British Rail Class 153

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

British Rail Class 153 Super Sprinter
Class 153 at Ty Glas station crop (geograph 6162860).jpg
Transport for Wales 153333 at Ty Glas in 2019
153310 Interior.jpg
The refurbished interior of an East Midlands Trains Class 153
In service1991 – present
ManufacturerLeyland Bus as Class 155s
Converted to Class 153s by Hunslet-Barclay[1][2][3]
Order no.31026[4]
Built atKilmarnock (conversion)
Family nameSprinter
ReplacedFirst generation DMUs
  • 1987–1988
  • Converted 1991–1992
Entered service1991
Number built70
Number scrapped1
  • Single car
  • DMSL[4]
  • DX203[4]
  • (From DP248 and DP249[5])
Fleet numbers
  • 153301-153335
  • 52301-52335 (DMSL, cars)
  • 57301-57385 series (DMSL, cars)
  • 57351-57385 (57xxx series renumbered)[4]
Capacity66, 72 or 75 seated (PRM modified: 59 seated)[6]
Car body constructionSteel.[7]
Car length23.208 m (76 ft 1+34 in)[5]
Width2.700 m (8 ft 10+14 in) (over body)[5]
Height3.746 m (12 ft 3+12 in) (over body)[5]
DoorsSingle leaf sliding plug[7]
Articulated sectionsSingle car
  • 16.000 m (52 ft 5+78 in) (bogie centres)
  • 2.600 m (8 ft 6+38 in) (bogies)[5]
Maximum speed75 mph (120 km/h)[8]
Weight41.2 t (40.5 long tons; 45.4 short tons)[6]
Prime mover(s)one per car, Cummins NT855R5
Engine type14-litre 6-cylinder turbo-Diesel
Power output285 hp (213 kW) per engine
Train heatingWarm air, hot water radiators[5]
UIC classificationBo'2'
  • BREL P3-10 (powered)
  • BREL BT38 (trailer)[7]
Braking system(s)Air/EP[7]
Safety system(s)
Coupling systemBSI[9]
Multiple workingClasses 14x, 15x, 17x[7]
Headlight typeFluorescent[5]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Converted from 35 × Class 155 sets

The British Rail Class 153 Super Sprinters are single-coach railcars converted from two-coach Class 155 diesel multiple units in the early 1990s. The class was intended for service on rural branch lines where passenger numbers do not justify longer trains, or to boost the capacity on trains with high passenger volume.


In 1987/88, Regional Railways took delivery of 35 two-coach Class 155 units built by Leyland Bus at its Workington factory to replace older DMUs.[10] In 1989 the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (WYPTE) took delivery of seven two-coach units for use in Yorkshire.[11] 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.[12]

In 1990, British Rail awarded a contract to Hunslet-Barclay with the work completed at its Kilmarnock plant in 1991/92.[12][13][14][15] Seventy single-coach Class 153 multiple units were created and numbered 153301-335 and 153351–385. Individual coaches are numbered 52301-335 and 57351-385 (originally 57301–335). The seven WYPTE Class 155s were not included in the project.[16]

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) and they generally operate less busy local services. They are fitted with standard BSI couplers and are able to work in tandem with other multiple units fitted with them - Class 142, 143, 144, 150, 155, 156, 158, 170 and 172s.[12]

The new cab is smaller than the original Leyland cab and encroaches on the door vestibule area, providing cramped conditions for drivers and guards. All have gangway connections at either end to 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.[12]


Current operations[edit]


Arriva Trains Wales 153323 at Cardiff Central in August 2014

Transport for Wales Rail has a fleet of 24 Class 153s. 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 2006, Arriva Trains Wales lost three of its then-11 Class 153 units, leaving it with eight.[17] Two were transferred to East Midlands Trains with the other going to First Great Western. In October 2018 all eight passed with the franchise to Transport for Wales, who acquired a further five from Great Western Railway in April 2019, five from Abellio Greater Anglia in December 2019, four from East Midlands Railway in January 2020 and another two from EMR in November 2020, bringing the total number now up to 24.[18][19]

As at February 2020, Transport for Wales was the only train operating company to have modified 153s to comply with the Equality Act 2010 which came into effect on 1 January 2020.[20] In June 2021 TfW purchased eight outright for continued use on the Heart of Wales line after plans to replace them with Class 170s were cancelled with the 170s to move to East Midlands Railway.[21]

East Midlands[edit]

East Midlands Trains 153357 at Alsager in June 2015

East Midlands Trains inherited many examples of Class 153 units, receiving six from Central Trains, three from National Express East Anglia and four former First Great Western units that had been stored at Eastleigh Works. In December 2007, East Midlands Trains received two from Arriva Trains Wales and two from Northern Rail.[22] All passed with the East Midlands franchise to East Midlands Railway in August 2019. In January 2020, four were transferred to Transport for Wales. At one point in April 2020, only 3 EMR Class 153s were in service, following the implementation of an emergency timetable due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with all others being stored out of use as surplus to requirement, with 5 going off-lease on the 1 July 2020, those being 153302, 318, 368, 372, 374 and 382. As of July 2020, 5 are in service.

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

In July 2010, the first unit 153319 entered Neville Hill TMD for a C6 refresh programme. The work included corrosion repair, internal refresh and a cab refurbishment programme.[23]

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

Northern England[edit]

Arriva Trains Northern 153304 at Doncaster in July 2003
First North Western 153316 at Carlisle in August 2004
Northern Rail 153352 at Lancaster in May 2015

The Northern Rail franchise started operations in December 2004. It 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 Arriva Rail North at one point operated the largest fleet of Class 153 units.

Northern Rail 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 stabled 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.

In the first half of 2018, five units were transferred from Great Western Railway on a temporary basis to boost capacity until the new Class 195 units enter service; three of these then moved to Abellio ScotRail in 2019, with the remainder to follow in 2020. On 1 March 2020, Northern's Class 153 units transferred to new operator Northern Trains.


In 2019/2020, five former GWR 153s moved from Northern to Abellio ScotRail for use on the West Highland Line attached to Class 156s.[24][25][26] The first refurbished carriage was unveiled in late 2020.[27]

The carriages can carry up to twenty bicycles or other large items of sports equipment or luggage. There are spaces for tandem bicycles and a socket for charging an electric bicycle. This is an addition to 24 seats - 20 of which are around tables.[27]

The first unit began service on 19 July 2021.[28]

Network Rail[edit]

In May 2021, Network Rail purchased three for use on infrastructure monitoring services.[29][30]

Former operations[edit]

Regional Railways[edit]

Regional Railways 153374 at Severn Beach in March 1994

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).[12] Due to their multiple working ability, Class 153s were often seen with other classes of Sprinter units such as Class 150 and Class 156s. Class 153s were often found working services from;

The class was a common sight in Regional Railways areas.

Post privatisation[edit]

In the lead up to privatisation of British Rail, ownership of the fleet passed to Angel Trains (30) and Porterbrook (40) in April 1994.[31] Upon privatisation, they were initially operated by Anglia Railways, Central Trains, First North Western, North Spirit and Wales & West.[12]

South West England[edit]

Wessex Trains 153377 at Bristol Temple Meads in January 2006
First Great Western 153373 at Starcross in November 2013

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 were used on local services in Cornwall, Devon, and around Bristol. They were 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 to allow it to lengthen some services.

Following the introduction of a new timetable in December 2006, four units were taken off lease and stored at Eastleigh Works. After a period in storage these four units were pressed into service with East Midlands Trains.

In December 2007, First Great Western received an additional Class 153 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.

For summer 2011, two London Midland Class 153s were allocated to the South West for strengthening purposes, based at Exeter TMD for the duration. This allocation was eventually made permanent as a result of London Midland keeping three Class 150 units after the new Class 172s entered service. This brought First Great Western's number of Class 153 units up to 14.

Nine of those 14 units later left the fleet, with the remaining five moving to Transport for Wales in April 2019 after being displaced by internal cascading.[18]

East Anglia[edit]

Anglia Railways 153335 at Cambridge in July 2003

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 2004, Anglia Railways became part of the Greater Anglia franchise operated by One which was subsequently renamed National Express East Anglia. Two units left the franchise to East Midlands Trains. 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 Greater Anglia's Class 153s commenced, which included new interior panels, tables, carpets and lighting. All were replaced by Class 755s in late 2019.[32][33] These then moved to Transport for Wales in December 2019 to cover for delays with its new rolling stock.[19]

West Midlands[edit]

West Midlands Trains used eight Class 153 DMUs on commuter lines in the West Midlands including the Leamington Spa to Nuneaton line and the Marston Vale line between Bedford and Bletchley. After Class 172 from London Overground and Class 230s' deployment on those two lines, they were used with Class 170s and Class 172s on Birmingham-Hereford and Snow Hill Lines.

All eight 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[34] and the service finally began three months later.[35] In December 2020 the final Class 153s were withdrawn from service and put into long-term storage.[36] Before withdrawal, they mostly operated on the Birmingham-Hereford line.

Fleet list[edit]

Operator Number Unit nos.
Abellio ScotRail 5 (3 in service) 153305, 153370, 153373, 153377, 153380
East Midlands Railway 6 153308, 153319, 153355, 153357, 153379, 153384
Network Rail 3 153311, 153376, 153385[30]
Northern Trains 15 153301, 153304, 153307, 153315, 153317, 153324, 153328, 153330–331, 153351–352, 153358–360, 153378
Transport for Wales 26 153303, 153312, 153320, 153323, 153325, 153327, 153329, 153333, 153353, 153361, 153362, 153367, 153369, 153906, 153909, 153910, 153913, 153914, 153918, 153921, 153922, 153926, 153935, 153968, 153972, 153982
Pending transfer to Transport for Wales 6 153334, 153354, 153364–365, 153371, 153375
Stored (unallocated) 5 153356, 153366, 153374, 153381, 153383
Stored (allocated) 3 153316, 153332, 153363[37]
Scrapped 1 153302[38]

Named units[edit]

Some units have received names:[39]


When the units were first introduced, Hurst models produced a detailing kit to convert a Dapol model of a 155 into a 153.[41]

The Class 153 has been produced in OO gauge by Hornby in 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) liveries. These models have been praised for their detail.[42][43]

Dapol have also released an N gauge version of the 153.[44]

Several 153s have also been produced for rail simulators. Making Tracks have a digital model available for the PC railway simulator Microsoft Train Simulator,[45] whilst Just Trains had released the model for Railworks.


  1. ^ "Class 153 – Arriva Trains Wales, Great Western Railway, East Midlands Trains, Arriva Rail North". Angel Trains. Archived from the original on 25 January 2018. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  2. ^ Barclay, Kenny (November 2017). British Rail in the 1980s and 1990s: Diesel Locomotives and DMUs. Stroud: Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1445670058.
  3. ^ Thomson, Gordon (July 2016). Railways of Ayrshire. Marlborough: Crowood Press. ISBN 978-1785001482.
  4. ^ a b c d e Fox & Hughes 1994, pp. 31–32
  5. ^ 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. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  6. ^ a b Marsden 2011, p. 115
  7. ^ a b c d e "Class 153". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 9 March 2005.
  8. ^ "Our Fleet". Arriva Trains Wales. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Mechanical And Electrical Coupling Index". Rail Safety and Standards Board. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  10. ^ Bus builder hands over DMU Railway Gazette International June 1987 page 353
  11. ^ Market Railway Gazette International February 1989 page 73
  12. ^ a b c d e f Leyland's final rail vehicles Today's Railways UK issue 107 November 2010 pages 44–51
  13. ^ Intelligence Railway Gazette International September 1990 page 660
  14. ^ First class 153 on BR The Railway Magazine issue 1084 August 1991 page 529
  15. ^ Rural Railbus Launched The Railway Magazine issue 1085 September 1991 page 611
  16. ^ Regional Railways class 155 fleet eliminated The Railway Magazine issue 1097 September 1992 page 5
  17. ^ One acquires 153s Rail issue 563 11 April 2007 page 67
  18. ^ a b Stock Update Track Record The Railway Magazine issue 1418 May 2019 page 107
  19. ^ a b Extra Class 153s cover for late bi-modes in Wales Rail issue 890 23 October 2019 page 30
  20. ^ Protests over PPM-TSI Exemptions Modern Railways issue 857 February 2020 page 28
  21. ^ 153s acquired Modern Railways issue 874 July 2021 page 13
  22. ^ 153s for EMT Rail issue 583 16 January 2008 page 69
  23. ^ "The News in Pictures" (PDF). Railway Herald. No. 241. 4 October 2010. p. 2. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  24. ^ "Cycle coaches to be hitched to trains to ease bike crush". The Scotsman. 15 June 2018. Archived from the original on 24 June 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  25. ^ "ScotRail bike train plans take shape". Rail. 17 December 2018. Archived from the original on 30 November 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  26. ^ "Cycle carriages for Scotland's scenic railway". ScotRail. Archived from the original on 3 July 2020. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  27. ^ a b "ScotRail picks up the pace on 'active travel' Class 153s". Archived from the original on 3 November 2020. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  28. ^ "ScotRail Highland Explorer service launches". Rail. No. 936. 28 July 2021. p. 24.
  29. ^ 153s for NR infrastructure fleet] Modern Railways issue 873 June 2021 page 85
  30. ^ a b DMU Railway Express issue 302 July 2021 page 28
  31. ^ 25 Years of ROSCOs Rail Express issue 281 October 2019 pages 19, 21
  32. ^ Newly refurbished Class 156 train re-enters service Archived 10 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine Abellio Greater Anglia 3 December 2012
  33. ^ Stadler and Bombardier to supply trains for Abellio East Anglia franchise Archived 5 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine Railway Gazette International 10 August 2016
  34. ^ "Stourbridge railcar receives its passenger licence". London Midland. 2 April 2009. Archived from the original on 26 November 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2009.
  35. ^ "Latest News". Parry People Movers. 19 June 2009. Archived from the original on 5 June 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  36. ^ "Saying goodbye to our Class 153s | West Midlands Railway". Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  37. ^ "Northern begins '153' withdrawal". Rail. No. 929. 21 April 2021. p. 28.
  38. ^ Stock Update The Railway Magazine issue 1445 August 2021 page 105
  39. ^ "DMU FORMATIONS". AbRail. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  40. ^ Class 153 named Railways Illustrated issue 173 July 2017 page 9
  41. ^ "DKU103 Pair of Class 153 Conversion Kits". Hurst Models. Archived from the original on 17 January 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  42. ^ "Hornby BR Class 153". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Archived from the original on 11 January 2020. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  43. ^ "HORNBY CLASS 153". Intertrains. Archived from the original on 11 April 2009.
  44. ^ "Class 153 released". Dapol. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011.
  45. ^ "BMUC 6 :: Leyland Class 153 / Class 155 Stock Pack". Making Tracks. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015.