From small beginnings as a consultancy in 2001, Knights Rail Services grew to be a well known name in the railway rolling stock industry with the largest rail engineering Works in the south of England under its control. The guiding principle was the solving of problems by a flexible and proactive approach to customers.
Founded by Bruce Knights, the man behind the renaissance of the rail business at MOD Shoeburyness, the company soon established itself as an innovator, with a number of key projects attracting attention from within the rail industry.
A Joint Venture with Serco saw the development of the UK's first purpose train decontamination facility at the MOD site at Shoeburyness in Essex. Using experience gained in the munitions and environmental industries this quickly became the bench mark for train decontamination in the UK. During it's 8 years of operation this facility processed over 1000 rail vehicles and was only closed when it was replaced by the new larger facility at Eastleigh Works.
Success at Shoeburyness was coupled with other innovative projects, including the design, construction and operation of the award winning HSBC Carriage Roll Over Rig, a full scale railway carriage that could be rolled onto its side to test train evacuation techniques. KRS also designed a process for corrosion repairs and abatement for the Networker EMU fleet owned by HSBC Rail. This led to a full repair and re-livery programme undertaken between 2005 and 2007 at Stewarts Lane depot.
A significant milestone was reached in April 2005 with the purchase of Serco's share of the train decontamination Joint Venture. This reinforced KRS's growing status within the rail industry and allowed expansion into new services of component recovery and warehousing, alongside more asbestos services such as surveying and environmental consultancy.
The Eastleigh Works Era
When Bruce Knights ran the railway at MOD Shoeburyness back in the 1990s, he recognised the need for a site that combined storage, maintenance and disposal services for rolling stock. As the maintenance that could be carried out at Shoeburyness was always limited, the opportunity to lease the famous Eastleigh Works in Hampshire in 2006 was quickly acted upon.
From that small start the operation expanded into the former Workshop buildings, only recently vacated by Alstom. This vast building had been equipped to build some of the largest British steam engines of the 20th Century including the famous Bulleid Pacifics. Although much of the equipment had been sold off, within weeks the massive overhead cranes were operational and the electrified third rail system was energised, allowing electric trains to enter the works once again.
The site, once destined for demolition is now used by a variety of customers to service, overhaul and maintain rail vehicles of all types. The industry really began to notice in September 2007 when a press day was held to name two class 47 locomotives owned by Colas Rail. These had been rebuilt by Arlington Fleet Services
, the first locos to be overhauled at the Works since the 1980s.
Since then the Works has continued to develop with new facilities and prestigious projects being undertaken. A modern paint facility was installed replacing the one shut by Alstom, whilst new tracks gave access to more workshop buildings. A fuel point installed in 2008 allows the site to stable trains on a regular basis.
A key event in the Works history was celebrated in May 2009 with a centenary event held on three days over the May Bank Holiday weekend. This was attended by over 19,000 visitors who came to see the 50 historic locomotives and coaches brought to the site from all over the country. Live peak hour broadcasts from ITV and BBC established the Works back in the consciousness of the local people and the rail industry, and whilst principally designed as a celebration of the Works still being in business, Knights Rail Services was able to hand over a cheque for £30,000 to three charities, with another £20,000 raised by other groups at the event.
2012 proved to be a pivotal year for KRS. In January a long lease was signed for Eastleigh Works with an extended area of workshop space. In March the environmental and component recovery business was split off into a new company, Knights Rail Environmental Services Ltd (KRES). Meanwhile the continued success of KRS had not gone unnoticed and after several approaches from other railway businesses, Bruce Knights sold the company to Arlington Fleet Group on 11th September 2012.
KRES remains under the ownership and direction of Bruce Knights, with much of the existing workforce transferring to the new company. KRS is now owned and operated by Barry Stephens and his team and the two companies continue to work closely together on key projects.
To contact Knights Rail Services, see here
For more information about Knights Rail Environmental Services, see here