The planned cuts represent almost 30% of the company’s workforce.
The German-owned firm said the rail freight industry was facing “unprecedented challenges” because of the fall in its core markets.
DB Cargo was founded in 1995, acquiring five of the six freight companies sold during the privatisation of British Rail.
Chief executive Hans-Georg Werner said: “Responsible and successful businesses must evolve and reshape as their markets change, and sometimes this means making tough decisions.
“Whilst this is a difficult time for all of us at DB Cargo UK, reshaping the company will enable us to build a business for the future and protect the majority of jobs.
“We are fully committed to supporting colleagues who may be at risk of redundancy.
“We firmly believe in the future of rail freight in the UK. Our motorways and roads are becoming more congested and rail offers fast and clean supply chain solutions.
“Our new business strategy will ensure we are a perfect logistics partner of choice for customers across all sectors - including construction, automotive and intermodal - long into the future.”
The company said no final decisions have been taken yet, and its proposals are subject to formal collective and individual consultations.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said: “This is devastating news brought on through a combination of cut-throat practices in the UK rail freight industry and a shocking lack of Government support for this key section of our transport infrastructure.
“RMT’s executive will be meeting this afternoon to consider our response but it is imperative right now that the Government intervene to save skilled jobs in the rail freight industry which are being butchered before their eyes due to a lack of action to protect steel, coal and the rest of our manufacturing base.”