British Rail Class 43 (HST)

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For the earlier railway locomotives called Class 43, see British Rail Class 43 (Warship Class).
British Rail Class 43
St Philip's Marsh - GWR 43002 Sir Kenneth Grange.JPG
43002 restored to original livery in 2016
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder British Rail Engineering Limited Crewe Works
Build date 1975–1982
Total produced 197
Configuration Bo-Bo
UIC class Bo'Bo'
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Bogies BP10
Wheel diameter 3 ft 4 in (1.016 m)
Length 17.79 metres (58.4 ft)
Width 2.74 metres (9.0 ft)
Loco weight 70.25 tonnes (69.14 long tons; 77.44 short tons)
Fuel capacity 990 imp gal (4,500 l; 1,190 US gal)
Prime mover Paxman 12VP185 or MTU 16V4000 R41R
Originally Paxman Valenta 12RP200L
Alternator VP185: Brush Traction BA1001B
MTU: Brush Traction BA1001C
Traction motors GEC G417AZ (43124-43152)
Brush Traction TMH68-46
Both frame mounted, four off.
Transmission Engine driven alternator and rectifier supplying DC to traction motors
MU working Within class only
Train heating Electric Train Heat
Train brakes Air
Performance figures
Maximum speed in service: 125 mph (201 km/h)
Record: 148 mph (238 km/h)
Power output Engine: 2,250 hp (1,678 kW)
At rail: 1,320 kW (1,770 bhp)
Tractive effort Maximum: 17,980 lbf (80.0 kN)
Continuous: 10,340 lbf (46.0 kN) @64.5 mph (104 km/h) [1]
Loco brakeforce 35 long tons-force (349 kN)
Operators Current
East Midlands Trains
Grand Central
Network Rail
Virgin Trains East Coast
Great Western Railway
British Rail
Midland Mainline
National Express East Coast
Virgin CrossCountry
East Coast
Virgin Trains (West Coast)
Cotswold Rail
Abellio ScotRail
Numbers 43002–43198
Axle load class Route availability 5

The British Rail Class 43 (HST) is the TOPS classification used for the InterCity 125 High Speed Train (formerly classes 253 and 254) power cars, built by British Rail Engineering Limited from 1975 to 1982.

The class is officially the fastest diesel locomotive in the world, with an absolute maximum speed of 148 mph (238 km/h), and a regular service speed of 125 mph (201 km/h).

History and background[edit]

In the early 1970s the British Railways Board made the decision to replace its main-line express diesel traction. Financial limitations were tight, so mass electrification was not possible. As a result, a new generation of high-speed diesel trains had to be developed.

Experience with the high-speed Class 55 Deltic locomotives had shown that a low axle weight was essential to avoid damage to the track at sustained high speed, and that high-speed engines were the only way to provide a good enough power/weight ratio for diesels. To power the HST at up to 125 mph (201 km/h), each power car had a new diesel engine, the 12-cylinder Paxman Valenta, running at 1,500 rpm and developing 2,250 bhp (1,680 kW). The 70-tonne weight of the power car gave it a 17.5-tonne axle loading.

Development and design[edit]


Prototype power car 41001 (left) with first production power car 43002

The prototype set was developed at the Railway Technical Centre, Derby, the power cars having been constructed by BREL Crewe Works and the British Rail Mark 3 passenger cars by BREL at Derby Litchurch Lane Works. The engine used in the prototype power cars was the Paxman 'Valenta' 12RP200L, which developed 2,250 horsepower (1,680 kW). The electrical equipment was supplied by Brush. The power cars had a main driver's position at one aerodynamically shaped end with the other flat and gangwayed end having only an auxiliary driving position for shunting purposes.

The two prototype power cars emerged from the works in June and August 1972 and were initially numbered 41001 and 41002, but after a short period the entire set, including the passenger coaches, became reclassified as a diesel-electric multiple unit: British Rail Class 252. The power cars were given the coaching stock numbers 43000 and 43001. After proving trials on the Eastern Region the prototype High Speed Diesel Train (HSDT) was transferred to the Western Region, where it was deployed on Paddington Bristol/Weston-super-Mare services.

In May 2011 the National Railway Museum (NRM) announced that the remaining HST prototype power car 41001 would undergo full restoration work.[1] A long-term loan was agreed between the NRM and the 125 Group of volunteers for the locomotive and a Paxman Valenta RP200L engine. The replacement engine (no. S508) was required as the original Valenta engine (no. S183) had been sectioned for display purposes. The S508 engine was lifted into the locomotive at Neville Hill TMD on 29 June 2012.[2]

In order to facilitate a main line move, Class 41 prototype HST power car 41001 was re-registered as a Class 43/9 locomotive, with the number 43000. It is the only locomotive in this sub-class.[3]

Production series[edit]

The design was successful and led to production orders being placed for similar trains for the Western, Eastern, Scottish and London Midland Regions. The production power cars featured a redesigned front end without conventional buffers, although a rigid drawbar can be used to connect an HST to an ordinary locomotive. Following the introduction of production HST sets, the prototype unit was withdrawn, the power cars passing to the Research Division at Derby. Of the ten prototype coaches, two were adapted for use in the Royal Train,[4] five were modified for use with the production HSTs,[5] and three were transferred to Departmental stock.[6]

The 197 power cars produced are numbered 43002-43198. 43001 was applied to the second of the two prototype power cars, while the first of the pair (now preserved and operational at the Great Central Railway (Nottingham)) became 43000, which is unusual because BR TOPS classification numbered its locomotives from 001 upwards (this was because it was not, at the time, classified as a locomotive).

Buffered units[edit]

43468 Departs London King's Cross

In 1987, as electrification of the East Coast Main Line was under way, British Rail realised that the new Mk4 carriages for the Class 89 and 91 locomotives were not going to be finished in time for the introduction of electric services on the East Coast Main Line so, in late 1987, a total of eight Eastern Region power cars (Numbers 43013/014/065/067/068/080/084/123) conversions (on 43014/123) were carried out at the Derby Engineering Development Unit, whilst the other six (43013/065/067/068/080/084) were converted by the diesel repair shop at Stratford to have the lower valancing removed and buffers fitted.

After being fitted with buffers, these power cars began work as surrogate DVTs to work with the Class 91s and 89. The locomotives, working with conventional Mk3 stock, worked on the line between 1987 and 1991, when the last Class 91 locomotives entered service. As well as buffers being fitted to these powercars, special remote control equipment was also added to the locomotives so they could be controlled by the locomotive at the front. Once these locomotives left DVT duties, the remote equipment was removed.

After privatisation, these power cars joined the Virgin Trains fleet working both Virgin CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast routes, where they displaced loco-hauled stock. All the units were repainted from their original Intercity colours to the Virgin Red livery. Later, Virgin Trains gave up the HSTs when new Virgin Voyager units were delivered, and nearly all of these power cars went into storage at Long Marston yard.

After years of storage, several of the powercars were bought by Midland Mainline to be part of 'Project Rio', special services running from St Pancras Station to Manchester while major engineering works were undertaken on the West Coast Main Line. These units were kept in the de-branded Virgin Trains livery throughout their time with Midland Mainline and put back in storage once Project Rio had finished in 2006.

43013 and 43014 joined Network Rail's New Measurement Train in 2003 and have continued to work with this service ever since. Both of these units have now had MTU engines fitted.

43080 was leased to GNER as a one-off powercar, working as a spare unit that could be easily called for if a HST failed. For most of its time with GNER, it was based at Craigentinny yard in Edinburgh and was painted into GNER colours. This locomotive's lease ended in 2006 and it was returned to storage at Long Marston.

In 2007, Grand Central Railway took an interest in the stored power cars and amalgamated them into its fleet of three HST sets. In total, 43065/067/068/080/084/123 were bought by the company and now run high-speed services between Sunderland and London Kings Cross. HSTs 43084 and 43123 were the final operational Paxman Valenta power cars, being re-engined in 2010 with the MTU treatment. While at the works being re-engined, Grand Central added the orange stripe that appears on its Class 180 units, re-painted the front ends (making them look more like the non-buffered HSTs), and re-numbered the power cars into the four-hundreds. These are the current numbers: 43465 (065)/467 (067)/468 (068)/480 (080)/484 (084)/423 (123).


Paxman VP185 engine in a class 43 of East Midlands Trains
Video of a GWR High Speed Train with MTU engines

British Rail experimented with Mirrlees Blackstone MB190 engines in four Western region examples (43167–43170) between 1987 and 1996, but this experiment was unsuccessful and the standard Paxman Valenta engines re-installed. These four locomotives have since all been re-engined with the MTU 16V4000 engine. 43167 is now 43367 and operates with Virgin Trains East Coast, whilst 43168-43170 are still in service, in the former Western region area under Great Western Railway

Paxman began development of the Valenta's successor, the VP185, in 1987. The suggestion that British Rail participate in a trial of the new VP185 engine in the IC125 was first mooted in January 1991, and a formal agreement for the trial was signed in May 1993.[7]

A qualifying requirement for the trial was that the engine should undergo a British Rail Type Test which was carried out between December 1993 and February 1994.[7] The test involved completion of 3,000 cycles, each of 10 minutes duration, with four minutes at the maximum power of 2,611 kW (3,501 bhp) and six minutes at idle, simulating the typical 'on-off' nature of IC125 duty. The test was much more severe than operational duty, where the train operates at a maximum of 1,678 kW (2,250 bhp). The successful results of the test cleared the way for installation of a VP185 in Power Car 43170 at Plymouth Laira Depot for in-service trials in the summer of 1994. Power car 43170 entered service on 22 September 1994.[7] 43170 was given the nameplate "Edward Paxman".[clarification needed][8]

During the late 1990s twenty-five HST power cars were re-engined with Paxman 12VP185L engines in order to improve fuel consumption and reduce emissions.

The very last VP185 engine to be manufactured at Paxman's Colchester Works was despatched from the factory on 15 September 2003 as part of a program to convert 14 Midland Mainline power cars to VP185 engines to supplement the four already converted during 1994/95, and this led to 43043/045/048-050/052/055/060/061/072/073/076/082 joining 43047/059/074/075 with this engine type.[9]

Today there are no production power cars fitted with a Paxman Valenta engine, although the 125 Group have reinstalled a Paxman Valenta in the surviving prototype powercar, 41001 (formerly 43000).

Diesel-battery hybrid trial[edit]

In 2007 Brush Traction and Hitachi equipped Paxman Valenta powered 43089 and a semi-permanently coupled Mark 3 coach with a diesel-battery hybrid power system for experimental trials. The power car was named "Hayabusa" (Hayabusa, はやぶさ, Japanese for Peregrine falcon, project name 'V-Train 2').[10][11][12] It has since been returned to normal service with East Midlands Trains.

Life extension[edit]

The HST, having been in operation since the late 1970s, is due for replacement by the Hitachi Super Express. The development cycle for the replacement series is such that the existing fleet may be required to operate through to 2019 or beyond.

  • During 2005, two Class 43 power cars (43004 and 43009) operated by First Great Western were fitted with new MTU V16 4000 engines before being tested in passenger operation on the Great Western Line. In December 2005, First announced that all its power cars would receive the MTU engine. The MTU engine offers improvements over the existing Paxman 12RP200 'Valenta' engines, with reduced noise, smoke and exhaust emissions, improved reliability and fuel efficiency.[13]
  • East Coast also re-engined its fleet with MTU engines, a process begun under its predecessor GNER. East Coast's fleet of re-engined power cars have been renumbered into the 432xx and 433xx series by adding 200 to the existing power car number.
  • East Midlands Trains stated that it would install Paxman VP185 engines in all its powercars before the end of its franchise. It has since completed this operation, though the re-engined power cars retain their original numbers
  • Grand Central has 43468 (formerly 43068) and 43480 (formerly 43080) now with MTU engines fitted, entering service on 21 September 2010; they have also been repainted with an orange stripe to match Grand Central's Class 180s.[14] 43465 (formerly 43065) and 43467 (formerly 43067) have been re-engined by Brush Traction in Loughborough and are now operational. 43084 has suffered major power-unit failure and is being re-engined by Brush, leaving 43123 as the final Valenta powercar; it now carries a plaque reading "Valenta 1972-2010". The final passenger service of a Valenta engine was on 19 December 2010. On 22 December 2010 the Valenta was used in four farewell tours between York and Sunderland using 43123. 43084 and 43123 have now been re-engined by Brush Traction in Loughborough and have been renumbered 43484 and 43423.
  • CrossCountry's first CrossCountry-liveried HST powercar, 43301 (formerly 43101) was released from its overhaul at Brush Traction, Loughborough on 16 July 2008. To identify its fleet, CrossCountry is renumbering all its HST units by adding an extra 200 to the old number.
  • Network Rail's New Measurement Train is a specially converted InterCity 125. It can check the condition of railway lines over a 13-week cycle. On the West Coast Main Line, care is taken so tilting trains can safely run. It measures contact between wheels, rails and overhead power lines and is equipped with lasers, video cameras and other instruments. It was launched in 2003, but the vehicles used for it are older. Its yellow livery has earned it the nickname "The Flying Banana", which was previously used for older High Speed Trains with a similar livery.


An eight-car East Coast Main Line set in 1979
A seven-car Cross Country set in the 1980s
Main article: InterCity 125

When Crewe Works built them, the InterCity 125 units were considered to be diesel multiple units, and were allocated Classes 253 and 254 for Western and Eastern Region services respectively. The locomotives were introduced in the Midland region later.

Until the HST's introduction, the maximum speed of British trains was limited to 100 mph (160 km/h). The increased speed and rapid acceleration and deceleration of the HST made it ideal for passenger use, and it slashed journey times around the country. The prototype InterCity 125 (power cars 43000 and 43001) set the world record for diesel traction at 143 mph (230 km/h) on 12 June 1973. An HST also holds the world speed record for a diesel train carrying passengers. On 27 September 1985, a special press run for the launch of a new Tees-Tyne Pullman service from Newcastle to London King's Cross, formed of a shortened 2+5 set, briefly touched 144 mph (232 km/h) north of York.

During 1987, eight HST power cars were converted for use as driving van trailers (DVTs) with Class 91 locomotives during trials on the East Coast Main Line. The power cars were fitted with buffers and Time Division Multiplex equipment that allowed them to directly control a Class 91, and were moved over to the ECML where they were used on workings with Class 89 and then Class 91 locomotives from London to Leeds. After the Mk 4 stock had been delivered, the HST power cars had the TDM equipment removed, and then reverted to their normal duties. The power cars used for this project can be easily identified as they are still fitted with buffers. They were then transferred to Virgin Cross Country, and put in storage when Virgin replaced its HST fleet with Bombardier's Voyager (though Arriva, upon later taking over the franchise, acquired 10 power cars, 4 of which were buffered). Grand Central bought six of these for services from Sunderland to London, the remaining two having been integrated into Network Rail's New Measurement Train.

After the privatisation of British Rail the HST sets continued to be used. 194 of the 197 locomotives built remain in service, the most at any one point in history. The three units that are not in service were 43173, 43011 and 43019. All three were written off by fatal rail accidents in 1997, 1999 and 2004.

Fleet status[edit]

Status/Operator Image Number Notes
CrossCountry 43301 Plymouth.JPG 10[15] Some Class 43/2 and Class 43/3 powercars, all with MTU engines.
East Midlands Trains St Philips open day - 43048.JPG 24 Some Class 43/0 powercars, all with Paxman VP185 engines.
Great Western Railway St Philips open day - 43187.JPG 119[15] Some Class 43/0 and all Class 43/1 power cars, with MTU engines and Automatic Train Protection. To be replaced by Class 800/Class 801/Class 802.
Grand Central Railway St Philips open day - 43423.JPG 6 All Class 43/4 with MTU engines, buffered from previous use as surrogate DVTs. To be replaced by Class 180 "Adelante" by 2017.
Network Rail St Philips open day - 43013.JPG 3 New Measurement Train. Pool consists of 43013, 014, 062. All are in "Flying Banana" Network Rail livery, fitted with external video cameras and MTU engines. 013 and 014 buffered from previous use as surrogate DVTs.
Virgin Trains East Coast St Philips open day - 43300.JPG 32[15] Some Class 43/2 and Class 43/3, all with MTU engines. To be replaced by Class 800/Class 801 by December 2018.
Scrapped 3
  • 43173 - written off in the Southall crash of 19 September 1997, being disposed of after completion of the inquiry into the accident. Cut up by Serco at MOD Shoeburyness.
  • 43011 - written off in the Ladbroke Grove crash of 5 October 1999, being disposed of after completion of the inquiry into the accident. Cut up by Sims Metals at Crewe Works in June 2002. (Power car 43033 is dedicated to the driver, Brian Cooper, who perished in the incident.)
  • 43019 - written off in the Ufton Nervet level crossing collision of 6 November 2004. Cut up by Sims Metals of Beeston in July 2005. (Power car 43139 is dedicated to the driver, Stanley Martin, 54, of Torquay, Devon who perished in the incident.)

Cascade to Scotland[edit]

Abellio ScotRail will introduce 14 four-carriage and 13 five-carriage (both will include buffet cars) refurbished High Speed Trains by December 2018 on longer-distance services from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen and Inverness.[16][17][18][19]

This is contingent on the rolling stock being released by Great Western Railway, with suggestions in July 2015 that the electrification of the Great Western Main Line was running 12 months late.[20][19]

Fortieth anniversary[edit]

To celebrate the HST's fortieth anniversary, in May 2016 an open day was held at Bristol St Philip's Marsh depot with a line up of Class 43s from each operator. At the event 43002 was unveiled in original British Rail livery. and named Sir Kenneth Grange after the Class 43's designer.[21] In October 2016 43185 was unveiled in InterCity Swallow livery.[22] Both are operated by Great Western Railway.


There have been minor incidents involving Class 43s:

  • On 16 March 1986, power car 43118 received collision damage after running through a buffer stop and derailing, while leaving Neville Hill TMD.[23]
  • On 3 April 2016, a Class 43 was involved in what was described as a 'low impact' collision at Plymouth railway station. A local commuter service collided with a Plymouth to London Paddington train at low speed and power car 43160 received damage to its nose and valancing.[24]

There have also been three serious incidents involving Class 43s, which all took place on the Great Western Main Line; these accidents resulted in three power cars being written off.

  • Southall rail crash: on 19 September 1997 a Swansea to London Paddington service failed to stop at a red signal, which resulted in a high-speed collision with a freight train.
  • Ladbroke Grove rail crash: on 5 October 1999 a British Rail Class 165 unit passed a signal set at danger while leaving London Paddington on a Thames Trains service. This resulted in a serious collision with a London-bound HST service.
  • Ufton Nervet rail crash: on 6 November 2004 a London-to-Plymouth HST service collided with a car on the Ufton Nervet level crossing. The impact with the car resulted in a serious derailment which killed six people aboard the train, including the driver.


Hitachi Class 800 Super Express undergoing testing at Old Dalby test track. These trains will partially replace the HST on the Great Western Main Line and the East Coast Main Line.

Built between 1975 and 1982, the fleet is now in its fourth decade, and a replacement for the High Speed Train is being sought. This project, the Intercity Express Programme (originally known as the HST2), is being spearheaded by the Department for Transport. A consortium headed by Hitachi will design and build the replacement Hitachi Super Express Train. Various formations are to be built, an electric version and an electro-diesel in 5 or 9 carriage lengths. The initial batches will replace HSTs on the Great Western Main Line and East Coast Main Line Main Lines.

On the Greater Western franchise, the current fleet of HSTs is expected to remain in service until 2017, the scheduled date for introduction of the Intercity Express. Between 12 and 20 HST sets were to be retained and refurbished to carry on providing services between London and Devon and Cornwall, where no electrification is currently planned, and where the Class 800's engines would not be capable of negotiating the steep gradients along the South Devon Banks, through to the mid-2020s.[25] A 2011 report concluded that the Mark 3 coaches could remain in service as late as 2035 with some minor rewiring and enhancements required under disability legislation.[26] However, it was announced in March 2015 that, subject to approval and contract, the HSTs will now be replaced with the Class 802, a more powerful derivative of the bi-mode Class 800s.[27]

Initially, high-speed DMUs from the Bombardier Voyager family as well as Alstom's Class 180 (Adelante) replaced numerous HSTs, but all locomotives and sets have been bought back into service as a result of increasing demand. Some will be cascaded to Abellio ScotRail to replace the Class 170 units on InterCity services in the region.[28]

Grand Central railway announced that it will lease five more Class 180 units cascaded from Great Western Railway to replace their HST trains and increase their overall fleet size.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Prototype HST to run again". Railway Magazine. 15 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Project Miller 41001 Engine Lift (S508) June 2012. 29 June 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Heelas, Gary (13 June 2012). "Power trip". Rail Magazine (698): 44–47. 
  4. ^ Fox, Peter (1989). Coaching Stock Pocket Book (12th ed.). Sheffield: Platform 5 Publications. p. 9. ISBN 0-906579-89-9. 
  5. ^ Fox 1989, p. 54
  6. ^ Fox, Peter (1984). Departmental Coaching Stock (1st ed.). Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. pp. 20, 23, 26. ISBN 0-906579-37-6. 
  7. ^ a b c Paxman and Diesel Rail Traction (A New Engine for the InterCity 125) - Paxman History Pages - Paxman and Diesel Rail Traction. Retrieved 8 January 2011.
  8. ^ brpaxman.jpg - Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  9. ^ Privatisation 1993 - 2005 - 125 Group. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  10. ^ Grantham, Andrew (4 May 2007), Hybrid HST unveiled, Railway Gazette International 
  11. ^ "V-Train 2",, retrieved June 2012  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  12. ^ Hirofumi Ojima (February 2008), Towards Sustainable Technology in Transport Sector - Developing Trains with lower CO2 Emissiosn (PDF), Hitachi Europe, 4. Hybrid diesel train – Trial in UK 
  13. ^ "Fitting the MTU power unit into the HSTs". 15 August 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2010. 
  14. ^ "New engines and new look for Grand Central HSTs". Rail (654). Peterborough. 6 October 2010. p. 11. 
  15. ^ a b c Marsden, Colin J (2013). Rail Guide. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 978 0 7110 3739 7. 
  16. ^ "Abellio awarded ScotRail franchise". Railway Gazette (London). 8 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Cheaper advance fares among Abellio ScotRail plans" The Scotsman (Edinburgh) 8 October 2014
  18. ^ "Quality and more trains key to Abellio's SR franchise" Rail Magazine issue 760 29 October 2014 page 10
  19. ^ a b "ScotRail HST fleet plans". RAIL magazine. Peterborough. 1 September 2015. Retrieved 12 November 2015. 
  20. ^ "Factory on wheels delays rail electrification by a year". BBC News. 7 July 2015.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Works report". Rail Enthusiast. No. 57. EMAP National Publications. June 1986. p. 19. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965. 
  24. ^ "Plymouth 'low impact' train crash leaves 18 injured". BBC News. 4 April 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  25. ^ "First pledges co-operation as franchise end nears". Modern Railways. London. August 2011. p. 36. 
  26. ^ "HSTs are good to 2035". Railway Gazette. 8 April 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  27. ^ Demanyk, G. (23 March 2015). "New train fleet to replace Devon, Cornwall and Somerset's ageing inter-cities". Western Morning News. Plymouth. 
  28. ^ "ScotRail HST fleet plans". Rail. Peterborough. 1 September 2015. 
  29. ^ "Grand Central to acquire five FGW 180s" Rail Magazine issue 759 15 October 2014 page 11

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]