British Rail Class 150

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British Rail Class 150 Sprinter
Northern 150275 at Buxton, April 2017.jpg
Northern 150275 at Buxton in 2017
150107 Interior.jpg
The interior of a London Midland Class 150/1
In service 1984 – present
Manufacturer BREL York
Order no.
  • 30884 (DMSL, 150/0, 154)
  • 30885 (DMS, 150/0, 154)
  • 30986 (MS, 150/0)
  • 31011 (DMSL, 150/1)
  • 31012 (DMS, 150/1)
  • 31017 (DMSL, 150/2)
  • 31018 (DMS, 150/2)[1]
Family name Sprinter
Replaced First generation DMUs
Constructed 1984–1987
Refurbishment Various
Number built 137 trainsets
  • 2 or 3 cars per trainset
  • DMSL(+MS)+DMS[2]
  • DP230 (DMSL, 150/0)
  • DP231 (DMS, 150/0)
  • DR202 (MS, 150/0)
  • DR203 (MS, 150/0)
  • DP238 (DMSL, 150/1)
  • DP239 (DMS, 150/1)
  • DP242 (DMSL, 150/2)
  • DP243 (DMS, 150/2)
  • DP246 (DMSL, 154)
  • DP247 (DMS, 154)[1][3]
Fleet numbers
  • 150001-150002 (sets, 150/0)
  • 55200-55201 (DMSL, 150/0)
  • 55300-55301 (DMS, 150/0)
  • 55400-55401 (MS, 150/0)[2]
  • 150101-150150 (sets, 150/1)
  • 52101-52150 (DMSL, 150/1)
  • 57101-57150 (DMS, 150/1)
  • 150201-150285 (sets, 150/2)
  • 52201-52285 (DMSL, 150/2)
  • 57201-57285 (DMS, 150/2)
  • 154001 (set, 154)
  • 55201 (DMSL, 154)
  • 55301 (DMS, 154)
  • 55401 (MS, 154)[2][4]
  • Depends on refurbishment style
  • Northern:
  • 124, 131 or 149 seats per unit[5]
  • Great Western Railway:
  • 147 seats per unit[6]
Line(s) served Many
Car body construction Steel
Car length 20.06 m (65 ft 10 in)[6]
Width 2.816 m (9 ft 2.9 in)[3]
Height 3.774 m (12 ft 4.6 in)[3]
Floor height 1.144 m (3 ft 9.0 in)[3]
  • Bi-parting sliding
  • (cab door slam, 150/1)
  • (cab door sliding, 150/0 & 150/2)[2]
Wheelbase 14.170 m (46 ft 5.9 in) (bogie centres)[3]
Maximum speed 75 mph (121 km/h)[2]
Weight 35.8 tonnes (35.2 long tons; 39.5 short tons)
Prime mover(s)
Power output 213 kW (286 hp) (per engine) @ 2100 rpm[9]
  • BX8P (150/0, powered)
  • BX8T (150/0, trailer)
  • BP38 (150/1 & 150/2, powered)
  • BT38 (150/1 & 150/2, trailer)[2]
Braking system(s) Air/EP[2]
Safety system(s)
Coupling system BSI[10]
Multiple working Classes 14x, 15x and Class 170[2]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 150 Sprinter is a class of diesel multiple-unit trains built by BREL York from 1984 to 1987. A total of 137 units were produced in three main subclasses, replacing many of the earlier first-generation "Heritage" DMUs.


At the beginning of the 1980s, British Rail (BR) had a large fleet of ageing "Heritage" DMUs built to various design types. While some of the more reliable types were retained and refurbished, BR replaced many of the non-standard or unreliable models with new second-generation units built to modern standards. Two different types were developed: low-cost "Pacers", built using bus parts for short-distance services, and "Sprinters", based on BR's Mark 3 body design for use on longer-distance services.[11]


During a demonstration run in the summer of 1985, unit 150001 stands in Platform 7 at St. Pancras

In 1984, BREL built two prototype 3-car Class 150/0 units, numbered 150001 and 150002. 150001 was fitted with Cummins engines and Voith hydraulic transmission, and 150002 was fitted with Perkins (Rolls-Royce) engines and a fully automatic gearbox developed by the Self-Changing Gears company.[12]

The design specifications of the prototypes were similar to the later production units, but they were to remain as the only Class 150s to be built as 3-car units. Additional three-car units were created later by re-marshalling a 150/2 car in the middle of a 150/1 set, but only the prototypes had purpose-built centre cars without driving cabs. Both cab doors are air-operated unlike the Class 150/1 production model, but as seen later on in the 150/2 variant.

150002 proved to be the worse of the two for reliability and was consequently chosen for use as the testbed for the Class 158, being re-geared to a maximum speed of 90 mph (140 km/h) and fitted with Cummins engines and Voith transmission and a Class 158 interior. One car was fitted with the Class 151 Twin Disc 'hot-shift' transmission, which it used successfully once the control software was sorted out. To distinguish this unit, it was reclassified as the Class 154. It has since been returned to the standard configuration and reverted to its original number. Both prototypes were still in service with London Midland until 2011. 150001 entered service with First Great Western in January 2012, with 150002 to follow after refurbishment and re-livery. They are now used primarily on the Reading-Basingstoke line, with both 150001 & 150002 in the new Great Western Railway green livery.

At the same time, that BREL built the 150/0s, Metro-Cammell built two prototype Class 151 units at its Washwood Heath plant.[a] The two types of unit were exhaustively tested, with a view to placing further orders for the more successful. In the event, the two Class 150 units proved to be more reliable, and as a result an order for 50 two-car units was placed with BREL.

Production units[edit]

Class 150/2 in BR Sprinter livery
The driving cab layout varies substantially between the subclasses.

This second batch of fifty units were classified as Class 150/1 and numbered in the range 150101-150. Like the prototype units, they did not have front-end gangway connections. Originally based at Derby Etches Park depot, these units were introduced in 1986, mainly concentrated around Birmingham and Manchester, and in later years were restricted mainly to commuter services.

The final batch of 85 two-car units were built with front-end gangway connections, which allowed passengers to move between two units that were working in multiple. These units were classified as Class 150/2 and numbered in the range 150201-285. They were used on longer-distance services. The end gangways make them very similar in appearance to the Class 317/2 EMUs, also based on the Mark 3 bodyshell.

Some of the Class 150/2 units were later disbanded, and the vehicles were used to make some of the Birmingham and Manchester-based Class 150/1 units into 3-car sets. The units in Manchester were later returned to their original configuration, but the Birmingham-based units were renumbered into the 1500xx range by subtracting 100 from the previous number (e.g. 150103 became 150003). This also gave an extra operational advantage of there being an extra set of passenger door controls within the train for use of the Guard, this made it easier for them to collect revenue on the train without having to run the full length of the unit to release the doors at a station.

The 450 Class is built using the Class 150 bodyshell and is operated by Northern Ireland Railways. It came to the end of its design life in 2014, so most of them were scrapped, although two remain.[citation needed]

One further unit was built specifically for testing duties. Originally numbered in the Class 180 series, the unit is now in the departmental Class 950 series, numbered 950001 and carries the yellow Network Rail livery.

The Class 150 units have BSI couplers which enable them to work in multiple with Class 142, Class 143, Class 144, Class 153, Class 155, Class 156, Class 158 and Class 170 units, as well as units of the same class. However, they cannot work in multiple with Class 165 or Class 166 units due to incompatible wiring arrangements.

Unique passenger door controls[edit]

When introduced, the Class 150s had unique interior door open/close buttons that were square, blue in the North of England/Southern Scotland and yellow/orange in the south, and lit up turquoise in the North or bright yellow in the South of England/Wales when the doors were enabled.

The illumination feature was intended to aid visually impaired people, although they did not meet the subsequent standards set out by disability regulations that were later introduced because they had no raised braille and were too small for some disabled people to locate.

As a result of this, the blue buttons are being replaced by the standard EAO series 56 'easy to see, easy to press' raised circular door button, with braille writing for the visually impaired, over a yellow surround to comply with the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations.[13]

Current operations[edit]

Northern England[edit]

Northern Rail refurbished Class 150/2 Sprinter No. 150277 at York

After privatisation, North Western Trains (which was taken over by First North Western shortly afterwards) and Arriva Trains Northern operated Class 150/1 and 150/2s on their routes. The North Western Trains units underwent refurbishment by Hunslet-Barclay in Kilmarnock. When Northern Rail took over, both the former NWT and ATN Class 150s were transferred to Newton Heath depot, Manchester, with the former North Western Trains Class 158s taking the 150s' places at Northern's Neville Hill depot (Leeds).[14] All Northern 150s contain high-density 2+3 seating. During late 2011, Northern received various ex London Midland 150/1s and 150/2s when the brand-new Class 172 units entered service in the Midlands. This has enabled Northern to lengthen more of its most overcrowded services.

The new Northern franchise will receive the Angel Trains 150/0s and 150/1s currently leased by GWR. These will start transferring North in September 2017 and finish in April 2019. Northern has announced that 24 of their class 150 units will be reformed into three car units by March 2019. The three car sets will be used on routes including the Penistone Line and Leeds to Goole.[15]

South-West England[edit]

Wessex Trains refurbished Class 150/2 No. 150243 at Bristol Temple Meads
The interior of Wessex Trains refurbished Class 150/2

After British Rail was privatised, the fleet passed to Porterbrook who leased the trains to Wales & West, which was later split up into Wessex Trains and Wales & Borders (later Arriva Trains Wales) in 2001.

The two prototype 3-car Class 150/0 units transferred from London Midland have replaced the Class 165 and 166 Turbo units currently used by Great Western Railway on the Reading to Basingstoke Line, which allowed the Turbo units to reinforce Thames Valley services.[16][17] 150001 entered service in January 2012. Table 122 of the Winter 2012/2013 National Rail Timetable shows all FGW services on this route to be standard-class only.[18]


Arriva Trains Wales Class 150 Sprinter unit 150252 passes the signal box at Tondu with a service to Cardiff Central.

Following privatisation, Wales & Borders continued to use the fleet of Class 150 units on branch-line services as well as on the commuter services around Cardiff known as the Valley Lines and the Vale of Glamorgan Line. They have also been used on the Borderlands Line between Bidston (Merseyside) and Wrexham and on the Conwy Valley Line, when a single car Class 153 does not provide sufficient capacity.

The Wales & Borders franchise passed to Arriva Trains Wales, which progressively built up its fleet of Class 150s with units acquired from various other franchises. The first expansion of the fleet was in May 2005, when twelve First ScotRail units moved to Arriva. On 10 December 2006, Arriva Trains Wales received eight further Class 150s from First Great Western (in ex-Wessex Trains livery), as part of a national fleet shuffle.[citation needed]


Central Trains/Centro refurbished Class 150/1 Sprinter No. 150014 at Birmingham Moor Street

Following privatisation of British Rail, both Silverlink and Central Trains operated Class 150s in the midland regions of England and both companies were run by National Express.

In 2010, London Midland ordered Class 172 replacements for its Class 150s. It initially hoped to retain some of the 150s as additional capacity, although they were also wanted by First Great Western and Northern Rail.[19] London Midland was expected to lose all of its Class 150s, but a change in plan saw it retain three Class 150 vehicles as additional capacity, following a statement from the Department for Transport on 10 August 2011. However, London Midland lost two Class 153s to First Great Western as a result.[19]

Former operations[edit]


Upon the privatisation of British Rail, the bus company National Express ran ScotRail, and its successor First ScotRail, operated 18 Class 150s out of Edinburgh Waverley on Fife Circle services. Other workings included Dundee and Carnoustie, as well as operating alongside other DMUs such as Class 158s on the Crossrail services between Newcraighall through Edinburgh to Bathgate, Stirling, Dunblane and occasionally Perth. In May 2005, all 18 units were transferred to Arriva Trains Wales.

Eastern England[edit]

Anglia Railways unit 150217 stabled at Ipswich in 2004, still carrying Regional Railways livery ten years after privatisation

Upon the privatisation of British Rail with the creation of Anglia Railways, initially inherited a small fleet of nine Class 150/2 units, later supplemented with a tenth. The units were based at Norwich Crown Point depot, and put to use on rural services in Suffolk and Norfolk. Lines using the units included the Bittern Line, the East Suffolk Line, and the Wherry Lines, as well as services from Ipswich to Cambridge. One unit each weekday was sub-leased to First Great Eastern for use on the Sudbury Branch Line.

Anglia Railways named almost all of its fleet after famous local figures.

150245 was the only unit not to be named. On 1 April 2004, Anglia Railways became part of the new 'One' franchise. The Class 150 units were transferred to Arriva Trains Wales (no. 150245) and Central Trains (all other units), having been replaced by Class 156 units from Central Trains.

Silverlink/London Overground[edit]

Silverlink liveried, London Overground operated Class 150/1 Sprinter No. 150120 at Gospel Oak, with a service bound for Barking

National Express operated the North London Railways franchise from 1997 under the Silverlink brand. They had eight Class 150s; seven were cascaded from Central Trains following delivery of new Turbostar units in 2000, to replace the ageing fleet of Class 117 and Class 121 units. The eighth unit, no. 150121, was transferred to Silverlink in late 2005.

London Overground, which took over the North London network in 2007, inherited the eight Class 150/1 units. Six were employed on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, while two were sent on long-term loan to First Great Western.

All units had names.[20][not in citation given] The majority of the names are references to the Marston Vale Line on which they operated during Silverlink's franchise. Leslie Crabbe was a long-standing railway employee, who worked on the route. Richard Crane is the chairman of the Bletchley to Bedford Rail Users Association who has campaigned for the line to be retained and expanded.[21] Three of the names (marked with an asterisk) were inherited from the previously incumbent Class 121 units. All the units are now with First Great Western, and their names are no longer applied.

  • 150120 - Gospel Oak - Barking 2000
  • 150121 - Silver Star (renamed from Willesden Eight in 2007)
  • 150123 - Richard Crane (renamed from Bletchley Seven[b] in May 2006)
  • 150127 - Bletchley TMD*
  • 150128 - Bedford - Bamberg 30 (renamed from Community Forest in September 2007)
  • 150129 - Marston Vale*
  • 150130 - Bedford - Bletchley 150
  • 150131 - Leslie Crabbe*

By the end of October 2010, all London Overground's Class 150/1s had been replaced by a new fleet of eight two-car Class 172 units operating exclusively on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line. Their final use was on 28 October 2010, when unit 150128 formed the 19:02 Barking to Gospel Oak service. The six units were cascaded to First Great Western, together with nine of the London Midland fleet.[22]

The refurbished interior of a Northern Class 150/1

Fleet details[edit]

Class Operator No. Year built Cars Unit nos.
Class 150/0 Great Western Railway 2 1984 3 150001–002
Class 150/1 Northern 45 1985–86 2 150101–104, 150106, 150108, 150110–124, 150127–150
West Midlands Trains 3 150105, 150107, 150109
Great Western Railway 2 150125-126
Class 150/2 Arriva Trains Wales 34 1986–87 150208, 150213, 150217, 150227, 150229–231, 150235–237, 150240–242, 150245, 150250–260,
150262, 150264, 150267, 150278–285
Great Western Railway 20 150202, 150207, 150216, 150219, 150221, 150232–234, 150238–239, 150243–244, 150246–249, 150261,
150263, 150265–266
Northern 28 150201, 150203–206, 150209[c]–211, 150214–215, 150218, 150220, 150222–226, 150228, 150268–277
Great Western Railway 150/0
Great Western Railway 150/2

Named units[edit]

The following Class 150 units are currently or were previously named:

  • 150105 - Hutchie/Bernie
  • 150120 - Gospel Oak - Barking 2000 (denamed)
  • 150121 - Willesden Eight (denamed)
  • 150121 - Silver Star (denamed)
  • 150123 - Bletchley Seven[d] (denamed)
  • 150123 - Richard Crane (denamed)
  • 150127 - Bletchley TMD (denamed)
  • 150128 - Community Forest (denamed)
  • 150128 - Bedford - Bamberg 30 (denamed)
  • 150129 - Marston Vale (denamed)
  • 150129 - Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership (denamed)
  • 150130 - Bedford - Bletchley 150 (denamed)
  • 150130 - Severnside Community Rail Partnership (denamed)
  • 150131 - Leslie Crabbe (denamed)
  • 150213 - Lord Nelson (denamed)
  • 150217 - Oliver Cromwell (denamed)
  • 150227 - Sir Alf Ramsey (denamed)
  • 150229 - George Borrow (denamed)
  • 150231 - King Edmund (denamed)
  • 150235 - Cardinal Wolsey (denamed)
  • 150237 - Hereward the Wake (denamed)
  • 150255 - Henry Blogg (denamed)
  • 150257 - Queen Boadicea (denamed)
  • 150261 - The Tarka Line - The First 25 Years 1989-2014 (denamed)
  • 150275 - The Yorkshire Regiment - Yorkshire Warrior

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 15 December 1987, 150212 collided with an engineer's crane near Seamer West signal box in North Yorkshire[23].
  • On 11 November 1988, 150209 derailed at St Helens Central, Merseyside. The train struck the abutment of an overbridge, crushing the leading cab and killing the driver. Sixteen passengers sustained minor injuries.[24]
  • On 12 July 2012, 150217 collided with cattle at Letterston, Pembrokeshire and was derailed. There were no injuries amongst the 30 passengers and crew on the train.[25]
  • On 11 May 2014, 150239 collided with a motorcycle on a level crossing at Frampton Mansell, Gloucestershire, killing the rider.[26]
  • On 14 May 2015, two Class 150 units formed a train that collided with an agricultural tractor on an occupation crossing between Knaresborough and Cattal, North Yorkshire. Three people were injured.[27]
  • On 7 November 2015, units 150133 and 150204 formed a passenger train that was derailed near Knaresborough due to a signalman's error.[28][29]
  • On 3 April 2016, 150219 collided with a stationary InterCity 125 train at Plymouth. Thirty-five people were injured, and both trains were damaged.[30][31][32]
  • On 3 September 2017, 150217 collided with a tree near Llanbradach in Caerphilly, Wales at around 10pm. Three people were injured and five fire crews were in attendance. [33]
  • On 7 February 2018, 150203 divided on the approach to Leeds. There were no injuries, but passengers had to be evacuated across the tracks.[34][35]


  1. ^ Further information about the testing and early days of the 150 prototypes with links to the 151s and 154 DMUs at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. Retrieved 14 August 2006. 
  2. ^ The previous name, Bletchley Seven, referred to the original fleet of seven Class 150/1 units in the Silverlink fleet.
  3. ^ Carriages 57209 and 57212 were joined to form 150209 in April 2018, these are the remaining vehicles from 150209 and 150212 after accidents in 1988 and 1987 respectively[23]
  4. ^ The previous name, Bletchley Seven, referred to the original fleet of seven Class 150/1 units in the Silverlink fleet.


  1. ^ a b Fox 1987, pp. 42-43
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Class 150". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 9 March 2005. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Vehicle Diagram Book No. 220 for Diesel Multiple Unit Trains (Railcars) (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. Derby: British Railways Board. 1982. DP230, DP231, DP238, DP239, DP242, DP243, DR202, DR203. 
  4. ^ a b Fox 1987, pp. 42-44
  5. ^ "The Northern Interim Franchise Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c "First Great Western: Regional Train Fleet". Archived from the original on 20 October 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  7. ^ "Our Fleet". Arriva Trains Wales. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  8. ^ Fox & Hughes 1994, pp. 27-31
  9. ^ "Class 150/2 overview" (PDF). Porterbrook Leasing. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  10. ^ "Mechanical And Electrical Coupling Index". Rail Safety and Standards Board. Diesel and Diesel Electric Multiple Units. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  11. ^ St John Thomas, David; Whitehouse, Patrick (1990). BR in the Eighties. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-9854-7. 
  12. ^ Milner, Chris, ed. (April 2018). "Prototype '150' unveiled". Railway Times (2). Horncastle: Mortons Media. p. 9. OCLC 1030225033. 
  13. ^ "EAO Series 56". Archived from the original on 7 July 2007. 
  14. ^ McMurray, Gareth. "fleet lists: class 158". Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. 
  15. ^ "Northern Franchise Agreement" (PDF). Eversheds. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 22 August 2017. 
  16. ^ "Thames Valley and West Country Rail passengers in line for extra seat boost". Department for Transport. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "Class 150s start work between Reading and Basingstoke". Railways Today. 1 February 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  18. ^ Network Rail (3 December 2012). GB Rail Timetable Winter Edition 13: 9 December 2012 - 18 May 2013. TSO. ISBN 978-0117081376. 
  19. ^ a b "Railway carriage usage" (PDF). Department for Transport. 24 January 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 March 2012. 
  20. ^ McMurray, Gareth. "fleet lists : class 150". Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  21. ^ "Bedford to Bletchley Rail Users' Association". 10 June 2009. Archived from the original on 28 February 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  22. ^ Miles, Tony (December 2010). "LOROL Class 150s all with FGW". Modern Railways. London. p. 90. 
  23. ^ a b "Query Corner - Q14.02. Withdrawn DMU Coaches". RCTS. Retrieved 19 April 2018. 
  24. ^ "Report of a train accident that occurred on 11 November 1988 near St Helens Central Station in the London Midland Region of British Railways" (PDF). Health and Safety Executive. July 1992. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  25. ^ "Train derailment near Letterston Junction, between Clarbeston Road and Fishguard, 12 July 2012" (PDF). Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 6 April 2016. 
  26. ^ "Fatal accident at Frampton level crossing 11 May 2014" (PDF). Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 20 August 2017. 
  27. ^ "Collision between train and tractor". Rail Accident Investigation Branch. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2016. 
  28. ^ "Derailment near Knaresborough". Rail Accident Investigation Branch. 19 November 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2016. 
  29. ^ "Derailment at Knaresborough 7 November 2015" (PDF). Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  30. ^ "18 injured in 'low impact' Plymouth train crash". BBC News Online. Retrieved 3 April 2016. 
  31. ^ Lewis-Herald, J (3 April 2016). "Plymouth train crash: Investigation launched after 18 left injured by 'low-speed' collision". The Herald. Local World. Retrieved 4 April 2016. [permanent dead link]
  32. ^ "Collision at Plymouth station". Rail Accidents Investigation Branch. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 
  33. ^ "Three people injured after train crashes into tree". Wales Online. Retrieved 4 September 2017. 
  34. ^ "'Mayhem' at Leeds Station as train splits in two - Yorkshire Post". 
  35. ^ "Photos show 'decoupled' train stranded after splitting outside Leeds Station - Yorkshire Evening Post". 


  • Fox, Peter (1987). Multiple Unit Pocket Book. British Railways Pocket Book No.2 (Summer/Autumn 1987 ed.). Platform 5 Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0906579740. OCLC 613347580. 
  • Fox, Peter; Hughes, Barry (1994). DMUs & Channel Tunnel Stock. British Railways Pocket Book No.3 (7th ed.). Platform 5. ISBN 9781872524597. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]