British Rail Class 156
|British Rail Class 156 Super Sprinter|
Interior of Greater Anglia refurbished Class 156
|In service||1988 – present|
|Built at||Washwood Heath|
|Number built||114 sets (228 carriages)|
|Number in service||114 sets|
|Car body construction||Steel|
|Car length||23.03 m (75 ft 6 3⁄4 in)|
|Width||2.73 m (8 ft 11 1⁄2 in)|
|Height||3.81 m (12 ft 6 in)|
|Floor height||1.14 m (3 ft 9 in)|
|Doors||Single leaf sliding|
|Wheelbase||16 m (52 ft 5 7⁄8 in) (bogie centres)|
|Maximum speed||75 mph (121 km/h)|
|Prime mover(s)||one per car, Cummins NT855R5|
|Engine type||14-litre turbo-Diesel|
|Power output||285 hp (213 kW) per engine|
|Train heating||Hot air from single heat exchanger|
|Multiple working||Classes 14x, 15x, 17x|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The British Rail Class 156 Super Sprinter is a diesel multiple unit train. A total of 114 sets were built between 1987 and 1989 for British Rail by Metro-Cammell's Washwood Heath works. They were built to replace elderly first-generation DMUs and locomotive-hauled passenger trains.
The design of the Class 156 was more conservative than Metro-Cammell's earlier Class 151 design. The bodyshell was made of steel instead of aluminium, and the cab design was deliberately similar to the Class 150 to ease union acceptance.
Construction of the welded bodyshells was subcontracted out with Procor Engineering, Wakefield completing 118, WH Davis 60 and Standard Wagon 50. Aston Martin Tickford were awarded the interior fitout contract. The units were all built as two-car sets, numbered 156401-514. Each unit was formed of two driving motors, one of which contained a toilet. Individual carriages numbered as follows:
- 52401-52514 - Driving Motor Standard Lavatory (DMSL)
- 57401-57514 - Driving Motor Standard (DMS), containing an area for storing wheelchairs, bicycles, bulky luggage etc.
The vehicles are powered by 6-cylinder Cummins NT855-R5 diesel engines through Voith T211r hydraulic automatic transmissions and Gmeinder final drive units. They have a top speed of 75 mph (121 km/h).
Unlike the Class 150 units, the 156s have a single-leaf sliding door at either end of each coach. This reflected the expected longer journeys with fewer stops that the Class 156 was supposed to operate. As with the Class 150, all the doors are operable by passengers when released by the guard using one of two passenger door control panels; they are energised using a carriage key to turn a rotary switch situated on the cab bulkhead. Units operated by Abellio ScotRail have additionally been fitted with door-control panels near the centre sets of doors for the convenience of the guard.
On 10 November 1987, 156401 conducted its first test run from Washwood Heath to Banbury. Between January and July 1988, 156401-156429 were delivered to Crown Point TMD entering service on 16 May 1988 on new services from East Anglia to North West England as well as existing services from Norwich and Cambridge to Birmingham. They also operated boat trains from Harwich to Blackpool and later Liverpool.
The remaining 85 were delivered to Heaton, Neville Hill, Haymarket and Inverness. With the Class 155 units withdrawn due to faulty door mechanisms, 25 were transferred to Cardiff from December 1988, with the last remaining until November 1989. In this guise they operated services as far south as Portsmouth. In May 1991, six were transferred from Crown Point to Derby Etches Park.
On 15 June 1989, 156502 was sent to the Netherlands as part of the Dutch Railways 150th celebrations. It returned on 10 July. On 21 October 1993, 156405 became the first Sprinter to accrue 1 million miles, whilst working the 10:10 Great Yarmouth to Norwich service.
The first 100 were painted in Provincial sector's livery of blue and beige with light blue stripe. Twenty units, (156401-419/422) based at Tyseley depot, were later repainted into Regional Railways Express livery after the rebranding of Provincial. The last fourteen units were operated by Strathclyde PTE, and carried an orange and black livery. Following the delivery of the Class 158s in the early 1990s, the 156s began to be cascaded to less important services.
In the early 1990s, British Rail was looking to save costs on rural routes, and decided that operating two-car trains was too expensive. The company planned to convert a number of Class 156 units into single-car vehicles, named as Class 152. In the event, the decision was taken to do this with the Class 155 instead, forming the Class 153 fleet.
At privatisation the Scottish fleet passed to the National Express owned ScotRail franchise, which used them until 2004 when the franchise was taken over by First ScotRail. All passed to Abellio ScotRail with the franchise in 2015. They operate both on short-distance commuter routes and on services of up to five and a half hours, such as Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig.
Units 156500-514, were operated by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport and originally wore its orange and black livery. This was replaced with a carmine and cream livery in 1997, that was also applied to another 14. All have since been repainted into ScotRail's standard Saltire livery.
Despite their past liveries, the former SPT units were not confined to any specific route and thus worked in tandem with the rest of the 156 fleet on other routes.
In September 2008 Transport Scotland announced that all ScotRail trains (including those of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport) would be repainted in a new livery of blue with white saltire markings on the carriage ends. The first 156 was repainted in this livery by RailCare Springburn in February 2009.
In December 2014, 156478 was written off by Angel Trains and sold to Brodie Leasing after being damaged by floodwaters on the Glasgow South Western Line. Brodie Leasing repaired the unit and it returned to service with Abellio ScotRail in October 2016.
Having originally been based in the East Anglia region but later transferred away, in early 2005 they returned when One received nine from Central Trains in exchange for a similar number of Class 150s.
The units are used on the following local services:
- Bittern Line - Norwich to Sheringham via Cromer
- Wherry Lines - Norwich to Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft
- East Suffolk Line - Ipswich to Lowestoft/Felixstowe
- Sudbury Branch Line - Marks Tey to Sudbury
All nine passed to Abellio Greater Anglia when it took over the Greater Anglia franchise in February 2012. Despite being overhauled by Railcare, Wolverton in 2012/13, including work to make them comply with disability legislation, all were replaced by Class 755s with the last day of service being 29 January 2020. These then moved to East Midlands Railway, where they were renumbered into the /9 series.
Following privatisation, both Arriva Trains Northern and First North Western operated Class 156s and implemented their own refurbishment programmes. The two fleets were united when Northern Rail took over both franchises in 2004. Within the Northern region, Class 156s are concentrated in the North-West and also the North-East, but are uncommon now in Yorkshire and Humberside, where Class 158s and other unit types are used instead.
In January 2015, Northern Rail began to hire 156s to First TransPennine Express to operate Manchester Airport to Blackpool North services. Northern Rail's fleet of 42 Class 156s passed to Arriva Rail North when the then-new franchise started on 1 April 2016. The 156s began to operate Manchester Airport to Barrow in Furness and Oxenholme to Windermere services from this date after they along with the Manchester Airport to Blackpool North services were transferred to the franchise.
- Birmingham to Nottingham via Derby or Leicester
- Birmingham to Hereford
- Birmingham to Shrewsbury and the Cambrian Line
- Nottingham to Skegness or Lincoln
In an attempt at fleet standardisation, preparations were made during 2003 to exchange all 20 Class 156s for an equal number of ScotRail Class 158s, with 156402 partially repainted in ScotRail colours in readiness when overhauled at Wabtec, Doncaster. The transfer did not proceed after the Scottish Government refused to sanction the move, and the rest of the fleet were reliveried into Central Trains' livery between 2003 and 2005.
At the end of the Central Trains franchise, the remaining eleven units were transferred to East Midlands Trains, who repainted the fleet during 2008 and then carried out a refurbishment program from autumn 2010 onwards. The refurbishment, carried out at Neville Hill depot, included interior refurbishment work, improvements to driving cabs and installation of CCTV. These trains are now used on slower medium-distance services such as Nottingham/Derby to Matlock, Nottingham to Skegness, Leicester to Lincoln and Nottingham to Worksop. In May 2011, four additional units were transferred from Northern Rail to allow Nottingham to Liverpool services to be strengthened.
Beginning in late 2019, the nine class 156s transferred to Greater Anglia in 2005, passed to East Midlands Railway. Because they had a different public address and passenger information system to EMR's existing Class 156 fleet, they were renumbered as 156/9s.
|Operator||No. Built||Unit nos.|
|Abellio ScotRail||43||156430–437, 156439, 156442, 156445–446, 156450, 156453, 156456–458, 156462, 156467, 156474, 156476–478, 156492–495, 156499–514|
|East Midlands Railway||24||156401, 156902, 156403–406, 156907, 156408, 156909, 156410–411, 156912, 156413–415, 156916–919, 156922, 156470, 156473, 156497–498,|
|Northern Trains||47||156420–421, 156423–429, 156438, 156440–441, 156443–444, 156447–449, 156451–452, 156454–455, 156459–461, 156463–466, 156468–469, 156471–472, 156475, 156479–491, 156496|
Some units have received names:
- 156409 - Cromer Pier Seaside Special (denamed)
- 156416 - Saint Edmund (denamed)
- 156418 - ESTA 1965-2015
- 156420 - La'al Ratty - Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
- 156433 - The Kilmarnock Edition (denamed)
- 156438 - Timothy Hackworth (denamed)
- 156440 - George Bradshaw
- 156441 - William Huskisson MP
- 156444 - Councillor Bill Cameron (denamed)
- 156448 - Bram Stoker - Creator of Dracula
- 156449 - Saint Columba (denamed)
- 156454 - Whitby Endeavour (denamed)
- 156459 - Benny Rothman - The Manchester Rambler
- 156460 - Driver John Axon G.C.
- 156465 - Bonnie Prince Charlie (denamed)
- 156466 - Gracie Fields
- 156469 - The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (The Fighting 5th)
- 156477 - Highland Festival (denamed)
- 156480 - Spirit of The Royal Air Force
- 156482 - Elizabeth Gaskell
- 156490 - Captain James Cook - Master Mariner (denamed)
Accidents and incidents
- On 31 January 1995, unit 156490 was derailed by a landslide and collided with an oncoming train. The train conductor of 156490, Stuart Wilson, was killed.
- On 6 June 2010, unit 156499 struck a rockfall, was derailed and caught fire near Falls of Cruachan. Eight people were injured.
- On 17 August 2010, unit 156417 was involved in a collision with a slurry tanker at a user-operated level crossing in Suffolk. Twenty-one people were injured, one of them seriously.
- On 21 December 2014, unit 156478 hit flood waters near Mauchline between Kilmarnock and Auchinleck. The unit was repaired and refurbished at Kilmarnock's Brodie Works and returned to service in October 2016.
- On 22 January 2018, unit 156458 struck a landslip and was derailed between Arisaig and Glenfinnan. There were no injuries.
- On 7 January 2019, unit 156479 collided with a taxi between Newcastle and Carlisle. There were no injuries.
In 2017, Realtrack Models released their model of the class 156 in Regional Railways Provincial, First ScotRail and East Midlands Trains liveries.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to British Rail Class 156.|
- Metro-Cammell class 156 Super-Sprinter - Information about current and past Class 156 operation, including technical details, liveries and accident reports.
- The story in pictures of 156502's visit to Holland
- British Photo Database - Class 156 Super-Sprinter