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PredecessorBritish Rail
FoundedMarch 1994
Area served
United Kingdom
ProductsRolling stock leasing
Allianz Capital Partners
EDF Invest
Vantage Infrastructure

Porterbrook is a British rolling stock company (ROSCO), created as part of the privatisation of British Rail. Together with Angel Trains and Eversholt Rail Group, it is one of the three original ROSCOs.

Porterbrook was established in March 1994 and was privatised via a management buyout during November 1995. In August 1997, it was acquired by the transport specialist Stagecoach at a far higher value. Two and a half years later, Stagecoach sold Porterbrook to the British banking group Abbey National. Prior to this, Porterbrook had entered the freight leasing market for the first time as well as the continental European rail leasing market; the latter activities were sold off in December 2004, resulting in the creation of CB Rail. On 27 October 2008, Porterbrook was purchased from Abbey National by a consortium of Antin Infrastructure Partners, Deutsche Bank and Lloyds TSB.

During the 2010s, Porterbrook engaged in various projects to overhaul or dispose of aging rolling stock. Some of its Class 319 electric multiple units were rebuilt as Class 769 bi-mode units to work on both electrified and non-electrified routes. In 2020, Porterbrook started a £55 million five-year programme to refurbish 214 Class 377 'Electrostar' EMUs operated by Southern. Furthermore, many of its Class 43 power cars, historically operated as a part of the Intercity 125, were sold or donated to other parties, along with its fleet of Class 90 electric locomotives.


47817 in early Porterbrook livery

Porterbrook was established on 21 March 1994 as a subsidiary of British Rail in preparation for the privatisation of British Rail.[1][2] It was named after the Porter Brook, a river that passed by British Rail's Sheffield offices (Specifically Sheaf House, adjacent to Sheffield railway station, which was demolished in late 2005 as part of a city centre regeneration project).[3] In November 1995, Porterbrook was privatised via a management buyout.[4][5]

In 1996, Porterbrook entered the freight leasing market though a deal to purchase and lease back 70 locomotives and 699 wagons from Freightliner.[6] On 28 August 1996, the company was purchased by the transport conglomerate Stagecoach in exchange for £825 million; this deal was subject to considerable criticism for the low value returned to the taxpayer.[7][8] On 20 April 2000, Stagecoach opted to sell Porterbrook to the British banking group Abbey National for a reported £1.44 billion.[9]

Porterbrook established its own subsidiary to handle its European rail leasing activities; this was sold to a joint venture between Babcock & Brown and Bank of Scotland Corporate Europe during December 2004, creating CB Rail.[10][11][12] At the time of the takeover, the subsidiary had leasing arrangements for 28 locomotives and 67 coaches.[13][14][15]

On 27 October 2008, the business was purchased from Abbey National by a consortium of Antin Infrastructure Partners, Deutsche Bank and Lloyds TSB.[16][17] The sale, which reportedly valued Porterbrook and its 6,014-strong rolling stock inventory at £2 billion, gave rise to concerns that Abbey National, and its Spanish parent Banco Santander, were subject to considerable financial stress at that time.[18]

During the 2010s, Porterbrook engaged in various efforts to overhaul and refurbish elements of its rolling stock, particularly multiple units. One proposal was the refurbishment of its British Rail Class 144 'Pacer' diesel multiple units, referred to as the Class 144e (Evolution), it would bring it up to the requirements of the Persons with reduced mobility-Technical Specifications for Interoperability accessibility regulations.[19] It featured several upgrades such as the addition of new 2+2 style seating, a fully accessible toilet, two wheelchair spaces and spaces for bicycles and luggage,[19][20] as well as Wi-Fi and media screens.[19]

In December 2016, Arriva UK Trains subsidiary Northern and Porterbrook announced a plan to convert eight Class 319 electric multiple units to bi-mode units, to allow through working between electrified and non-electrified routes. These units, which were initially marketed as "Class 319 Flex", have been designated as Class 769 under TOPS, will use newly-installed diesel engines alternators fitted under each of the driving trailer vehicles, to power the traction motors through the train's existing DC bus.[21][22][23]

During the 2010s, Porterbrook begun disposing of their Class 43 power cars, used on Intercity 125 services; a number of power cars (along with a set of Mark 3 coaches) were acquired by Locomotive Services Limited,[24] while the two locomotives involved in the record breaking test run were donated, one, 43102, to the national collection at Shildon, and the other, 43159, to the 125 Group.[25][26][27]

During 2019, Freightliner purchased 13 Class 90 electric locomotives from Porterbrook that were formerly operated by Greater Anglia. Upon their transfer in May 2020, they underwent a modification programme to match the freight Class 90 specification.[28] In February 2020, Porterbrook signed a 15-year lease with St Modwen to take over the Quinton Rail Technology Centre at Long Marston.[29][30]

In 2020, it was announced that Porterbrook was funding a £55 million five-year Project Aurora programme to refurbish 214 Class 377 'Electrostar' EMUs operated by Southern Trains.[31][32] Changes include the installation of screens showing live GTR and London Underground service information, the provision of USB and power points, energy-saving LED lighting and a passenger-counting system which will enable GTR to analyse how busy individual services are.[33]

During July 2021, an agreement was announced for the British investment fund Dalmore Capital and an Israeli infrastructure fund, Generation Capital, to acquire the 30% shareholding in Porterbook previously held by The Infrastructure Fund, Utilities Trust of Australia and the NatWest pension fund.[34]

Porterbrook liveried locomotives[edit]

87002 in later Porterbrook livery

Porterbrook has painted some locomotives in its purple house colours. Deltic D9016 was repainted in 1999 after Porterbrook sponsored its return to service.[35] Class 47s 47807 and 47817 operated for Virgin CrossCountry in the late 1990s in Porterbrook livery as did 57601 for First Great Western from 2001, and 87002 for Virgin Trains West Coast from 2003.[36][37]

Initial fleet[edit]

The fleet Porterbrook inherited from British Rail in 1994 comprised:[2]

Class Total
43 81
47 32
73 14
87 35
90 15
141 38
143 36
144 46
150 128
153 40
156 76
158 211
159 66
205 30
207 10
319 344
323 117
411 424
412 28
422 92
423 188
455 364
456 48
Mark 3 coaches 649
Driving Van Trailer 52


  1. ^ a b "Porterbrook Leasing Company Limited: Company number 02912662". gov.uk. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b "25 Years of ROSCOs". Rail Express. No. 281. October 2019. pp. 18–21.
  3. ^ "Why Angel Trains?". Entrain. No. 113. May 2005. p. 25.
  4. ^ "ROSCOs sold for £1,699.5m" (18). Rail Privatisation News. 16 November 1995: 16. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "BR's passenger trains fleet sold-off for £1.8 billion". Rail Magazine. No. 266. 22 November 1995. p. 6.
  6. ^ "Freightliner 95 sold - and Porterbrook enters freight market by buying 70 locomotives and 699 wagons". The Railway Magazine. No. 1143. July 1996. p. 14.
  7. ^ "Stagecoach to buy Porterbrook for £475m". The Railway Magazine. No. 1145. September 1996. p. 7.
  8. ^ "Exposed: Who gets what from Eversholt's great gravy train". The Independent. 20 February 1997. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020.
  9. ^ "£1.44 billion Porterbrook Sale". Entrain. No. 54. June 2000. p. 7.
  10. ^ Rail Cargo information Netherlands railcargo.nl Archived 24 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Porterbrook sells European arm to CB Rail". Rail Magazine. No. 502. 8 December 2004. p. 9.
  12. ^ "Porterbrook sells EU fleet to CB Rail". Entrain. No. 109. January 2005. p. 9.
  13. ^ CBRail, a new rolling stock leasing company created by Babcock & Brown and the Bank of Scotland, has purchased the European arm of Porterbrook LeasingInternational Railway Journal, January 2005, via findarticles.com Archived 23 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "HBOS, Babcock buy Porterbrook trains", asset-finance-international.com, archived from the original on 13 September 2011
  15. ^ CBRail, a new rolling stock leasing company created by Babcock & Brown and the Bank of Scotland (a division of HBOS), has purchased the European arm of Porterbrook Leasing, which has lease contracts in several European countries for 28 locomotives and 67 coaches.(Europe), International Railway Journal, 1 January 2005, archived from the original on 6 November 2012
  16. ^ "Porterbrook Leasing sale agreed". Railway Gazette International. 28 October 2008. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Abbey sells Porterbrook as HSBC launches review". Rail Magazine. No. 604. 5 November 2008. p. 10.
  18. ^ Phillip Inman and Dan Milmo (28 October 2008). "£2bn sale of train company raises fears for health of Banco Santander". The Guardian.
  19. ^ a b c "Porterbrook unveils Pacer DMU life-extension demonstrator". Railway Gazette International. 29 June 2015. Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  20. ^ "Class 144 Evolution" (PDF). Porterbrook. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  21. ^ Clinnick, Richard (14 February 2017). "Flex... and flexibility". Rail. No. 819. pp. 60–65.
  22. ^ "Porterbrook and Northern to develop electro-diesel MU". Railway Gazette International. London. 22 December 2016. Archived from the original on 19 June 2017. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  23. ^ "Porterbrook and Northern to introduce bi-mode Class 319 Flex Trains" (Press release). Derby: Porterbrook Leasing Company. 22 December 2016. Archived from the original on 3 August 2017.
  24. ^ "Deltics sold – and could be put to work on new railtours". Rail Magazine. No. 842. 20 December 2018. p. 30.
  25. ^ "Porterbrook donates power cars to 125 Group". Rail Express. No. 283. December 2019. p. 78.
  26. ^ "Mission Complete (Well, Almost.....)". 125 Group. 19 February 2021. Archived from the original on 19 February 2021. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  27. ^ "Porterbrook's generous donation completes HST story showcase". 125 Group. 20 June 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  28. ^ "GA to release 90s from December". Rail Magazine. No. 889. Peterborough: Bauer Media. 9 October 2019. p. 33. ISSN 0953-4563.
  29. ^ "Porterbrook signs 15-year lease to take over QRTC site at Long Marston". Rail Magazine. No. 898. 12 February 2020. p. 20.
  30. ^ "Long Marston Takeover". Rail Express. No. 286. March 2020. p. 10.
  31. ^ "GTR launches £55m Electrostar refurbishment". Railway Gazette International. 16 September 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  32. ^ "Southern's first refurbished Electrostar returns to service". Railway Gazette International. 9 February 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  33. ^ "GTR launches £55m Electrostar refurbishment". Railway Gazette International. 16 September 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  34. ^ "Two investors to take 30% stake in Porterbrook". Railway Gazette International. 22 July 2021.
  35. ^ "Porterbrook's Deltic 9016 finally returns to traffic". Rail Magazine. No. 433. 17 April 2002. p. 59.
  36. ^ "Porterbrook's Purple Monster goes into passenger service". The Railway Magazine. No. 1204. August 2001. p. 89.
  37. ^ "Special liveries for 87001 and 87002". Entrain. No. 19. July 2003. p. 42.

External links[edit]

Media related to Trains in Porterbrook livery at Wikimedia Commons