British Rail Class 170

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British Rail Class 170 Turbostar
Northern Class 170.png
A Northern Class 170/4  at The Arriva Traincare depot.
In service 1998–present
Manufacturer Adtranz/Bombardier Transportation
Family name Turbostar
Replaced Class 156
Class 158
Class 205
Class 207
Constructed 1998–2005
Number built 122 trainsets
Formation 2 or 3 cars per trainset
Operator(s) Abellio ScotRail
Greater Anglia
West Midlands Trains
Car body construction Welded aluminium. Steel ends.
Train length 2 car: 47.22 m (154 ft 11 in)
Car length 23.62 m (77 ft 6 in)
Width 2.69 m (8 ft 10 in)
Height 3.77 m (12 ft 4 in)
Maximum speed 100 mph (160 km/h)
Weight Varies between 90.41 t (88.98 long tons; 99.66 short tons) (170/1 2 car) to 135.31 t (133.17 long tons; 149.15 short tons) (170/1 3 car)
Prime mover(s) One MTU 6R 183TD13H diesel per car
Power output 315 kilowatts (422 hp) at 1,900 rpm
Transmission Voith Hydraulic T211rzze to ZF final drive
2 axles driven per car
Bogies Powered: BREL P3-23 Unpowered: BREL T3-23
Braking system(s) Disc brakes
Safety system(s) AWS, TPWS
Coupling system BSI[1]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The Class 170 Turbostar is a British diesel multiple-unit (DMU) train built by Bombardier Transportation (and previously Adtranz) at its Derby Litchurch Lane Works. Introduced after privatisation, these trains have operated regional as well as long-distance services, and to a lesser extent suburban services. 122 units have been built.


Driving cab of a 170

The class is a development of the design used in the British Rail Class 165 and 166 DMUs known as the Networker Turbos which were built by British Rail Engineering Limited and later ABB Transportation Ltd before that company became part of Bombardier.

Notable features shared are the aluminium alloy frame and Voith transmission as well as the general body shape (the cab ends are similar to those of the Class 168, but not Class 165/166), interior design and door fittings. The final drive is sourced from ZF instead of Gmeinder and the diesel-engine supplier is MTU.[2]

The engine and transmission are located under the body. One bogie per coach is powered. All coaches in the set are powered when in use (there are no unpowered trailers). The units can work in multiple with trains in the 15X series, i.e. Sprinters, and with other units of the same class. They are unable to operate in multiple with units in the 16X series due to different wiring arrangements.[3]

Seating arrangements are of both 2+1 (first class) and 2+2 (standard class) formation, and give a seated passenger capacity of between ~100 and ~200 per three-car set (depending on the specifications of the operator).[4] 2-car sets are also operated.


Class 170 units have been categorised into six sub-classes; the basic specifications remain the same (engine, length, transmission, etc.), the differences being the seating arrangements specified by the different operators. Because of the different interior fittings the sub-classes differ in weight from one another by a small amount, up to ~2 tonnes.[3]

All the subclasses were built at Derby works either under Adtranz or Bombardier Transportation ownership.[3]


Most units are owned by Porterbrook, although units 170 416–424 are owned by Eversholt Rail Group.[5] They are leased to the train operating companies.


Dundee-bound 170 428 at Markinch.
Refurbished first class accommodation on board a Scotrail Class 170/4

Abellio ScotRail is the largest operator of the Class 170, with a fleet comprising 55 3-car sets. Originally, 34 of these had first-class accommodation. They are mainly used on Edinburgh–Glasgow (Queen Street), Inverness–Glasgow/Edinburgh and Aberdeen–Glasgow/Edinburgh services. An additional nine units were ordered and operated by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), these now operate under the direction of Transport Scotland, which has authority over the entire ScotRail area. A further four 3-car sets (170 393-396), fitted with 'mini-buffets', were obtained from Hull Trains, but the buffets are out of use and all four units were converted to standard class only in 2012.[6]

All units are allocated to Edinburgh Haymarket depot. In September 2008 the Scottish Government's agency Transport Scotland announced that all ScotRail trains (including from the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport) would eventually be repainted in a new blue livery with white Saltire markings on the carriage ends.[7]

In December 2008, half the standard-class-only units, 170 450–5, were fitted with first-class sections. 170 456 and 170 457 were fitted with first class in December 2011. In April 2015, 170 421-424 left ScotRail to go to Southern and be modified to become Class 171s.[8] In March 2018, the first of 16 destined for further use with Northern left the fleet.[9]

Northern England[edit]

First TransPennine Express Class 170/3 at Huddersfield on 13 March 2007

First TransPennine Express operated nine Class 170s, used on the Manchester Piccadilly to Hull route. Originally Class 185s were set to operate the route but a combination of weight-restriction problems on the Selby to Hull Line, chronic overcrowding on several of the company's services and the government reducing the amount of money available to First TransPennine Express for new trains resulted in Class 170s coming into service.

From September 2009, two Class 170s were used Sundays to Thursdays on the Cleethorpes–Manchester Airport service.

First TransPennine Express received eight Turbostars from South West Trains, 170 301–8 at the end of 2006 and the start of 2007, as well as 170 399 from Central Trains in November 2007, which was renumbered 170 309.

The units were maintained by Bombardier Crofton. The 170s have since been fully refurbished to include CCTV, power sockets throughout, replacement carpets and seat covers and the removal / declassification of one of the two first-class sections, providing more seats. The work was carried out by Transys at Clacton-on-Sea.

However, in March 2014 it was revealed that the nine Turbostars would move to Chiltern Railways.[10] MP Stephen Hammond revealed on 12 March 2014 that all the class 170/3s would remain with First TransPennine Express until the May 2015 timetable change, when Chiltern would take five of the 170s with the remaining four remaining with First TransPennine Express until the end of the franchise in March 2016 later changed to 8 July 2016. Upon delivery, the Class 170s were modified to allow them to be used with Chiltern's existing Class 168 units, and were subsequently reclassified as Class 168/3s.[11] Today, the unit numbers are 168321-168329.

Hull Trains[edit]

Hull Trains Class 170

Hull Trains began its London King's Cross to Hull services using Turbostars, initially with four sets on short-term lease from Anglia Railways. In 2004, it received four of its own 3-car Class 170/3 units, and returned the original units to Anglia.

In 2005, following its acquisition by FirstGroup, Hull Trains received four new Class 222/1 Pioneer units and transferred the Turbostars to its sister company First ScotRail.

The Midlands[edit]

Midland Mainline Class 170/1, nos. 170 110 and 170 117 at Derby station on 18 September 2003, during service to London St Pancras. These units are now operated by CrossCountry.

Midland Mainline (MML) was the first operator to order Turbostars, the first being introduced in 1998.[citation needed] The Class 170/1 were built immediately after the Class 168/0 were built for Chiltern Railways. MML ordered a fleet of seventeen 2-car Class 170 units, although the first ten were subsequently made up of three cars each instead. These were numbered 170 101–117. The units were introduced on stopping services from London St. Pancras to Leicester, Derby and Nottingham. Some were also used on summer Saturday-only services from London to York, which later became a year-round service with summer extension to Scarborough.

Central Trains Class 170/5, no. 170 518 at Peterborough on 3 June 2004, on a run to Birmingham New Street. This unit is now operated by CrossCountry.

Central Trains had a fleet of 53 Class 170 units from various subclasses.

In 1999, Central received its first batch of twenty-three 2-car Class 170/5 and ten 3-car Class 170/6 units. These were used to replace Class 156 units on various longer-distance services.

From late 2004, Central also took three Class 170/3 on lease from Porterbrook. Units 170 397–8 are 3-car units and 170 399 is a 2-car unit. All three of these units contained first-class accommodation, which was declassified (allowing standard-class use throughout the train), as first class travel was not provided on Central Trains services. The two 3-car units' interiors were of Central Trains style, except the MML-style first class, and the 2-car unit had a South West Trains interior. After the Central Trains franchise ended, the two 3-car units (170397 and 170398) remained with the new operator, CrossCountry. The one 2-car unit was returned to Porterbrook, which then leased it to First TransPennine Express who renumbered the unit to 170309.

In 2004, Midland Mainline introduced new Class 222 "Meridian" units, which started to replace the Turbostars. As a result, the fleet was transferred to sister company Central Trains. Ten units (170 101-110) are 3-car units, and the remaining seven units (170 111-117) are 2-car units. As with the three spot-hire units from Porterbrook, these 17 units had first-class accommodation, which was declassified.

All Class 170 units in service with Central were used on a variety of services (mostly long-distance) including BirminghamStansted Airport, NottinghamCardiff and Birmingham –Leicester. Class 170 units have been replaced by Class 350 "Desiro" units on BirminghamLiverpool services.

Class 170 in CrossCountry livery, departing Cambridge. It is operating a service from Stansted Airport to Birmingham New Street, a service inherited from Central Trains

When Central Trains lost its franchise in 2007, 23 of Central Trains' units (17 x 2-coach & 6 x 3-coach) were transferred to London Midland, which took over the West Midlands franchise and continues to use Class 170s for services on the Chase Line, Birmingham to Hereford via Bromsgrove Line and Shrewsbury services. 29 out of the other 30 (including all the ex-Midland-Mainline units, and two of the three spot-hire units) were transferred to CrossCountry and are used on the Cardiff–Birmingham–Nottingham and Birmingham–Leicester–Stansted Airport services. These Class 170 were refurbished in 2008 with the 3-car units repainted at Marcroft Engineering, Stoke on Trent, the 2-car units at EWS' Toton depot and the interiors done by Transys Projects, Clacton-on-Sea including the fitting of first class seating to the Class 170/5s and 170/6s.[12][13]

One of Central Trains' 170s (170 399) went to First TransPennine Express and was subsequently renumbered 170 309; East Midlands Trains did not receive any, despite taking over the previously Class-170-operated Liverpool-to-Norwich route. This route is now operated by refurbished Class 158 units.

Eastern England[edit]

Anglia Railways ordered two batches of Turbostars. The first batch of eight 3-car Class 170/2 units were built for London Liverpool Street to Ipswich, Norwich, Lowestoft and Bury St. Edmunds services. These supplemented the existing Class 86 locomotive-hauled trains from London to Norwich. Four of these units were later hired to Hull Trains from 2002–2004, before that company acquired its own Turbostars.

Other units, including the spot-hire set no. 170 399, were used on Anglia's short-lived Norwich to Basingstoke 'London Crosslink' service. In 2002, Anglia introduced a new Cambridge to Norwich direct service, and acquired four 2-car units dedicated to working these services.

In 2004 the Greater Anglia franchise was won by National Express subsidiary One, rebranded as National Express East Anglia in 2008, and passed onto Abellio Greater Anglia in 2012. Since then, 2-car Turbostars have been used for the Cambridge to Norwich route, and also on new through services including Cambridge (via Ipswich), Bury St Edmunds (via Ipswich), Peterborough (via Ipswich) and Lowestoft (via Ipswich and East Suffolk Line or Ipswich and Norwich) - London Liverpool Street via Ipswich, although with a new timetable all Class 170 London services ended in December 2010, in favour of connecting branch line trains with GEML expresses.

The 3-car trains used to include a buffet and larger first-class area, but because more seating was needed, the buffet area has been removed and the number of first-class seats reduced.

South-West England[edit]

South West Trains (SWT) acquired a fleet of eight 2-car Class 170/3 units in 2000 (later to 9 units supplemented by ex-Southern 170 392), to supplement its existing Class 159 fleet. Units operated on London Waterloo to Salisbury, Reading to Brighton, Southampton local services, and occasionally on services to Exeter St Davids, though this was not a regular route for these units, as they do not feature end gangways, making it difficult to provide trolley services, and they lacked selective door opening for the short platforms at stations on the route west of Salisbury. All but one of these units were transferred to First TransPennine Express at the end of 2006, in exchange for some Class 158 Express Sprinters. Unit 170 392 was transferred back to its original intended operator Southern and has since been reclassified and renumbered from 170 392 to 171 730.

Southern England[edit]

Southern obtained six 2-car Class 170/7 units, along with six 4-car Class 171/8 units, in 2003 to replace its ageing Class 205 and Class 207 units on services on the Marshlink Line and Oxted Line to Uckfield.

Southern later fitted these units with the Dellner type coupler used on its Class 171s, reclassifying its 2-car units as Class 171/7, replacing the standard BSI coupler fitted to Class 170s. This was done to allow them to couple to Class 377 EMUs in an emergency.

Southern later acquired 170 392 from South West Trains, which became its 10th 2-car, 171 730. This unit had already carried Southern livery, being ordered as an add-on to a Southern order to save costs, and was delivered accordingly in Southern livery as 170 727. It was renumbered and reliveried at Ashford Chart Leacon Works before entering traffic.

At the end of the First ScotRail franchise in March 2015, 170416 to 170424 were returned to Eversholt Rail Group. The first five will remain in Scotland on sublease to Abellio ScotRail until March 2018, while 170421 to 170424 moved to Wolverton railway works in April 2015. They were overhauled and converted to Class 171s.[8][14] Two became two-car 171/2s and two four-car Class 171/4s.[15]


In August 2016 Abellio selected bi-Mode units for the East Anglia franchise, meaning that all 170s are scheduled to be replaced by Class 755s in 2020.[16][17]

Sixteen Class 170 units will be cascaded to Northern from Abellio ScotRail in 2018.[18][19][20] The first four have been delivered to Neville Hill TMD and underwent a full refurbishment to enable them to run on the Harrogate line in May 2018.[21][22]

Twelve Class 170s are scheduled to transfer from Greater Anglia to Transport for Wales in 2019.[23]

Current fleet details[edit]

Class Operator Number Built Carriages Unit nos.
170/1 CrossCountry 17 1998–99 3 170101–110[24]
2 170111–117[24]
170/2 Greater Anglia 8 1999 3 170201–208[24]
4 2002 2 170270–273[24]
170/3 Abellio ScotRail 4 2004 3 170393–396[24]
CrossCountry 2 2002 170397–398[24]
170/4 Abellio ScotRail 22 1999–01 3 170401–420, 170470–471[24]
10 2003–04 170425–434
12 2004–05 170450–461[24]
3 2003–04 170472–474[24]
Northern 4 170475–478[24]
170/5 West Midlands Trains 17 1999–00 2 170501–517
CrossCountry 6 170518–523[24]
170/6 West Midlands Trains 6 2000 3 170630–635[24]
CrossCountry 4 170636–639[24]

Named Units[edit]

Some units have names, these are as follows:[25]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 13 November 2005, 170207 collided with a car at a level crossing in Swainsthorpe, Norfolk, on the Great Eastern Main Line. The car driver was killed. The front of the train was damaged by the consequent fire from the wrecked car.[26]
  • On 26 November 2005, 170431 hit a landslide near Moy on the Highland Line. The front of the train was derailed and damaged by the debris, the other 2 coaches remained railed.[27]
  • On 12 September 2006, 170206 was derailed as it crossed the level crossing at Croxton, Norfolk, on the Breckland Line. A panel that formed part of the level crossing had become dislodged and fouled both railway and road.[28]
  • On 27 July 2011, 170393 derailed after crossing over a set of faulty points at Princes Street Gardens on the approach to Edinburgh. The train was occupied only by 2 members of crew - neither of whom was injured.
  • On 14 July 2013, 170272 collided with a car towing a trailer on a level crossing at Woodbridge, Suffolk, on the East Suffolk Line.[29]
  • On 10 April 2016, 170204 collided with an agricultural tractor on a level crossing at Roudham, on the Breckland line. The tractor driver was seriously injured; the train driver and some passengers sustained minor injuries.[30][31] An investigation revealed that the tractor driver had obtained permission to cross the line.[32]
  • On 15 October 2017, 170272 collided with a car on a level crossing at Melton, on the East Suffolk Line. The car driver was airlifted to hospital.[33]


  1. ^ "Mechanical And Electrical Coupling Index". Rail Safety and Standards Board. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  2. ^ TURBOSTAR – United Kingdom Archived 13 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b c "". 
  4. ^ TURBOSTAR – United Kingdom – technical data – Archived 13 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Pritchard, Robert; Hall, Peter (2013). British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock 2013. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. pp. 234–8. ISBN 978-1-909431-02-7. 
  6. ^ "Class 170 Formations". Retrieved 17 October 2017. 
  7. ^ – New Scottish livery
  8. ^ a b "Scottish Class 170/4s move south after transfer to Southern" Rail Magazine issue 772 15 April 2015 page 12
  9. ^ Northern takes delivery of two ScotRail Class 170s Rail Technology Magazine 12 March 2018
  10. ^ "Campaigners' fury as nine TransPennine Express trains sent south in 'crazy and scandalous' move". Manchester Evening News. 3 March 2014. Archived from the original on 12 March 2014. 
  11. ^ Broadbent, Steve (4 March 2014). "Chiltern plots further expansion". Rail (769): 46–53. 
  12. ^ Refurbishment of Class 170 Turbostar trains begins CrossCountry Press Release 30 January 2008
  13. ^ CrossCountry's first refurbished Turbostar enters service CrossCountry Press Release 19 May 2008
  14. ^ "Extra Turbostars for Southern" Today's Railways issue 162 June 2015 page 63
  15. ^ "Southern 171s" Rail Magazine issue 804 6 July 2016 page 30
  16. ^ Newly refurbished Class 156 train re-enters service Abellio Greater Anglia 3 December 2012
  17. ^ Stadler and Bombardier to supply trains for Abellio East Anglia franchise Railway Gazette International 10 August 2016
  18. ^ "Scotrail franchise agreement" (PDF). Transport Scotland. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 November 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  19. ^ "Franchise Agreement - Great Western" (PDF). 22 March 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ "A Class above - ScotRail 170 trains arrive at Northern". Retrieved 2018-03-14. 
  22. ^ Beard, Alexander (21 May 2018). "New fleet of trains roll on to Harrogate line". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 21 May 2018. 
  23. ^ "What this means for Mid and South West Wales". Transport for Wales. Transport for Wales. Retrieved 4 June 2018. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Clinnick, Richard (2009). "Britain's future-facing fleets". Rail (634): 66–73. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Passenger train collision with a road vehicle at Swainsthorpe level crossing, Norfolk 13 November 2005" (PDF). Rail Accidents Investigation Branch. March 2006. Retrieved 11 April 2016. 
  27. ^ "Derailment near Moy, Inverness-shire" (PDF). Rail Accidents Investigation Branch. November 2006. Retrieved 6 June 2018. 
  28. ^ "Derailment of a train at Croxton Level Crossing 12 September 2006" (PDF). Rail Accidents Investigation Board. May 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2016. 
  29. ^ "Collision between a train and a car at Jetty Avenue level crossing, Woodbridge, Suffolk 14 July 2013" (PDF). Rail Accidents Investigation Branch. December 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2016. 
  30. ^ Bishop, Donna-Louise (10 April 2016). "Tractor driver suffers serious injuries following collision between train and tractor at Roudham, near Thetford". Eastern Daily Press. Archant Media Ltd. [permanent dead link]
  31. ^ "Train carrying 135 passengers crashes at level crossing". ITV News Anglia. Retrieved 10 April 2016. 
  32. ^ "Collision near Thetford". Rail Accidents Investigation Branch. Retrieved 22 April 2016. 
  33. ^ Steward, Michael. "Man airlifted to hospital after car struck by train at level crossing at Melton". East Anglian Daily Times. Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "Central spends £48m to order 50 more 'Turbostar' DMU cars". RAIL. No. 339. EMAP Apex Publications. 9–22 September 1998. p. 7. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699. 
  • West, Lee (7–20 October 1998). "'Turbostar' is ready to roll!". RAIL. No. 341. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 22–25. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699. 
  • "Adtranz launches Turbostar for Midland Mainline". RAIL. No. 344. EMAP Apex Publications. 18 November – 1 December 1998. p. 16. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699. 
  • "Sanding gear for '170s'". RAIL. No. 345. EMAP Apex Publications. 2–15 December 1998. p. 8. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699. 
  • "New numbers for Turbostar and Electrostar fleets". RAIL. No. 345. EMAP Apex Publications. 2–15 December 1998. p. 9. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.