British Rail Class 323

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

British Rail Class 323
Northern Rail Class 323, 323224, Alderley Edge railway station (geograph 4524576).jpg
Northern unit 323224 at Alderley Edge
323225 Interior.jpg
The interior of a refurbished Northern Class 323
In service1992 – present
Order no.
  • 31112 (DMSO A)
  • 31113 (TSOL)
  • 31114 (DMSO B)[2]
Built atLeeds[3]
ReplacedClass 304
Entered service1992
Number built43 sets
Formation3 cars per set:
  • EA272 (DMSO A)
  • EH296 (TSOL)
  • EA272 (DMSO B)[2]
Fleet numbers
  • 323201-323243[3]
  • 64001-64043 (DMSO A)
  • 72201-72239, 72340-72343 (TSOL)
  • 65001-65043 (DMSO B)[3]
  • 284 (all except 323223-323225)
  • 98 (DMSO)
  • 88 (TSOL)
  • 244 (323223-323225 only)[3]
Line(s) servedCross-City Line
Chase Line
Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford Line
Glossop Line
Crewe to Manchester Line
Stafford to Manchester Line
Car body constructionAluminium alloy[2]
Car length
  • DMSO: 23.37 m (76 ft 8 in)
  • TSOL: 23.44 m (76 ft 11 in)[3]
Width2.80 m (9 ft 2 in)[3]
Height3.78 m (12 ft 4 78 in)
DoorsBi-parting sliding plug[1][3]
Articulated sections3
Maximum speed90 mph (145 km/h)[1][3]
Traction motors4 × Holec DMKT 52/24[3]
Power output1,168 kW (1,566 hp)[3]
Electric system(s)25 kV 50 Hz AC Overhead
Current collection methodBrecknell Willis high speed pantograph
UIC classificationBo'Bo'+2'2'+Bo'Bo'
  • Powered - RFS BP62
  • Trailer - RFS BT52[3]
Braking system(s)Regenerative, Air Brake (Westcode)[3]
Safety system(s)
Coupling system
Multiple workingClass 313-323[3]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 323 electric multiple units were built by Hunslet Transportation Projects. All 43 units were built from 1992 through to 1996, although mock-ups and prototypes were built and tested in 1990 and 1991.[4]

The units were specifically designed to operate on inner-suburban commuter lines in and around Birmingham and Manchester with swift acceleration and high reliability. They remain operational on commuter lines and are currently operated by West Midlands Trains and Northern.

Following 20 years in service, the units were upgraded in 2013 and 2016 however the future of the 323s beyond 2018 is uncertain. The 17 units leased by Northern are set to leave the franchise in December 2018 and it is planned that the 26 units leased by West Midlands Trains are to be replaced by new trains by 2020.


In the early 1990s the Regional Railways sector of British Rail placed an order for new EMUs both to replace older electric units around Birmingham and Manchester, and to work services on the newly electrified Birmingham Cross-City Line. In June 1990, the contract was awarded to Hunslet Transportation Projects of Birmingham, a new company set up by a team of engineers and managers who had left Metro Cammell. Metro Cammell was at the time a Birmingham-based train builder. They won the contract in competition with six other European train builders.[5]

Initially 37 units were ordered, with the option for fourteen more. Eighteen would be needed for the Cross-City Line, while the remainder would replace older units (such as the Class 304 and Class 310) in the event a total of 43 three-car units were actually built.[5] When the electrification of the Leeds/Bradford - Skipton/Ilkley Airedale/Wharfedale Lines was confirmed in the early 1990s, Regional Railways and West Yorkshire PTE applied to the government for 14 units to add to the units already on order.[6] At the time government spending on the railways was restricted due to the looming privatisation and eventually, when funding was not forthcoming, the order was cancelled, and 21 second-hand 308s from Network SouthEast were used in the interim before the 333s were delivered in 2001.[7]

As part of the privatisation of British Rail, all 43 were sold to Porterbrook in 1994 and allocated to the Central Trains and North West Regional Railways shadow franchises.[8][9]


West Midlands Trains[edit]

The former Central Trains inherited a fleet of 26 units from British Rail: sets 323201-222 and 323240-243. In November 2007, these passed on to London Midland when it took over the franchise. The units were delivered in 1993/94 painted in Centro green and white livery with a blue stripe. They were originally allocated to Bletchley depot, but have since been reallocated to Soho when the elderly class 304s retired. Since the 323s moved there, a workshop has been built for maintenance and repairs.[citation needed]

It was intended for the units to be introduced on the newly electrified Cross-City Line from Redditch to Lichfield (via Birmingham New Street). However, all did not go according to plan, and initially the units suffered from reliability problems. This meant that the ageing fleets of Class 115, 116, 117, 118 and 119 diesel multiple units, which the Class 323 units were meant to replace, continued in service longer than planned. They were finally withdrawn in 1995 once the Class 323 units had become more reliable. In 2014 the London Midland fleet of 26 EMU's was equipped with DC Airco Cab Air Cooling equipment by Onyxrail; a company formed by two of the Original members of Hunslet TPL.

The units were also used on various other routes, including Coventry to Wolverhampton, and Birmingham to Walsall (Chase Line) suburban services, as well as longer distance Birmingham to Liverpool Lime Street services. On these services, they were used alongside the existing fleets of Class 310/1 and Class 312 slam-door units. The introduction of the new trains also allowed the withdrawal of the elderly Class 304 units, and the cascading of Class 308 units to operate suburban services around Leeds.

In December 2017, West Midlands Trains took over the West Midlands franchise. The 323s will transfer to the new operator, however they will be displaced by new trains on the Cross City Line in 2020.[10]


At the time of the privatisation of British Rail in 1997, the Regional Railways North West franchise was re-branded North Western Trains, and it inherited 17 of these units (323223-323239). North Western Trains became First North Western and its operations were taken over by Northern Rail in 2004. All passed to Arriva Rail North with the franchise in April 2016.

They were used to replace older stock of Classes 304 and 305, although some of the latter were retained in reserve until 2000. The units are used on the Manchester electrified network, primarily to the south of the city. The 323s are scheduled to leave Northern in December 2018 when replaced by Class 331s.[11][12][13]

323223-323225 were originally dedicated to Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Airport services and have additional luggage racks, but this was rarely achieved due to diagramming difficulties.[citation needed]

The fleet is maintained on behalf of Northern by West Coast Traincare Ltd at its Manchester Traincare Centre Longsight, a few miles south of Manchester Piccadilly, with units stabled at Stockport Edgeley carriage sidings where they receive overnight cleaning.[citation needed]

323231 spent 16 months out of service following a derailment at Congleton on 18 December 2008 when the southbound Manchester to Stoke on Trent service collided with a Nissan 4x4 which had rolled down the embankment from a delivery company car park at North Rode.[14] It suffered a lot of underbody damage as well as losing its pantograph. The unit was repaired at Wolverton, and returned to Manchester on 14 April 2010. It returned to service shortly afterwards.

Route Usage Notes/Other Units Used
Manchester Piccadilly to Glossop/Hadfield Monday to Sunday None
Manchester Piccadilly to Alderley Edge Monday to Sunday Some weekday peak journeys via Manchester Airport

No Monday - Saturday evening service except for the SO 2338 Manchester Piccadilly - Alderley Edge

Sunday service routed at alternate hours via Manchester Airport and Stockport

Manchester Oxford Road to Wilmslow Monday to Saturday Evenings only via Manchester Airport
Manchester Piccadilly to Crewe via Stockport Monday to Sunday

Hourly service Monday - Saturday, with additional peak services.

The 07.22 Monday to Friday Crewe-Manchester service is formed of 2 × Class 142 units.

2-hourly service on Sundays.

Manchester Piccadilly to Crewe via Manchester Airport Monday to Saturday No evening or Sunday service
Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Airport Monday to Sunday Hourly service
Manchester Piccadilly to Stoke-on-Trent Monday to Sunday Hourly service Monday - Saturday

5 return journey Sunday service

Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester United Football Ground Matchdays only Mixture of 3- or 6-car services

Fleet details[edit]

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos.
Class 323 West Midlands Trains 26 1992–93 3 323201–222, 323240–243
Northern 17 323223–239


  1. ^ a b c d "Class 323 Drivers Manual" (PDF). ttweb. Northern Rail. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Fox, Peter (1994). Electric Multiple Units. British Railways Pocket Book No.4 (7th ed.). Platform 5. pp. 38–39. ISBN 9781872524603.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Class 323". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b "323 Data Sheets". Porterbrook. Retrieved 2018-11-10.
  5. ^ a b Boynton, John (1993). Rails Across The City, The Story of The Birmingham Cross City Line. Mid England Books. ISBN 0-9522248-0-1.
  6. ^ "A Brief History of the Hunslet Engine Co". Leeds Engine Builders. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  7. ^ Electric Multiple Unit Class 333, UK, Siemens
  8. ^ Class 323 - London Midland Porterbrook
  9. ^ Class 323 - Northern Porterbrook
  10. ^ "More seats for rail passengers as nearly £1 billion is invested in Midlands services - GOV.UK".
  11. ^ "Likely removal of North West '323s' angers user group".
  12. ^
  13. ^ CAF to supply 98 trains for Britain's Northern franchise International Railway Journal 22 January 2016
  14. ^ "Train hits 'runaway' car on line". BBC News. 19 December 2008. Retrieved 12 June 2012.