British Rail Mark 3

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British Rail Mark 3
T Mark IIIA TSO 12145.JPG
British Rail Mk 3 in Wrexham & Shropshire livery at Marylebone station.
The interior of a British Rail Mark 3 carriage in CrossCountry livery
In service 1975- present
Manufacturer BREL
Built at Derby (Litchurch Lane)
Constructed 1975 - 1988
Number built 848 vehicles
Operator Arriva Trains Wales
Chiltern Railways
Direct Rail Services
East Coast
East Midlands Trains
First Great Western
First ScotRail
Grand Central Railway
Greater Anglia
Network Rail
Virgin Trains
Line(s) served East Coast Main Line
West Coast Main Line
Midland Main Line
Great Western Main Line
Great Eastern Main Line
Cross Country Route
Chiltern Main Line
Car body construction Steel
Fully Integral, monocoque
Car length 23 metres
Doors Hinged slam, centrally locked/automatic plug doors, centrally locked
Maximum speed 125 mph (200 km/h)
Power supply 3-phase 415/240V (Mark 3)
1000V DC (Mark 3A/B)
Bogies BREL BT10
Braking system(s) Disc, Air operated
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)

British Rail's third design of standard passenger carriage, designated 'Mark 3' (or Mark III), was developed in response to growing competition from airlines and the motorcar in the 1960s. A variant of the Mark 3 became the rolling stock for the High Speed Train or Inter-City 125,

Originally conceived as locomotive-hauled coaching stock, the first coaches built were for the prototype HST in 1972. Production coaches entered service between 1975 and 1988, and multiple-unit designs based on the Mark 3 bodyshell continued to be built until the early 1990s. The Mark 3 and its derivatives are widely recognised as a safe and reliable design, and most of the surviving fleet is still in revenue service on the British railway network in 2014.


In the late 1960s British Rail had modernised its rolling-stock fleet on its key long-distance routes with the introduction of the air-conditioned Mark 2 coach, and was implementing extensive plans to alter track geometry and rework slow sections of track with the aim of decreasing journey times and improving passenger comfort, but the railway continued to lose passengers to car and air. The "Inter-City" brand was created to show off these improvements, including the electrification of the West Coast Main Line (Glasgow, Preston, Manchester, Liverpool to London Euston) and new air-conditioned versions of Mk 2 coaches. Elsewhere the French, German and Italian railways were steadily electrifying their main routes and providing new, comfortable and smooth-running rolling stock, while in Japan the new purpose-built Tokaido line was opened with 125 mph air-conditioned rolling stock.

Under the chairmanship of Sir Stanley Raymond, it was decided to reduce journey times further on long-distance trains by increasing line speed to 125 mph where practical - the maximum considered possible on Britain's Victorian-age railway. At the end of 1968 proposals were submitted to the Commercial and Operating Departments of British Rail for a new fleet of third-generation standard coaching stock, designed to run at 125 mph.[1]

The rapid development required for the Inter-City 125 High Speed Train (HST) in 1969 made the Mark 3 coach design the obvious choice for this train, and in 1972 the first Mark 3 coaches were built, ten for the prototype HST.


The Mark 3 looks similar to Mark 2D, 2E and 2F coaches, but is of a completely different design. It has a ridged roof and under-frame skirt compared with a smooth roof and visible below-frame equipment on the Mark 2.

The bodyshell is 75 feet (23 m) long, almost 10 feet (3.0 m) longer than the Mark 2, of full monocoque construction with an all-welded mild steel stressed skin, and has a reputation for its exceptional strength and crashworthiness. An important advance over its predecessor was the adoption of secondary air suspension between the body and the bogies, giving an exceptionally smooth ride. The bogies, classified BT10, were designed specifically for the Mark 3 and have coil-spring primary suspension with hydraulic dampers, enabling a maximum speed of 125 mph (200 km/h) — the Mark 2 is limited to 100 mph (160 km/h). Disc brakes in place of the Mark 2 clasp brakes completed the engineering package, enabling efficient deceleration from 125 mph and almost silent brake operation.

Ancillaries such as electrical and air-conditioning systems were grouped together in discrete modules housed behind an aerodynamic skirting between the bogies; on the Mark 2 these were mounted above and below the passenger seating area. The lighting and air-conditioning fittings were for the first time integrated into the ceiling panels. Other new features (first seen on the Mark 2F) were the pneumatically operated automatic gangway doors triggered by pressure pads under the floor. A speed-operated central door-locking system for the manually operated slam-doors was installed from 1993.

The main difference between the HST vehicles and the loco-hauled Mark 3A relate to electrical supply arrangements. HST coaches take an industrial voltage/frequency 3-phase supply directly from an auxiliary alternator in the power car to supply on-board equipment such as air conditioning; loco-hauled vehicles take a standard single-phase 1000 V AC or DC train heat supply from the locomotive and convert it through motor generator units under the floor. These convert the train supply to 3-phase 415/240 V 50 Hz AC to power air conditioning and other ancillaries. The two types are non-interconnectable in service conditions. The other main difference is the lack of buffers on HST coaches.

The later Mark 3B build provided first class loco-hauled vehicles for the West Coast Main Line. These are similar to Mark 3As, but have an improved motor alternator unit with compound-wound motor, and seating derived from the Advanced Passenger Train (APT).


Ten coaches were constructed to run between a pair of Class 41 power cars as the prototype HST (later InterCity 125), exploring different seating and layout options for first- and second-class passengers, and evaluating different designs of catering facilities. In 1973 the prototype HST was evaluated as an 8-coach formation. The two spare coaches, 2903 and 2904, were rebuilt and redeployed in the Royal Train, where they remain.

Main article: Prototype HST


Initial plans for a large fleet for almost all Inter-City services were amended prior to construction to provide stock for the planned HST /InterCity 125 fleet, resulting in a much smaller fleet of loco-hauled coaches for the West Coast Main Line (WCML). A much reduced number of coaches were manufactured, requiring many Mark 2D, 2E and 2F coaches to remain in service.

The table below lists manufacturing variants as built, showing the quantity of each type/designation and original running numbers.

Mark Built Features Numbers Built : No., TYPE, (Original Number Series)
Mark 3 1972 prototypes

1 x RSB (10000)
1 x RUK (10100)

4 x FO (11000-11003)
4 x TSO (12000-12003)

Mark 3 1976-82 standard HST stock (no buffers)

37 x TRSB (40001-40037)
58 x TRUB (40300-40357)
20 x TRUK (40501-40520)

167 x TF (41003-41169)
339 x TS (42003-42341)
102 x TGS (44000-44101)

Mark 3A 1975-84 standard loco-hauled stock

28 x RFB (10001-10028)
120 x SLEP (10500-10619)
88 x SLE (10646-10733)

60 x FO (11004-11063)
165 x TSO (12004-12168)
2 x Royal (2914–2915)

Mark 3B 1985-88 loco-hauled stock with improved interior lighting diffusers, InterCity 80 seats and other upgrades

38 x FO (11064-11101)
3 x BFO (17173-17175)

52 x DVT (82101-82152)
2 x Royal (2922–2923)

See British Railway Coach Designations for the meaning of RSB, TRUK, BFO etc.


A picture of a Virgin Trains' Mark 3 carriage at Crewe station in 2000 in its former Intercity livery.

The Mark 3 design proved to be highly adaptable for multiple-unit stock of the 1980s, with the following classes having Mark-3-based bodyshells:

The bodyshell was also used as the basis for Northern Ireland Railways' 450 Class DMU.

Since 1977, the Royal Train has included some specially equipped Mark 3 coaches.

Grand Central, an open-access operator on the ECML, uses HST sets between London and Sunderland.[2] The Mark 3 coaches were loco-hauled, and had to have their couplers and electrical systems modified to make them compatible with Class 43 power cars.

Mark 3 coaches have a limited role on the WCML as sleeping cars on the overnight Caledonian Sleeper services between Scotland and London Euston.

The introduction of Virgin Trains' Pendolino electric multiple units on the WCML caused a large surplus of Mark 3 vehicles, which ended up in storage at Long Marston. Some former Virgin coaches were refurbished and cascaded to the Great Eastern Main Line, replacing Mark 2E/2F vehicles on London-Norwich services.

CrossCountry has reinstated HSTs on the CrossCountry franchise in response to criticism of the lack of seating capacity on the Voyager DEMUs used by previous incumbent Virgin Trains. To create new HST sets it is anticipated that more loco-hauled coaches will need to be converted.

HSTs continue to be used by First Great Western on the Great Western Main Line, by East Midlands Trains on the Midland Main Line, and by East Coast on the East Coast Main Line.

Virgin has retained at least one complete Mark 3 set with a Class 90 locomotive, initially used to cover peak-time Euston-Birmingham services while the Pendolinos underwent modifications, but now covering the loss of 390033, written off after the Grayrigg derailment in 2007. In July 2009, Virgin refurbished this set and repainted it in Pendolino silver/black livery, with the interiors receiving power sockets at every seat, WiFi, and new seat covers and carpets in the same style as the Pendolino and Voyager fleets, but the BR vintage seats and interior fittings remain. This set is nicknamed the "Pretendolino".

In January 2007, the first refurbished sets for the ECML were unveiled by then franchisee GNER. These have been internally refitted to the same standard as the "Mallard" Mark 4 stock with the same styles of seating and lighting. They were converted by Wabtec in Doncaster, and the final set entered service in October 2009.

Cargo-D, a rolling-stock logistics company, acquired 18 ex-Virgin West Coast coaches and repainted them in their original British Rail blue/grey livery and Inter-City branding, the first time this had been seen since the late 1980s. The stock was used primarily for the company's "Rail-Blue" charter operation and on lease to the now-defunct Wrexham & Shropshire (see below). Cargo-D went into administration in October 2011.[3]

Wrexham & Shropshire, an open-access operator, introduced four rakes of refurbished coaches hauled by a Class 67 locomotive between London and Wrexham. After its collapse, these rakes are used by Chiltern Railways between London Marylebone and Birmingham Moor Street. Chiltern is in the process of acquiring more coaches.

Mark 3 sleeping car at the Colne Valley Railway

These developments will ensure that the vast majority of the fleet will be back in revenue service, reducing the possibility that a large number of the coaches may end up exported or scrapped. As a result of British Rail's over-provision of stock for sleeper services that are now long withdrawn, two-thirds of the Mark 3 sleeping-car fleet were either stored or scrapped.

Sewage discharge[edit]

In the UK train operators are allowed to discharge 5 imperial gallons (23 l; 6.0 US gal) of sewage per carriage per journey onto the track. Most Mark 3 carriages have only holding tanks, not fully compliant toilet tanks, and in the 2000s both the RMT trade union and politicians were concerned at the environmental impact of this legacy issue. The problem was first raised in 2003 after Railtrack staff at Nottingham abandoned local clean-up and then track maintenance procedures due to an excessive build-up of sewage waste in the area.[4] In 2006 the RMT agreed waste tank and clean-out developments at Northern Rail's Heaton depot in 2006 with GNER, and new clean-out procedures at all other depots, to solve an ongoing dispute over the previous 18 months.[5] By 2011, the European Union had started a formal investigation to see whether trains composed of such carriages were breaking EU environmental and health laws, although the Environment Agency confirmed that train companies claimed special exemptions to dump waste on the track.[6] In 2013, Transport Minister Susan Kramer branded the practice "utterly disgusting" and called on the industry to take action. ATOC responded by stating that, as all new vehicles had to be fitted with compliant toilet tanks, withdrawal of the HSTs by the end of 2017 would solve the problem.[7]


HST vehicles[edit]

Original formation[edit]

The original coaches were delivered in HST sets for Western Region (Class 253) with Trailer First (TF), Trailer Second (TS), and Trailer Buffet Second (TRSB) cars in the formation TF-TF-TRUK-TS-TRSB-TS-TS. Complaints from guards about engine noise in the guards' compartments in the power cars led to the Trailer Guard Second (TGS) in 1980, based on the TS but with the end vestibule and one seating bay replaced by a guard's compartment. This replaced the last TS in all sets from 1980 onwards. Sets delivered for Eastern Region (Class 254) contained eight coaches, originally in the formation TF-TF-TRUK-TS-TS-TRSB-TS-TS. The TRUK cars were quickly replaced by a TS on the Western Region and most had been replaced on the Eastern Region by 1985 (many later rebuilt into loco-hauled buffet cars). TRUB cars (Trailer Restaurant Unclassified Buffet) were built from 1978 to replace the TRUK cars, and these were reclassified as TRFB (Trailer Restaurant First Buffet) from 1985 on the Eastern and London Midland Regions and from 1989/90 on the Western Region.

Previous formations[edit]

Virgin Trains frequently operated HST sets in shortened formations between 2001 and 2004, the most common being five-car sets. This gave the trains better acceleration, similar to the Voyager units.

Current formations[edit]

Most operators of HST sets form them in eight-car sets, with East Coast operating nine-car sets with an additional standard-class vehicle. The exceptions are CrossCountry, which operates seven-car sets with only one first-class car and a simplified buffet car; First Great Western, which operates some seven-car "high-density" sets with micro buffets and with more seats in each car on express services to Oxford; and Grand Central, which operates five-car and occasionally six-car trains.

Hauled stock[edit]

Mark 3A coaches were deployed on WCML expresses out of Euston to bring the three main long-distance routes from London up to the same standard. Initial variants were Second Open (TSO) and Open First (FO). Catering and sleeper vehicles continued to be Mark 1 stock until the introduction of Restaurant Buffet (RUB) vehicles in 1979-80 and the sleeper (SLEP) vehicles in 1981-82. In 1988 the process was completed with the elimination of Mk 1 parcels vehicles and their replacement by Mk 3-derived Driving Van Trailers, making the WCML push-pull.

Scottish Region push-pull services were initially made up of four TSO and one FO Mark 3A coaches with a Mark 2F DBSO. The FO was later converted to a CO by the declassification of half a coach and installation of a partition between the two classes and an SO was removed. These vehicles were removed from the Scottish regional routes in 1989 when they were replaced with Class 158 multiple units.

Entertainment carriages[edit]

The Volo TV system fitted in some of the carriages

In 2009 First Great Western introduced 'entertainment carriages' with at-seat television screens known as Volo TV. The system, which FGW claims is a "world first", is usually fitted to standard-class carriage D.[8] The service, originally charged for, is now free, but users have to provide their own headphones (standard 3.5mm stereo mini-jack plug) or purchase a pair from the cafe for £1.50.[9]

In addition to radio and video feeds, a GPS train-location screen allows passengers to check progress. An aerial has been fitted to the roof of these coaches.

Multiple units based on the Mark 3[edit]

The Mark 3 formed the basis of BR's Second Generation multiple unit fleet, introduced from the early 1980s.

Electric multiple units include the 25 kV AC Classes 317 and 318, the 750 V DC Classes 455 and 442, and the dual-voltage Class 319. Diesel multiple units include the short-lived diesel electric Class 210 and the diesel-mechanical "Sprinters" of Class 150. The cars for Classes 150, 210, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, and 455 units are built on 20 m frames, and are outwardly similar. Those for Class 442 are on 23 m frames, and look very similar to the Mark 3 coach. The main visual difference is the swing plug automatic doors rather than the traditional "slam-door".

The Class 153 and Class 155, while of the "Sprinter family", are built by British Leyland and have no connection with the Mark 3, neither does the Class 156, built by Metro-Cammell.

The final batch of "Sprinters" of Class 158 (some rebuilt as Class 159) are of a design intermediate between that of the Mark 3 and the Mark 4.

Nine 450 Class DMUs were built at Derby for Northern Ireland Railways using Mark 3 bodyshells and Mark 1 underframes, together with refurbished power units and traction motors, recovered from the former UTA 70 class units. The last Mark-3-based EMUs built are the Class 321 and 322 units.

Mark 3 coaches overseas[edit]

The Mark 3 in Ireland[edit]

A Mark 3 standard coach pictured at Heuston Station, Dublin, in Intercity livery

The Republic of Ireland's national rail operator, Iarnród Éireann, ordered Mark 3 carriages built between 1984 and 1989, with bogies for the Irish gauge of 1600 mm (5 ft 3 in). The fleet consisted of 124 Mark 3 and nine Mark 3A internationals, which worked only the Dublin-Galway service, branded "Cú na Mara" or "Hound of the Seas" as it was a coast-to-coast route.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s they were the backbone of the intercity rolling stock.

They were built with automatic plug doors, which initially caused some concern as additional time and resources were required to perfect them. The design was later used on the Class 442 "Wessex Electrics". Most of the fleet was air-conditioned, except for a small number of coaches built as outer-suburban stock, which ran in push-pull configuration. A number of coaches were first class, and there were several dining cars and five driving van trailers (DVTs) that included passenger seating. There were also a number of accompanying generator vans for supplying power.

In 2006/7, Irish Mark 4 carriages built by CAF of Spain were introduced on the Dublin-Cork route, with the displaced Mark 3 coaches cascaded to other intercity routes.

In 2008 Iarnród Éireann began taking delivery of Korean-built 22000 Class railcars, which led to withdrawal of all Mark 3 coaches. The type's final service was a Dublin-Cork relief train on 21 September 2009.

Efforts were made to sell the 130 carriages but some are still stored in various locations.[10][11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Haresnape, Brian (1983). British Rail Fleet Survey, 5: High Speed Trains. Ian Allan. pp. 4–7. ISBN 0-71101297-0. 
  2. ^ "Grand Central Railway to operate HST power cars and loco-hauled Mk3s". The Railway Centre. 5 October 2006. 
  3. ^ Milner, Chris (October 2011). "Cargo D goes into administration". Railway Magazine. 
  4. ^ Tom Geoghegan (24 July 2003). "Toilet waste 'hampers rail repairs'". BBC News. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "Toilet waste 'sprays' track staff". BBC News. 6 August 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Ungoed-Thomas, Jon; Clover, Charles (9 January 2011). "Rail bosses face EU inquiry over sewage on tracks". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 13 November 2013.  (subscription required)
  7. ^ "End 'disgusting' train toilet sewage - Lady Kramer". BBC News. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Shem, Pennant (7 June 2010). "Latest Gadgets round up: Heart rate monitors, Volo TV and Jinx tees". LatestGadgets. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  9. ^ The Volo: TV information screen.
  10. ^ Bing Aerial Of Waterford Station 2012
  11. ^ Bing Aerial of Dundalk Station 2013
  12. ^ Bing Aerial of North Wall 2011/2
  • Cooper, B K (1981). British Rail Handbook. Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-1027-7. 
  • Fox, Peter (1984). Coaching Stock Pocket Book sixth edition. Sheffield: Platform 5. ISBN 0-906579-35-X. 
  • Haresnape, Brian (1979). British Rail 1948-78: A Journey Through Design. 
  • Mallaband, P; Bowles, LJ (1976). The Coaching Stock of British Railways 1976. Oxford: RCTS. ISBN 0-901115-39-4; ISBN 0-901115-39-8 (corrected). 
  • Mallaband, P; Bowles, LJ (1980). British Rail Coaching Stock 1980. Oxford: RCTS. ISBN 0-901115-50-9. 

External links[edit]