British Rail Class 153

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British Rail Class 153 Super Sprinter
153370 Stabled At Plymouth. 18.03.2018.jpg
153310 Interior.jpg
The refurbished interior of a East Midlands Trains Class 153
In service 1991/92 – present
Manufacturer Leyland Bus[1]
Converted to Class 153 by Hunslet-Barclay[2]
Order no. 31026[3]
Built at Kilmarnock (conversion)
Family name Sprinter
Replaced First generation DMUs
  • 1987–1988
  • Converted 1991–1992
Entered service 1991
Refurbishment Various
Number built 70
  • Single car
  • DMSL[3]
  • DX203[3]
  • (From DP248 and DP249[4])
Fleet numbers
  • 153301-153385 (class)
  • 52301-52335 (DMSL, cars)
  • 57301-57385 series (DMSL, cars)
  • 57351-57385 (57xxx series renumbered)[3]
Capacity 66 or 72[5]
Car body construction Steel[7] underframe. Aluminium alloy body and roof.
Car length 23.208 m (76 ft 1.7 in)[4]
Width 2.700 m (8 ft 10.3 in) (over body)[4]
Height 3.746 m (12 ft 3.5 in) (over body)[4]
Doors Single leaf sliding plug[7]
Articulated sections Single car
  • 16.000 m (52 ft 5.9 in) (bogie centres)
  • 2.600 m (8 ft 6.4 in) (bogies)[4]
Maximum speed 75 mph (120 km/h)[1][6]
Weight 41.2 t (40.5 long tons; 45.4 short tons)[5]
Prime mover(s) 1 × Cummins NT855R5[1]
Engine type Diesel
Power output 285 hp (213 kW)[1]
Train heating Warm air, hot water radiators[4]
UIC classification Bo'2'
  • BREL P3-10 (powered)
  • BREL BT38 (trailer)[7]
Braking system(s) Air/EP[7]
Safety system(s)
Coupling system BSI[8]
Multiple working Classes 14x, 15x, 17x[7]
Headlight type Fluorescent[4]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) Standard gauge
Converted from 35 × Class 155 sets

The British Rail Class 153 Super Sprinter are single-coach diesel multiple units converted from two-coach Class 155s. The class was intended for service on rural and branch lines where passenger numbers do not justify longer trains.


A half internal view of a refurbished East Midlands Trains Class 153

In 1987/88, British Rail (BR) took delivery of 35 two-coach Class 155 units built by Leyland Bus at its Workington factory.[1] to replace older Regional Railways DMUs. Shortly after, the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (WYPTE) took delivery of seven two-coach units for use in Yorkshire. After the Class 155s entered service, it became an emerging requirement for ageing rural and branch line trains to be replaced. In the early 1990s, British Rail decided to convert the Regional Railways Class 155 fleet into single-coach multiple units and to replace its fleet of Class 121 and 122 diesel railcars.[9]

In 1990, British Rail awarded a contract to Hunslet-Barclay with the work completed in 1991/92.[9] A total of 70 single-coach Class 153 multiple units were created which were numbered in the range 153301-335 and 153351-385. Individual coaches are numbered 52301-335 and 57351-385 (originally 57301-335). The seven WYPTE Class 155s were not modified and remained as two-coach Class 155 multiple units.[10]

The layout of the original non-cab ends was different from the original cab end, so the ends are noticeably distinct, and the vehicles are not symmetrical. Their maximum speed is 75 mph (121 km/h)[1] and they are suited for working less busy local services such as the West Midlands Trains service from Coventry to Nuneaton and the Heart of Wales Line. They are fitted with standard BSI auto-couplers and are therefore able to work in tandem with other multiple units fitted with the same coupler, including classes 142, 143, 144, 150, 156, 158, 170 and 172.

The new, small cab is significantly smaller than the original Leyland cab and encroaches on the door vestibule area, providing cramped conditions for drivers and guards. Similar to other Sprinter family units, such as Classes 150/2, 156, 158 and 159, these units have gangway door connections at either end that allow passengers and staff to walk between units working in multiple. These units also have the benefit of passenger door control panels at either end of the cars.


Regional Railways[edit]

Pre-privatisation, Regional Railways operated Class 153s on many branch lines throughout the Midlands, Wales and Northern England. They were initially allocated to Heaton (15), Cardiff Canton (9), Plymouth Laira (10), Crown Point (16) and Tyseley (20).[9] Due to their multiple working ability, Class 153s were often seen with other classes of sprinter units such as Class 156s and Class 150s. Class 153s were often found working services from;

The class was a common sight in Regional Railways areas.

Post privatisation[edit]

Upon privatisation of British Rail, the Class 153 fleet was divided amongst several operators.


Arriva Trains Wales has a fleet of eight Class 153s.[11] They are normally used on rural branch lines – such as the Heart of Wales Line from Shrewsbury to Swansea and on local stopping services from Crewe to Shrewsbury via Nantwich – but are also used on some mainline services. One is used daily on the short Cardiff Queen Street to Cardiff Bay shuttle.

Following a timetable change in December 2007, Arriva Trains Wales lost three Class 153 units. Two were transferred to East Midlands Trains with the other going to First Great Western.


West Midlands Trains use ten Class 153 DMUs on commuter lines in the West Midlands including the Coventry to Nuneaton Line and the Marston Vale Line between Bedford and Bletchley.

All ten were inherited from Central Trains in their livery. All were repainted into London Midland city lines livery upon refurbishment at Eastleigh Works. The Class 153s that were used on the Stourbridge Town Branch Line have been replaced by new built lightweight Class 139 railcars. This was due to take place in December 2008, but the delivery of the new units was delayed, and after several months of bustitution London Midland reintroduced diesel services from 15 March pending the completion of Class 139 testing. The Class 139 received passenger certification from Network Rail in March 2009[12] and the service finally began three months later.[13]

East Midlands Trains' fleet of Class 153s are used on rural routes:

East Midlands Trains inherited many examples of Class 153 units, receiving six from Central Trains, three from National Express East Anglia and four from storage at Eastleigh Works (formerly in service with First Great Western). In December 2007, East Midlands Trains received two more Class 153 units from Arriva Trains Wales and two more trains from Northern Rail.

All of the East Midlands Trains Class 153 units have been repainted into the local lines livery of the company.

In July 2010, the first unit 153319 entered Neville Hill depot in Leeds for a C6 refresh programme. The work included corrosion repair, internal refresh and a cab refurbishment programme.[14]

South West England[edit]

A pair of First Great Western refurbished Class 153 No. 153368 and No. 153305 at Filton Abbey Wood
The interior of a First Great Western refurbished Class 153

First Great Western took over the Wessex Trains fleet upon the merger of the two franchises. Wessex Trains had, in turn, inherited its fleet of 13 units from its predecessor, Wales & West.

Units are used on local services in Cornwall, Devon, and around Bristol. They are also used on Bristol Temple Meads to Weymouth, Southampton Central, and Worcester Foregate Street services, and the Swindon via Melksham to Southampton Central service.

In mid-2004, Wessex Trains received a further two units from Central Trains (nos. 153329 and 153369) to allow it to lengthen some services.

Following the introduction of a new timetable on 12 December 2006, four units were taken off lease and stored at Eastleigh Works. They were Nos. 153302, 153308, 153355 and 153374. This decision was criticised at the time by passengers, due to an increase in overcrowding on services in the West Country. After a period in storage these four units were pressed into service with East Midlands Trains.

On 9 December 2007, First Great Western received an additional Class 153 (number 153361) from Arriva Trains Wales, bringing its total to 12. This unit arrived in the blue with gold star livery of former operator First North Western.

From late 2007, a refurbishment programme commenced to refurbish the 153 fleet. The trains were externally reliveried in the 'Local Lines' livery (an adaptation of the 'Dynamic Lines' livery consisting of names of local places and attractions forming the lines) and the interiors received the following improvements:

  • New carpet
  • Repainted dado side panels and wall ends
  • Refurbished toilet area with new flooring, wall coverings, toilet and sink basin
  • Installation of Richmond 'Navigator' high backed seats in the navy blue 'First Great Western' moquette. The earlier Wessex refurbished Class 153s No. 153329, 153369, and the ex-Arriva Trains Wales 153361 feature Chapman seating.
  • Installation of brighter interior saloon lighting diffusers

This refurbishment programme was completed by early June 2008.

In 2011, fire damage to car 52221 of Class 150/2 unit 150221 prompted 153369 to be temporarily joined up with surviving car 57221; the formation was renumbered 153399. This hybrid was disbanded after car No. 52221 was repaired. The following year, 153369 was chosen for a hybrid set again and paired up with half of Central Trains-liveried 150202, creating a particularly odd-looking set which was again numbered 153399. The other half of 150202 was undergoing repairs for accident damage.

For summer 2011, two London Midland Class 153s, 153325 and 153333 were allocated to the South West for strengthening purposes, based at Exeter (EZ) depot for the duration. This allocation was eventually made permanent as a result of London Midland keeping three Class 150 units after the new Class 172 units entered service.

Northern England[edit]

Arriva Trains Northern repainted unit no. 153304 at Doncaster

The Northern Rail franchise started operations in December 2004. They inherited the fleets previously operated by Arriva Trains Northern (ATN) and First North Western (FNW), whose routes the new franchise incorporated. Northern Rail's successor Northern operates the largest fleet of Class 153 units.

Northern inherited a fleet of eight units from FNW, which were used on local services around Manchester, Chester and on Lancaster and Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle and Preston to Ormskirk services. The fleet was repainted in the now obsolete North Western Trains blue and gold livery. Prior to becoming part of Northern, four former FNW units were transferred to the Arriva Trains Wales franchise, since the lines operated by FNW in Wales were transferred to this new company.

A larger fleet of 12 units were inherited from ATN. They are used on various local services around Leeds, Doncaster and Sheffield. One regular job is the Cleethorpes to Barton-on-Humber services, which see a unit stable at Cleethorpes overnight and Sunday. Other jobs are the Lincoln to Scunthorpe via Retford and Sheffield, and the Saturday only Sheffield to Cleethorpes via Retford.

In December 2007, two units were taken off lease from Northern and transferred to East Midlands Trains. Both units, 153319 and 153357 carried Arriva livery.

From late 2007, a re-livery programme started on Northern's Class 153 trains, repainting them into Northern livery. A Class 153 usually works with a Class 158 to make 3-car formations on Leeds-Settle-Carlisle services.

East Anglia[edit]

Anglia Railways inherited a small fleet of seven units, for local services in Suffolk and Norfolk. Services operated by these units included Ipswich to Cambridge, Peterborough, Felixstowe and Lowestoft, and Norwich to Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Cromer. One set was also hired to First Great Eastern for use on the Gainsborough line.

In 2003, Anglia Railways started to refurbish its fleet, and repaint them in its aqua livery. However, only three (unit nos. 153309/322/335) were completed; In 2004, Anglia Railways became part of the Greater Anglia franchise operated by One which was subsequently renamed National Express East Anglia. 153311 and 153326 left the franchise to East Midlands Trains. Services operated by these units included Norwich to Sheringham and Great Yarmouth, and Norwich to Lowestoft; they were also sometimes seen on the Ipswich to Ely Line. This has since become part of Abellio Greater Anglia. During 2012, Porterbrook began refurbishing the body and interiors and repainting them in base white with red doors and 'Greater Anglia' logos.

In 2014, a rolling refurbishment of Abellio's Class 153s commenced, which included new interior panels, tables, carpets and lighting. All are scheduled to be replaced by Class 755s in 2020.[15][16]


Class 153 consists of 70 single-car units converted in 1991–92 from Class 155 two-car units.

Class Operator Number Year built Unit nos.
Class 153 Arriva Trains Wales 8 1987–88 153303, 153312, 153320, 153323, 153327, 153353, 153362, 153367
East Midlands Trains 21 153302, 153308, 153310–311, 153313, 153318–319, 153321, 153326, 153355, 153357, 153368, 153372, 153374, 153376, 153379, 153381–385
Great Western Railway 5 153325, 153329, 153333, 153361, 153369
Greater Anglia 5 153306, 153309, 153314, 153322, 153335
Northern 23 153301, 153304–305, 153307, 153315–317, 153324, 153328, 153330–332, 153351–352, 153358–360, 153363, 153370, 153373, 153377–378, 153380
West Midlands Trains 8 153334, 153354, 153356, 153364–366, 153371, 153375
Great Western Railway livery

Named units[edit]

Some units have received names:[17]


In 2019, Great Western Railway's last five will move to KeolisAmey Wales while five will move from Northern to Abellio ScotRail for use on the West Highland Line attached to the Class 156.[19][20]

Railway models[edit]

When the units were first introduced, Hurst models produced a detailing kit to convert a Dapol model of a 155 into a 153.[21]

The Class 153 has been produced in OO scale by Hornby. The following liveries are/were available; Central Trains, First Northern Star, Abellio Greater Anglia, Northern Rail, Regional Railways, East Midlands Trains, London Midland City, Arriva Trains Wales and Great Scenic Railways of Devon and Cornwall (Wessex Trains). These models have been praised for their detail.[22]

More recently, Dapol have announced a N Scale version.[23]

Making Tracks have a digital model available for the PC Railway simulator Microsoft Train Simulator.[24]

Just Trains has released a digital model for the PC railway simulator Railworks.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dave Coxon. "Class 155 Super Sprinter DMU". Archived from the original on 3 November 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "Class 153 - Arriva Trains Wales, Great Western Railway, East Midlands Trains, Arriva Rail North". Angel Trains. Retrieved 24 January 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Fox & Hughes 1994, pp. 31–32
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Vehicle Diagram Book No. 220 for Diesel Multiple Unit Trains (Railcars) (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. Derby: British Railways Board. 1982. DP248, DP249. 
  5. ^ a b Marsden 2011, p. 115
  6. ^ a b "Our Fleet". Arriva Trains Wales. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Class 153". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 9 March 2005. 
  8. ^ "Mechanical And Electrical Coupling Index". Rail Safety and Standards Board. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  9. ^ a b c "Leyland's final rail vehicles" Today's Railways UK issue 107 November 2010 pages 44-51
  10. ^ "Class 155 Fleet Details". Porterbrook Leasing. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  11. ^ "Arriva Trains Wales Fleet". Arriva Trains Wales. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  12. ^ "Stourbridge railcar receives its passenger licence". London Midland. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  13. ^ "Latest News". Parry People Movers. 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  14. ^ "The News in Pictures" (PDF). Railway Herald (241). 2010-10-04. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  15. ^ Newly refurbished Class 156 train re-enters service Abellio Greater Anglia 3 December 2012
  16. ^ Stadler and Bombardier to supply trains for Abellio East Anglia franchise Railway Gazette International 10 August 2016
  17. ^ "DMU FORMATIONS". AbRail. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Class 153 named" Railways Illustrated issue 173 July 2017 page 9
  19. ^ "KeolisAmey Wins Welsh Franchise". Modern Railways. No. 838. July 2018. p. 11. 
  20. ^ "Cycle coaches to be hitched to trains to ease bike crush". The Scotsman. 15 June 2018. 
  21. ^ "DKU103 Pair of Class 153 Conversion Kits". Hurst Models. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  22. ^ "HORNBY CLASS 153". Intertrains. Archived from the original on 11 April 2009. 
  23. ^ "Class 153 released". Dapol. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. 
  24. ^ "BMUC 6 :: Leyland Class 153 / Class 155 Stock Pack". Making Tracks. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 


  • Fox, Peter; Hughes, Barry (1994). DMUs & Channel Tunnel Stock. British Railways Pocket Book No.3 (7th ed.). Platform 5. ISBN 978-1-872524-59-7. 
  • Marsden, Colin J. (2011). Traction Recognition (2nd ed.). Ian Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-3494-5. 
  • Marsden, Colin J. (2014). Traction Recognition (3rd ed.). Surrey: Ian Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-3792-2.