British Rail Class 508

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British Rail Class 508
508141-LiverpoolLS-01.jpg
Class 508 at Liverpool Lime Street
Class 508 interior 1.jpg
Class 508 interior
In service 1979 - Current
Manufacturer BREL York
Family name BREL 1972 "PEP"
Refurbishment 27 Merseyrail sets 2002 - 2004
Alstom Eastleigh Works
Number built 43 trainsets
Number scrapped 7 trainsets
Formation 3 cars per trainset (originally 4 cars)
Capacity 320 seats (as-built)
234 seats (508/1)
222 seats (508/1 modified, 508/2 & 508/3)
192 seats (Merseyrail refurbished)
Operator Merseyrail
Specifications
Car length 19.8 m (65 ft)
Width 2.82 m (9.3 ft)
Height 3.58 m (11.7 ft)
Maximum speed 75 mph (121 km/h)
Weight 104.5 tonnes (102.8 long tons)
Power output 656 kW (880 hp) from 8 x GEC G310AZ electric motor (82kw each)
Electric system(s) 750 V DC Third rail
Multiple working within class and Class 507
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) Standard gauge

British Rail Class 508 electric multiple units (EMUs) were built by BREL York works in 1979-80. They were the fourth variant of BR's standard 1972 design for suburban EMUs, eventually encompassing 755 vehicles and five classes (313/314/315/507/508). They have mostly worked on the Merseyrail network since 1983, and continue to do so, now refurbished by Alstom's Eastleigh Works. The fleet is ageing, and Southeastern and London Overground have completely replaced them. The Class 508 unit is now 35 years old, making them among the oldest units still in service on the UK mainland rail network, after the Class 313.

Description[edit]

The class was developed for Merseyside following extensive trials and testing of the 4Pep/2Pep stock built in the early 1970s. Testing of Class 313 took place on the Northern Line on Merseyside, using 313003/005/013/063 loaned from the Great Northern Line of the Eastern Region to Hall Road depot. Original plans were drawn up for 58 508s to be constructed, although costing issues limited the eventual number to 43. However, following planning and building, British Rail decided to divert the 508s to work alongside much older first-generation 4Sub EMUs in the London Waterloo area. Based at Strawberry Hill depot, they soon became very unpopular due to their being non-standard. Once a new build of Class 455 EMUs were complete, the 508s were slowly sent to their originally intended home on the Merseyrail network. The 508 fleet then began to work alongside the already well-established fleet of Class 507 EMUs, which had been working on Merseyside since 1978.

Delivered to the Southern Region as four-car sets numbered 508 001–043, all of the sets were reduced to three cars for Merseyside operation by the removal of one trailer and renumbered as 508/1. The individual passenger door controls were plated over before they were sent north. The spare trailer car from each set was incorporated into class 455/7 EMUs. Carriage numbering is as follows:

  • 64649-64691 - DMSO
  • 71483-71525 - TSO
  • 71526–71568 – TSO (removed before transfer to Merseyside)
  • 64692-64734 - BDMSO

Current operations[edit]

Merseyrail operates 27 508s, which are used interchangeably between the Northern Line and the Wirral Line. They commonly work the following services:

A Class 508 unit enters the stabling point at Rock Ferry.

Merseyrail's fleet of Class 508 units are primarily maintained at Birkenhead North TMD, with minor maintenance being undertaken at Kirkdale TMD. The units, which are out of service, have stabling points at various sidings around the Merseyrail network. These can be found at the station termini and the depots, as well as at Rock Ferry station and Birkenhead North station.

Past operations[edit]

Connex South Eastern leased 12 508s freed up by controversially[to whom?] cutting back Merseyrail's Wirral services in 1996 (508101/105/106/107/109/113/116/119/121/129/132/133), for operation on specific Kent services. They were used due to lack of Class 466 Networkers, particularly on the Medway Valley Line and the Sheerness Line. In September 2006 new operator Southeastern announced that a cascade of rolling stock would see Class 466 units replace the 508s on the Sheerness and Medway Valley lines in the December 2006 timetable.[1] Following this timetable change there were only six units left, based at Gillingham Depot. There were five units in 'warm store' at Ashford Chart Leacon, and one unit, 508212, was cannibalised to keep the surviving service units in operation, including the swap of its TSO coach with one from a unit that ran into a tree on the Redhill to Tonbridge Line. With the transfer of the Tonbridge to London via Redhill services to Southern, Southeastern placed its remaining 508s in store in December 2008.

Silverlink leased three 508s from Angel Trains in 2003 for operation on the Watford DC Line to assist its fleet of Class 313 EMUs. These were withdrawn following the delivery of Class 378 Capitalstar units. These three Class 508/3 units were modified by Alstom Eastleigh to designs provided by Interfleet Technology to make them inter-operable with Class 313 units.

Fleet information[edit]

A Class 508 at Hampton Court in 1984, with its original number and livery.
  • Originally numbered 508001-508043.
  • When they moved to Merseyside they were renumbered 508101-508143 to avoid confusion with the Class 507s.
  • The Merseyrail 508s were refurbished in 2003/04, the first unit to re-enter service being 508110. The final unit to leave for the works for refurbishment was formerly black-striped 508137.
  • Southeastern units were renumbered 508/2 when they were refurbished in 1996. 508203/205/207/208/210/211 were further overhauled at Wabtec, Doncaster in 2007.
  • Silverlink units were renumbered 508/3 when they were refurbished in 2003, modified to make them compatible with Class 313s for operation on Euston to Watford Junction services.
  • Both Southeastern and London Overground have withdrawn their fleets for replacement - Southeastern has been able to cascade existing rolling stock to the Sheerness and Medway lines, while the London Bridge to Tonbridge via Redhill service has been transferred to Southern; London Overground has fully introduced its new Class 378 units.
  • 508/2 units 508202/4-6 have been scrapped at Eastleigh.[2]
  • All of the 508/3 units were scrapped at Eastleigh in 2013.[3]
Class Operator No. in service Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos. Notes
Class 508/1 Merseyrail 27 1979-1980 3 508103-508104, 508108, 508110-508112, 508114-508115, 508117, 508120, 508122-508128, 508130-508131, 508134, 508136-508141, 508143 Converted from 508/0
Class 508/2 -- 12 508201-508212 (202/4/5/6 scrapped in 2013)
Class 508/3 -- 3 508301 - 508303 (Scrapped in 2013)
Class 508/1 diagram


Network Rail's Route Utilisation Strategy for Merseyside has called for an expansion to Merseyrail's current fleet to allow for both additional services and lengthening of trains to six cars. In December 2009 it was reported by various sources that the former Southeastern and London Overground units would be transferred to Merseyrail.[4][5] Two ex-London-Overground units were moved to Warrington Arpley Yard in November 2009, but returned south soon after. Meanwhile the ex Southeastern 508s were moved to Telford Railfreight Terminal for storage between May 2010 and February 2011 [6] before they moved to Eastleigh for further storage in late 2011. On 14 August 2012, 508212 was moved to the Fire Training College at Moreton-in-Marsh.[7]

Liveries[edit]

Southeastern unit 508210 at London Bridge
London Overground unit 508301 stands at London Euston in Silverlink Metro livery.

508s have appeared in many colours over their lifetimes, more so than any EMU of similar type.

  • BR Blue and Grey (1979—1994): the initial livery lasted until well into their careers on Merseyside. The units also carried the MPTE 69 logo and Merseyrail branding on the driver's side of the outer ends of the driving vehicles, after transfer to Merseyside.
  • Merseyrail Original (1993—2001; repaints 2001—2004): yellow with white around the windows and black and grey stripes, exclusive to Merseyside EMUs.
  • Merseyrail Revised (1999—2004): a lighter yellow, and no black stripe.
  • Merseyrail Refurbished (2003—): silver, with vertical curved yellow stripes receding from the cab ends. The passenger doors are all yellow, introduced as a safety measure by Merseyrail. 'M' branding on the front ends and on the sides, and a Merseyrail vinyl. The vinyl was purchased without graffiti protection, and so it does not wear well if vandalised. Several sets are running with their 'M' logos missing or worn away.
  • Connex Yellow and White (1996—2006): white with yellow effects down the sides.
  • South Eastern Trains (2005—2006): white with yellow and black side stripes. Unit 508208 was one of the first to receive this, in May 2005.
  • Southeastern (April 2006—December 2008): white, black and grey as carried by the 465/466 fleet, with the doors in corporate lilac.
  • Silverlink Metro (2004—): purple, green and silver, applied when they were modified in 2003.
  • Merseyrail Capital of Culture (2008—2009): based around the Merseyrail Refurbished livery, with overlain graphics. One of the four sets in the promotional Capital of Culture liveries is 508134, with the theme of creativity with a purple background. Photographs depicted focus on some of the weird and wonderful innovations from Liverpool, such as the SuperLambBanana. The colourful liveries met with mixed reactions from travellers. It was most often on the Southport—Hunts Cross line. Passenger doors carry diagonal safety stripes.[8][9]
The train in Beatles Story livery at Hillside railway station.
508108 at Moreton displaying one of the Merseyrail Good Communications liveries.
  • Merseyrail The Beatles Story (October 2011—): blue background, with mainly-white text and graphics, advertising The Beatles Story exhibition at the Albert Dock in Liverpool. The passenger doors are all yellow, as a safety measure which was introduced, previously, by Merseyrail. The livery is applied as a vinyl skin.[10] This livery is unique to unit number 508111.
  • Merseyrail Good Communications (February 2014—): six different designs, half with a yellow background, and half with a brushed metal background.[11] Both sides have lifestyle text, in a rounded font, and graphics along a lower railway map-type stubbed stripe. The passenger doors are white, on the yellow coaches,[12] and yellow on the brushed metal coaches. There is Merseyrail 'M' branding on each of the passenger doors, as well as on the cab fronts. The livery is applied as a vinyl skin.[13]

Naming[edit]

  • 508136 - "Capital of Culture"

In late 2004, to mark Liverpool being named European Capital of Culture 2008, Merseyrail named 508136 'Capital of Culture'. This name was affixed using vinyl transfers, not cast metal nameplates.

Incidents[edit]

Birkenhead Fire[edit]

508118 was gutted by fire during 2001 at Birkenhead.

Crowhurst derailment[edit]

On 6 March 2007 508210, forming the 0500 Tonbridge to Gatwick Airport, derailed near Crowhurst, Surrey, after hitting a fallen tree on the line. None of the eight people on board were hurt.[14]

Liverpool Central derailment[edit]

On 26 October 2005 508124, forming 2W43 1706 West Kirby return via Liverpool Lime Street, derailed 200m short of Liverpool Central, caused by track gauge widening due to poor track condition. There were no serious injuries. The RAIB report[15] cited incompatibility between Class 508 (and 507) EMUs and the Liverpool Loop track as a causal factor, along with maintenance and other track design concerns.

Plans for replacement[edit]

On 14 May 2012, Merseytravel announced that it was beginning a project for replacement of the 508s and 507s, with new trains to be expected by 2017.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]