British Rail Class 312

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British Rail Class 312
312718 and 312721 at Kirby Cross.JPG
Class 312, nos. 312718 and 312721, at Kirby Cross station in Essex on 6 March 2004. These units were operating a farewell excursion train ('The Grand Slam') to commemorate their retirement from service. These were two of the final three 312s in traffic, and were withdrawn in June 2004.
Inside a Class 312 driving trailer open before refurbishment. For second class passengers these trains had 3+2 high-back seating. Passengers were able to enjoy the driver's view through the windows between the cab and the passenger compartment, as seen here.
In service 1975 - 2004
Manufacturer BREL York
Family name BR First Generation (Mark 2)
Number built 49 trainsets
Formation 4 cars per trainset
Operator British Rail
Maximum speed 90 mph (140 km/h)
Weight Total - 156.6 tonnes (154.1 long tons; 172.6 short tons)
Traction system General Electric Company
Braking system(s) Air (EP/Auto)
Multiple working Class 302-312
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)

The British Rail Class 312 is a type of alternating current (AC) electric multiple unit (EMU) built in 1975-1978[1] for use on outer-suburban passenger services. It was the last class of multiple unit to be constructed with the British Rail Mark 2 bodyshell, as well as the last with slam doors in Britain. These features contributed to their relatively early withdrawal at 25–28 years old, compared with a typical EMU life expectancy of 30–40 years.


The table below illustrates the original formation, numbering and areas of use:

Sub-Class Built Unit Numbers BDTSOL MBSO TSO DTCOL Area of Use
Original Later
312/0 1976-78 312001-312026 312701-312726 76949-76974 62484-62509 71168-71193 78000-78025 Great Northern
312/1 1975-76 312101-312119 312781-312799 76975-76993 62510-62528 71194-71212 78026-78044 Great Eastern
312/2 1976 312201-312204 312727-312730 76994-76997 62657-62660 71277-71280 78045-78048 West Midlands

These units were based on the Class 310 used on the suburban services out of London Euston, but were rated for a top speed of 90 mph (140 km/h). The only significant difference between sub-classes was that the 312/1 units were also equipped to work on the 6.25 kV AC overhead electrification system used on parts of the Great Eastern Main Line and London, Tilbury and Southend Railway networks.

British Rail[edit]

The front of a British Rail Class 312 in 1970s blue/grey livery passes through East London on a working to London Liverpool Street Station, as seen from the open window of another train.
312792 at Shoeburyness in Essex on 29 March 2003. This was the final day of operation of the class on c2c, painted in the long obsolete Network SouthEast livery. Since this photograph was taken, part of this unit has been preserved.

As built, the 312/0 fleet were used on the newly electrified Great Northern outer suburban services from London King's Cross to Royston. The 312/1s were built for Great Eastern line services from London Liverpool Street. The four 312/2 units were mainly used to enhance local services between Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International, but were also used on other services in the West Midlands.

During the late 1980s, the class received an interior refurbishment that saw the wooden panel interiors covered with fascia panels, the removal of window blinds and other alterations. At the same time units lost their blue/grey livery (312/0) or all-over blue livery (312/1 and 312/2 as introduced) in favour of Network SouthEast (NSE) livery (312/0-1), whilst of the four 312/2 units, 312204 carried West Midlands PTE yellow and blue livery and the others were dressed in the standard blue and grey, before their transfer to NSE.

At the same time, or soon after, units were reallocated. The Class 312/0 units moved to the Great Eastern Main Line following the arrival of a more modern 100 mph (160 km/h) Class 317 fleet. The 312/1 subfleet consequently moved to the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, displacing older Class 302 and 305 units. The section of 6.25 kV on the GEML had been converted to the now standard 25 kV, meaning the exclusive dual-voltage capability of this subfleet would continue to be useful, the line still being dual-voltage at the time.

The 312/2 units would also to the Great Eastern, replaced by modified 310 units released by the delivery of Class 321/4 units in the West Midlands. These moves were complete by the end of the 1980s, and allocations remained broadly stable until privatisation and the period until withdrawal in 2003-04.


Upon privatisation, the fleet was divided between three franchises.

Central Trains[edit]

Central Trains inherited four units, 312725-728. These were primarily used on fast Birmingham New Street to Liverpool Lime Street services, and were painted in Regional Railways livery. Their stay with Central Trains did not last long and they were transferred to LTS Rail (since rebranded c2c) in 1996.

First Great Eastern[edit]

A First Great Eastern Class 312 at Manningtree station, Essex in 2001.

First Great Eastern inherited 24 units, 312701-724. These were used mainly on Colchester to Walton-on-the-Naze and Manningtree to Harwich services and London Liverpool Street to Ipswich and Clacton peak trains. In later years, two former LTS units, 312728/784, were acquired to replace accident-damaged units such as 312707, written off by an arson attack whilst stabled at Colchester Station.

In 2003, First Great Eastern acquired new Class 360 units to replace these trains. Units were gradually removed from traffic, and by March 2004 only three sets, 312718/721/723, remained in service. A farewell charter train operated on their previous routes using two of these units. The final sets were used on peak trains, and were withdrawn in 25 June 2004 after the return of the five Class 322 units which had been on hire to ScotRail.

With all sets on the London Liverpool Street to Southend service having been replaced by 321 units, the last service to survive east of Shenfield junction was the early morning 12 car service from Southminster to London, where 321 units could only operate in 8 car configuration.

LTS Rail[edit]

LTS Rail inherited 21 units, 312729/730/781-799, later supplemented by the four former Central Trains units 312725-728. These latter units were repainted in Network SouthEast livery, some of the last vehicles to be so treated.

The final units were withdrawn from service in 2003, having been replaced by new Class 357/2 "Electrostar" units. Two units were later transferred to First Great Eastern to supplement their fleet as detailed earlier.


Vehicles 78037 and 71205 from unit 312792 have been preserved and are under restoration at Electric Railway Museum, Warwickshire.[2]

Fleet details[edit]

Operator No. of Units Unit Numbers Withdrawn Comments
Central Trains 4 312725-728 1996 Transferred to c2c
c2c 25 312725-730


March 2003 -
First Great Eastern 24 312701-724 June 2004 312707 destroyed by arson attack in 2003

312728 and 312784 transferred from c2c in 2003



  1. ^ Marsden (1982), page42
  2. ^ "Electric Railway Museum - Full Stocklist". Retrieved 2 October 2011. 


External links[edit]