THE first of six new diesel locomotives to power Chiltern Railways expresses between Oxfordshire, London and the West Midlands has arrived in the UK.

Class 68 locomotive No 68010 was gently lifted on to tracks on a quayside at Liverpool docks on July 31 after arriving by ship from Spain, where it was built in Valencia by German company Vossloh.

It was followed off the ship by No 68011. The other four locomotives will arrive later this year.

Testing of the locomotives will start shortly, followed by training for Chiltern’s train drivers. The locomotives are expected to enter service between Birmingham, Banbury, Bicester and London Marylebone later this year, probably in December.

The 100mph, 3,750-horsepower locomotives are being sub-leased from freight train operator Direct Rail Services (DRS). They will be serviced at Chiltern’s Wembley and Stourbridge depots, with some heavy maintenance carried out at DRS depots in Crewe and Carlisle.

Speaking earlier this year, when the deal with DRS was agreed, Rob Brighouse, the managing director of Chiltern Railways said: “The introduction of new locomotives marks yet another key milestone as part of our investment in the Birmingham to London Marylebone route.”

The Class 68s will replace 12-year-old Class 67s hired from DB Schenker, which have been used since 2010 on the Mainline Silver express trains and “queue-buster” rush-hour commuter trains between Banbury and London.