl Watts (Group President, Rail Operations UK) who are the authors of the paper.

Press Release - Class 93 locomotive project reaches a significant milestone with the completion of the first carbody

21 July 2022

Stadler has started production of the Class 93 locomotive fleet for Rail Operations UK and finished the first carbody. Assembly of all the components and sub-systems will soon begin. After a period of testing and approvals, the first locomotive is scheduled to be transferred to the UK in March 2023. Entry into service is set to take place a few months later. The Class 93 is Stadler’s first ever tri-mode locomotive, demonstrating the company’s commitment to green technology and reducing carbon emissions. It is also the first tri-mode locomotive to operate in the UK.

The first carbody for the Class 93 is now ready, paving the way to the assembly stage, which involves the installation of piping, cabling, traction systems and other equipment. Able to operate using electricity, in battery mode, as well as with diesel, the Class 93 is the first tri-mode locomotive that Stadler has ever designed and manufactured and the first to operate in the UK. Commissioning is set to be undertaken next year.

British company, Rail Operations UK and Stadler signed a framework agreement in 2021 for 30 Class 93 tri-mode locomotives, ordering an initial batch of ten. Class 93 is a ‘Bo-Bo’ mixed-traffic locomotive based on Stadler’s Class 68 and Class 88 locomotives, which have been operating successfully in the UK for several years. All locomotives on order for Rail Operations (UK) are being made at Stadler’s Valencia plant.

The locomotives will have three different power sources, and in electric mode, can run on 25kV AC overhead lines with a power up to 4,600 kW. They feature a Stage V 900 kW-engine and two Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) traction battery packs, allowing them to operate on non-electrified lines. The battery packs provide 400 kW extra power to supplement the engine when the locomotives are running in diesel/battery hybrid mode. The batteries modules can also work alone, enabling carbon-free operations.

The advanced locomotives will significantly reduce exhaust gas emissions for both rail freight and potential passenger transport services, supporting net zero targets in the UK. They also include efficiency features to minimise energy consumption. The high-efficiency transformer and the AC traction system with IGBT technology, one inverter per axle, enable better adhesion control, reduce energy consumption and increase reliability. Kinetic energy is recuperated during braking. The Class 93 is capable of reaching a higher speed than the Class 68s and Class 88s - 110mph in comparison with 100mph. Future-proofed, its innovative hybrid coupler enables coupling via a draw hook and through automatic coupling.

Iñigo Parra, CEO of Stadler Valencia, commented: “This is a project of firsts: the Class 93 is not only the first tri-mode locomotive to run in the UK, but it’s Stadler’s first tri-mode locomotive, illustrating our commitment to green technology and genuine desire to help governments and businesses around the world de-carbonise their cities, towns and villages. We are delighted to see these locomotives take shape and look forward to continued working with our customer and partner, Rail Operations UK.”

Karl Watts from Rail Operations UK commented: “We’ve been working with Stadler for four years now to specify and design a locomotive for the future. The end product, the Class 93 tri-mode, is a locomotive of great operating versatility, incredible energy efficiency and packed full of technology which, not only allows us to transform UK train operations but lead the way in UK rail decarbonisation. The locomotive also enables Rail Operations UK to penetrate new operating markets, in particular express freight, previously unavailable using its existing locomotive fleet.”

Press Release - Changes and Appointments

6 October 2021

Since appointment as CEO of Rail Operations UK Ltd in 2018, Karl Watts' role has encompassed three key responsibilities: corporate governance, strategic direction and management of major projects.

Karl introduced the Group’s ‘Shaping the Future’ initiative in early 2021, and it has become increasingly clear through this work that the strategic direction aspect of Karl’s role needs to be enhanced to encompass a number of hugely important industry topics including rail reform, class 93 introduction, high speed freight and industry decarbonisation. Karl’s role in representing the group’s interests and including these as part of the hugely important Great British Railways White Paper outputs drives a requirement for change within the Group.

In order to facilitate the time required to drive these programmes forward, engage the industry and more importantly, significantly grow the business, Karl will be taking on a new role as Group President. As group Chief Operating Officer, Dave Burley will be taking responsibility of Group corporate governance, the day to day operations of the three trading companies ROG, Traxion and Orion, as well as the implementation of major projects.

Furthermore our Chairman, Neil Bennett will lead our strategic relationships with the ROSCOs using his experience to ensure we get the support that our leased assets need to deliver our operational requirements.

Keeping Track e-newsletter

18 August 2021

We are pleased to share our Keeping Track e-newsletter to inform you all of our latest news and developments. Please click the below link to view the newsletter. We hope you enjoy the read.

The Retro Cumbrian Coaster II

4 August 2021

Rail Operations Group are pleased to announce that we will be operating Retro Railtours’ first tour since 2019. The Retro Cumbrian Coaster II will be running on Saturday 28th August 2021 to the delightful Cumbrian coastal town of Whitehaven. The train will also be calling at Ravenglass (for the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway) as well as Workington. Please see the below link for further information, timings, fares and bookings:

Retro Cumbrian Coaster II (retrorailtours.co.uk)

2021 Ministry of Defence Employer Recognition Scheme

28 July 2021

Barrow Hill Rail Ale Festival Charter

7 July 2021

Rail Operations Group are pleased to partner with the Barrow Hill Roundhouse to provide a shuttle service to the 2021 Rail Ale Festival. We will be running this service on 10th and 11th September 2021. The morning departure will travel via Sheffield and the Old Road to Barrow Hill. Traction will be provided by 37510 on the Friday and 37800 on the Saturday and Class 57 at the rear. Specific locomotives cannot be guaranteed and are subject to availability.

Bookings can be made via Retro Railtours, in due course, using the below link:

Retro Railtours - home page

For further information about the Rail Ale Festival, please click the below link:

Rail Ale Festival, Barrow Hill, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Rail Operations UK Limited (ROUK) Complete Sale and Purchase Agreement for Class 360s

16 February 2021

Rail Operations UK Limited (ROUK) have completed a Sale and Purchase Agreement with Heathrow Airport Limited, the parent company of Heathrow Express, to acquire the fleet of five Class 360/2 multiple units, plus spare parts. The Class 360/2 units were previously used to operate the "Heathrow Connect" stopping services on the route between Heathrow Airport and London Paddington. The purchase of the units by ROUK follows on from the recent announcement that the dynamic and innovative company has ordered 30 Class 93 tri-mode locomotives. Gordon Cox, ROG Business Development Director, explained that: ROUK have identified the potential of this well-maintained multiple unit fleet to assist in our transformation of UK rail freight logistics.

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited sign a contract for the new Class 93 tri-mode locomotives

14 January 2021

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives, which will support rail decarbonisation requirements in the UK. An initial batch of 10 locomotives are due for delivery in early 2023.

Stadler and the British company, Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives. The advanced locomotives will significantly reduce CO2 emissions for both rail freight as well as potential passenger transport services, underscoring Stadler’s green credentials and demonstrating its commitment to decarbonisation. Deliveries are expected to start in early 2023.

Commenting on the contract, Karl Watts, Chief Executive Officer, Rail Operations (UK) Limited, said ... “The rail industry has acted very positively in understanding its role in reducing carbon emissions and improving inner city air quality. The class 93 fleet with its array of green credentials, will allow us to lead the way in supporting the rail industry deliver its decarbonisation targets. Furthermore, with its impressive state-of-the-art specification, the class 93s also allow us to develop new markets and modernise many aspects of UK train operations”.

Iñigo Parra, CEO Stadler Valencia added, “The innovative and cost-effective solution will provide environmentally-friendly rail transport services, supporting national decarbonisation strategies and promoting modal shift to rail”.

Click here for full PDF press release

STAR Capital acquires Rail Operations (UK) Limited

12 January 2021

STAR Capital Partnership LLP (“STAR Capital” or “STAR”), a leading European fund manager is pleased to announce that it has made an investment in Rail Operations (UK) Limited (“ROUK” or the “Group”), a leading provider of rolling stock movement and storage services to the UK rail industry through its subsidiaries Rail Operations Group Limited (“ROG”) and Rail Operations (Rolling Stock Management) Limited (“Traxion”). In addition, ROUK has established a new subsidiary, Orion, to provide high speed logistics and express freight services, focused on accelerating modal shift from air/road to rail by offering a fast, cost effective and environmentally-friendly solution. STAR will acquire a majority stake in the Group, alongside existing management. Additionally, STAR will provide significant growth capital to fuel the Group's ambitious expansion plans. Neil Bennett, a highly-experienced rail industry professional, will be appointed Executive Chairman of ROUK as part of the transaction.

STAR looks forward to working closely with ROUK’s seasoned management on new opportunities to accelerate growth in each of the Group’s subsidiaries, ROG, Traxion and Orion. STAR has a successful track record in value generation and driving growth, typically investing in asset-based companies holding a strong strategic market position. STAR’s investment in ROUK builds on its previous investments in rail-transport, Eversholt Rail Group in the UK and Abellio GmbH in Germany.

Paul Gough, Managing Partner of STAR said, “We are delighted to have acquired ROUK, which we believe exhibits several characteristics that STAR looks for in a platform investment, including a strong reputation as a high-quality, safety-conscious service provider, supporting critical rail operations across the UK. We are excited to partner with management to help ROUK continue to grow by providing innovative, cost-effective and increasingly environmentally-friendly solutions for its customers”.

Commenting on the deal, Karl Watts, Chief Executive Officer of ROUK, said “We are thrilled to partner with an investor of STAR’s stature to accelerate our growth and expand into new activities. The growth capital from STAR will enable the Group to widen its service offering and cement further its reputation as a high-quality, safety-focused solutions provider to our customers. ROUK continues to innovate and challenge traditional thinking on rolling stock services and freight logistics. We look forward to playing a significant part in assisting the UK to meeting its net-zero carbon targets”.

Neil Bennett, incoming Executive Chairman said “I have enormous respect for what Karl Watts and Dave Burley have achieved in a relatively short space of time with ROUK. Working with Karl and Dave provides an excellent opportunity to combine our skills and networks as the business continues its rapid growth trajectory. STAR’s pedigree in rail means that we can take the business to the next level, backed by an investor who understands the industry and shares our vision for ROUK”.

To access the full PDF version of the press release please see the below link:

Click here for full PDF press release

ROG Assists with DATS OHLE Testing

28 February 2024

ROG Makes History with HydroFLEX Unit Testing

2 October 2020

Rail Operations Group made history last week commencing main line testing of the bi-mode hydrogen and battery powered HydroFLEX unit. The tests were operated on behalf of Porterbrook between its base at Long Marston and Evesham. The service was accompanied by Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport and CEO of Porterbrook, Mary Grant.

Rail Operations Group Managing Director David Burley said "This is a real milestone in rail de-carbonisation, led by Porterbrook and BCCRE. ROG are proud to have supported this amazing project over the last two years. Becoming the UK's first authorised operator of vehicles using such novel fuel sources gives ROG and our wider Group a new suite of options as we seek to ensure that de-carbonisation remains at the very core of what we do as our businesses continues to grow".

Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook, said “Porterbrook is committed to innovation and the delivery of a carbon neutral and sustainable railway. Today’s mainline testing of HydroFLEX achieves another important milestone on this journey. I’m also delighted to be able to announce our intention to start producing HydroFLEX trains, creating the world’s first electric and hydrogen powered bi-mode rolling stock, as well as generating significant opportunities for the UK supply chain.”

ROG welcomes Gordon Cox back to the business

2 October 2020

Rail Operations Group has appointed Gordon Cox as Business Development Director/Deputy Managing Director. Gordon was one of the original founders of the company established in 2013. He re-joins ROG at an exciting time that has seen its revenue quadruple in the last three years. Gordon brings a wealth of experience having held senior positions in the UK rail industry over the last 30 years.

Gordon said “It is great to be back with Rail Operations Group and to guide the company through its next phase of development. When ROG started there were just 5 of us – there are now over 100 in the team. The company has established itself as the UK's leading Rolling Stock services provider to the industry with an enviable reputation of professionalism and innovation.”

Message of thanks to the NHS spread across 95mph Class 47 express locomotives.

16 April 2020

Rail Operations (UK) Limited is spreading its thanks to NHS workers fighting the coronavirus by adorning two of its 95mph Class 47 express locomotives with a message.

The train operating company, that is dedicated to the rolling stock manufacturing, engineering and leasing sectors, has revealed its ‘Thank you NHS’ message.

Karl Watts, Chief Executive Officer, said: “Along with the whole of the UK, Rail Operations Group are incredibly appreciative of the sterling effort all those in the NHS are making towards fighting the coronavirus, especially those on the frontline.

“To mark our appreciation, we have adorned two of our 95mph Class 47 express locomotives with a very simple but sincere message: ‘Thank you NHS’. These locomotives will deliver this message across the whole of the UK for all to share.”

CAF Class 397 Testing

25 March 2019

ROG are pleased to be supporting CAF with yet another project, this time testing CAF’s class 397 high speed trains destined for Trans Pennine Express. The dynamic testing involves 125mph operation on the West Coast Main Line as part of the testing and commissioning programme.

The photograph shows two of the class 397 test engineers on the left and Colin Hatton, Operations Manager (middle), Mark Keighley, Head of International Services and Surinder Kumar, Operations Manager from ROG.

The Return of Rail-Borne Logistics

21 February 2019

Rail Operations (UK) Limited has started the campaign to drive a modal shift from road to rail for logistics type goods. Brought about by the demise of heavy industry and an upsurge in ecommerce, the transportation of light goods on UK roads has increased dramatically over recent years. Light goods are typically conveyed in pallets or roll-cages. Such commodities lend themselves to being transported by a passenger type rail vehicle (similar to the Royal Mail class 325 fleet) as opposed to freight trains.

In recognition of this change, Rail Operations (UK) Limited have ordered the first two class 769 4-car bi-mode units (BMU) to pioneer this modal shift. Provided by Porterbrook, the intention of the first two trains was simply to showcase the potential of using a very versatile, 100mph, express logistics train. However, such is the interest in the new proposal, it is very likely that further class 769 BMUs will be ordered.

The longer-term aspiration is to have a UK-wide network of logistics operations serving both logistics centres as well as major stations. Rail Operations (UK) Limited are creating a new train operating company named Orion to undertake the logistics services. The first services are expected to start in 2020.

What the media are saying:








ROG Start Bombardier Class 710 Test Programme

5 October 2018

The first Bombardier class 710 EMUs to operate on the mainline underwent testing between Gospel Oak and Barking and also on the West Coast Main Line this week. ROG are the test operator for this new, Transport for London, fleet of 45 trains. ROG also have responsibility for delivering the new trains from the manufacturer’s plant in Derby to the fleets’ new home at Willesden Traction Maintenance Depot. The picture shows 710 265 standing in Barking station in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

ROG Appointed as Stadler Class 745/755 Test Operator

5 October 2018

Abellio East Anglia have appointed ROG as the test operator for their new, Stadler built, class 745 EMU and 755 BMU train fleets. Testing commences in November 2018. ROG are supplying a range of services in support of the test programme. The picture shows a newly built class 745, 4-car BMU.

ROG Appointed as Class 769 'Flex' Test Operator

5 October 2018

ROG have been appointed as test operator for the new class 769 ‘Flex’ hybrid multiple units. Testing commences in early November on the West Coast Main Line. ROG will also be delivering the new units to various locations around the UK. The picture shows a class 769 Flex unit stabled at Loughborough.

More Locomotives for ROG

5 October 2018

ROG have taken delivery of two class 57 locomotives on long-term lease from DRS. The locomotives are fitted with brake translation equipment and Dellner 12 couplers similar to that fitted to ROG’s class 37 locomotives. The class 57s will support ROGs growing need for Dellner 12 fitted locomotives. The picture shows the locomotives arriving at Leicester locomotive depot after collection from DRS’s Gresty Bridge depot. The locomotives join ROGs existing class 37 and class 47 locomotives as the mainstay of ROG’s locomotive fleet provision and will remain so until the arrival of ROG’s new locomotive fleet.