British Rail Class 144

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British Rail Class 144 Pacer
144001 SHF.JPG
Northern Rail/WYPTE Metro Class 144 Pacer No. 144001, recently reliveried, is seen at Sheffield
British Rail Class 144interior.JPG
The interior of a Northern Rail/SYPTE Metro Class 144
In service 1986 - present
Manufacturer BREL Derby and Walter Alexander
Family name Pacer
Refurbishment 2002 - 2004 and 2010
Number built 23 trainsets
Formation DMS(+MS)+DMSL
Fleet numbers 144001 - 144023
Operator Northern Rail
Line(s) served Harrogate Line, Huddersfield Line, Hallam Line, Penistone Line, Pontefract Line, York & Selby Lines, Caldervale Line
Car body construction Steel underframe. Aluminium alloy body and roof.
Maximum speed 75 mph (121 km/h)
Prime mover(s) Cummins LTA10-R 6-cylinder 10-litre[1]
(Originally fitted with Leyland TL11 6-cylinder 11.1-litre)
Power output Cummins: 225 hp (168 kW) at 2100 rpm[1]
Originally Leyland: 205 hp (153 kW) at 1950 rpm
Safety system(s) AWS, TPWS
Coupling system BSI[2]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 144 "Pacer" diesel multiple units (DMUs) were built by BREL Derby from 1986 to 1987. A total of 23 units were built,[3] replacing many of the earlier first-generation "Heritage" DMUs.[citation needed]

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008 require that all public passenger trains must be accessible by 2020. Some of them will also be receiving extensive refurbishment by Porterbrook.[4] [5] The Long Term Passenger Rolling Stock Strategy for the Rail Industry indicates no new diesel trains will be ordered in the next 10 years.[6]


At the beginning of the 1980s British Rail (BR) had a large fleet of ageing "Heritage" DMUs, built to many different designs in the late 1950s and early 1960s.[citation needed] Some of the more reliable types were retained and refurbished. However, BR decided to replace many of the non-standard or unreliable types with new second generation units, built to modern standards. Two different types were pursued; low-cost "Pacers" built using bus parts and used on short-distance services;[citation needed] and "Sprinters" built for longer-distance services.[citation needed]

Twenty-three Class 144 units were built.[3] The units have a maximum speed of 75 mph (121 km/h) and are externally similar to the earlier Class 143 Pacers (they have a Walter Alexander body like the Class 143), built in 1985–1986. The first thirteen of the class, No. 144001-013 are 2-car units.[3] The remaining ten, No. 144014-023 are all 3-car units,[3] although all were originally built as 2-car units, the centre vehicle being added later. These ten Pacers are the only Pacers to contain intermediate vehicles.

Units are formed of two driving motors, one of which contains a toilet. The 3-car units have an additional intermediate motor. All vehicles have standard-class seating only. The technical description of the formation is DMS+(MS)+DMSL. Individual vehicles are numbered as follows.

  • 55801-55823 - DMS
  • 55850-55859 - MS (units 144014-023 only)
  • 55824-55846 - DMSL

The Class 144 units have BSI couplers. This allows them to work in multiple with Class 142, Class 150, Class 153 and Class 155 units, as well as units of the same class.


The class were built specifically for local services sponsored by West Yorkshire PTE (since rebranded as Metro). As such, the fleet was painted in the crimson/cream West Yorkshire Metro livery, although three units (nos. 144011-013) were later repainted into Regional Railways livery. Units are used on services such as:

They can also be found operating the Leeds-Morecambe services, services between Scunthorpe and Adwick to Sheffield and Lincoln and more recently from 2008, between Manchester Victoria and Leeds (usually via Brighouse) amongst others.[citation needed] Prior to 1994, they were also used on Leeds/Bradford-Ilkley and Leeds/Bradford-Skipton services. These lines were electrified in 1994, and passenger services were operated by Class 308 electrical multiple units. Due to their similarities, services booked for a Class 144 can often be replaced by a Class 142, and vice versa.[citation needed]

Since privatisation, the fleet has been operated by several franchises. The first operator was Northern Spirit, which was later taken over by Arriva Trains Northern who refurbished the fleet between 2002 and 2004,[citation needed] with units emerging in a new silver and red Metro livery complete with refurbished interior. In December 2004, the fleet was transferred to the new Northern Rail franchise. Northern Rail has started to replace the silver and red Metro livery with Northern Purple and Blue. During 2009, 144001-013 were all repainted. As of April 2010, all Class 144s have been repainted.[3]

Northern Rail have commenced a refurbishment programme to their fleet of Class 144 trains. 144006 is the first one to be so treated and this was also the first one to be refurbished in the joint Arriva Trains Northern/WYPTE Metro programme eight years ago in 2002.

The refurbishment features the following enhancements:[7][8]

  • Installation of 'easy to mop' flooring
  • The bike area at one end has been extended by removing the bulkhead wall and extending the perch seat from three to four
  • Repainted hand grips and stanchions
  • New dado side panels and repainted wall ends
  • Retrimmed seats in the purple Northern Rail moquette
  • Repainted ceiling
  • Repainted driving cab


A Northern Rail 3-car class 144 unit caught fire near Smithy Bridge in Rochdale on 21 November 2013.[9][10]

Fleet details[edit]

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos.
Class 144 Northern Rail 23 1986–1987 2 144001 - 144013[3]
3 144014 - 144023[3]