Although widely deprecated both at the time and subsequently, the Beeching Report was not the wholly negative document of popular legend. Among the more positive aspects was Beeching’s vision of the potential for the railway industry of the container and BR was one of the pioneers in the rail-borne exploitation of this type of traffic. At Sectorisation in the mid-1980s, Freightliner was created as a separate business within Railfreight and at Privatisation was acquired by its management. The new owners started an aggressive policy of expanding the business, launching Heavy Haul in competition with ESW in 1996. Inheriting a motley selection of elderly locomotives from BR, Freightliner’s fleet has been largely replaced by new Class 66s and a new batch of locomotives – designated Class 70 – are on order from GEC in the USA. The first of these have now been delivered and have started to enter service. The company has also expanded overseas, launching a Polish subsidiary in 2006. In 2008 the bulk of the Freightliner business was acquired by the Arab-owned investment company Arcapita, although the management still retains a holding, and the new owners have announced plans for the company’s further overseas expansion, with a new subsidiary launched in Australia.
Also by Paul Shannon