British Rail Class 442

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British Rail Class 442 Wessex Electric
Hugh llewelyn 442 442 (6620468847).jpg
442414 sweeps through Battersea Park in the Gatwick Express livery
442421 Interior.JPG
In service 1988–2007, 2008–
Manufacturer BREL
Built at Derby Works
Family name Mark 3-derived
Replaced Class 432
Class 438
Number built 24 trainsets
Number in service 24 trainsets
Formation 5-car set: DTS-TSO-MLC-TSW-DTS
Capacity SWT: 266 standard, 50 first
GatEx: 322 standard, 24 first
Operator(s) GTR Gatwick Express
Car length DTS - 23.15 m (75 ft 11.4 in)
TSO/TSW/MLC - 23 m (75 ft)
Width 2.74 m (9 ft)
Height 3.81 m (12.5 ft)
Maximum speed 160 km/h (100 mph)
Weight Trainset total 202.84 t (199.64 long tons; 223.59 short tons)
Traction system 4 x English Electric 546 of 300 kW (402.31 hp) each
Power output 1,200 kW (1,600 hp)
Power supply Third rail electric
Electric system(s) 750 V DC
Braking system(s) Disc
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
442402 "County of Hampshire" at Wool on 16 April 2004, with a South West Trains service from London Waterloo to Weymouth.
442407 "Thomas Hardy" at Moreton on 10 April 2006. This unit carries the revised South West Trains livery with differently coloured doors to conform with the Disability Discrimination Act.

The British Rail Class 442 Wessex Electric (or 5WES) electric multiple-unit passenger trains were introduced in 1988 on the South Western Main Line from London Waterloo to Southampton Central, Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth. Twenty-four of these 5-car units were built in 1988/89 by BREL at its Derby works. Their introduction coincided with the completion of electrification from Bournemouth to Weymouth. Post-privatisation, the entire fleet was operated by South West Trains up until February 2007, when the Class 442 trains were replaced by Class 444 and Class 450 Desiros.

In 2008 Southern began refurbishing the units for the Gatwick Express service from Brighton to Gatwick Airport and London Victoria. The Southern refurbishment and overhaul programme meant that by September 2012 the fleet had replaced all the Class 460 Juniper units. This was a controversial move, because the Class 442s are older than the Class 460s and have lower acceleration,[citation needed] although they underwent an extensive refurbishment to give them the extra luggage space needed for airport rail links.[1] They are due to be replaced on Gatwick Express services by 2016 with the new Class 387.

The class holds the world speed record for a third-rail train with 174 km/h (108 mph), attained on 11 April 1988.


The Class 442 "5WES" or "Wessex Electric" is based on the British Rail Mark 3 carriage bodyshell, and has a number of features which distinguish it from the slam-door units it replaced:

  • Vehicle length is 23 m (75 ft), as opposed to 20 m (66 ft).
  • All vehicles are air-conditioned, and have powered internal doors and external plug doors.
  • Units consist of five vehicles, and operate as 5-car or 10-car trains, replacing 4-car units which operated as 4-, 8- or 12-car trains.
  • Maximum permitted speed is 100 mph (160 km/h).

As was common on the British Rail Southern Region, many electrical components – including traction motors and electrical control gear – were salvaged from the Class 432 units they replaced. For this reason the older 4REP and 4TC units had to be withdrawn before their replacements were built.

The Class 442 "Wessex Electric" was one of the first types to make extensive use of plastics in construction, and earned the nickname among staff and rail enthusiasts of "Pigs" or "Piggies".[2] When they were first introduced the units were plagued by minor technical failures, but they have subsequently become among the most reliable EMUs operating in the UK.[citation needed]


British Railways and South West Trains[edit]

The units were initially used solely on the Weymouth line, but through the 1990s began to be used on the London Waterloo to Portsmouth direct line. The increased top speed of the Class 442, combined with timetable changes, resulted in some minor journey time improvements, for example a non-stop service reaching Southampton Airport Parkway from London Waterloo in 58 minutes, over a journey of around 70 miles (110 km). The timetable change of December 2004 meant that the down non-stop train from London Waterloo took an hour to reach Winchester.

Upon privatisation the whole fleet passed to the South West Trains franchise. Unit 442402 soon had an orange stripe added to its Network SouthEast livery, which looked very similar to Stagecoach Group's corporate image. From 1998 the units began to receive the new South West Trains Express livery of white, red and blue as they underwent overhaul at Crewe Works. Unit 442404 was the first to be so treated.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s the fleet continued to operate express services from London to Weymouth and Portsmouth. However, in 2004, when the Class 444 "Desiro" trains had been brought into service, the "Wessex Electrics" were again used solely on the Weymouth line.

In early 2006 the fleet began to receive overhauls, with units emerging in a slightly revised livery which conformed with the Disability Discrimination Act. By January 2007 14 of the 24 units had received overhauls.

Despite their recent overhauls, South West Trains withdrew the entire fleet in 2007. They replaced them with Class 444s, which were in turn replaced by Class 450s spare from the re-introduction of Class 458s into traffic after modifications to their destination displays.

The last class 442 Weymouth to London Waterloo operation was on 24 January 2007 with the final service on 3 February 2007. The lease expired on 4 February 2007 at 0200. The units were moved from Bournemouth Traincare Depot to Eastleigh Works for warm storage.


Southern originally leased 17 of these units to operate the extended Gatwick Express service which began in December 2008. Originally some units were kept out of service for spare parts.[3] In October 2008 unit 442414 became the first unit to be fully refurbished inside and out, 442412 and 442421 following shortly afterwards.

The new extended Gatwick Express service was introduced on 15 December 2008.[4] The new service, operating Monday to Friday, comprises six services in the morning from Brighton and six services to Brighton in the evening with an additional service terminating at Haywards Heath.

In addition some Peak Hour services to/from London Bridge to Brighton and Eastbourne are operated by pairs of Class 442s.

In April 2009 Southern took an extra two units from Eastleigh Works to make up for the shortfall in units caused by their use on other services.

When Govia retained the Southern franchise, it was announced that the off-lease 442s would come back into use after mechanical overhaul as well as internal and external refurbishment. In turn, Southern began withdrawing its Class 460 units from service, the last unit being withdrawn after the London 2012 Olympics.

Since 2012 the branding on the units has been modified to read simply 'Express' rather than 'Gatwick Express' to avoid passenger confusion when used on fast Brighton Main Line services that do not call at Gatwick.


Govia has announced that, in addition to the new Thameslink trains, it will order new trains for the Brighton and Gatwick Express routes; 108 carriages are expected. These will be classed as Class 387/2s. There is a franchise commitment to replace the Class 442 in 2016.[5][6] Angel is now assessing the future of the Class 442.

The Department for Transport included the Class 442 as an option for the TransPennine Express franchise,[7] however the winning bidder (First Group) did not take up the option. [8]

Fleet details[edit]

Units are numbered 442401–424 and are formed of two outer driving trailers, two intermediate trailers, and an intermediate motor vehicle. In accordance with Southern Region practice, the units only carried the last four digits of their unit numbers when in service with South West Trains. Units refurbished for Southern now carry the full six digits.

Individual vehicles are numbered as follows:

  • 77382–77405 - DTS - Driving Trailer Standard (formerly DTFo (Driving Trailer First Semi-open) )
  • 71818–71841 - TSO - Trailer Standard Open
  • 62937–62960 - MLC - Motor Luggage Composite (formerly MBLS (Motor Buffet Lounge Standard) )
  • 71842–71865 - TSW - Trailer Standard Wheelchair
  • 77406–77429 - DTS - Driving Trailer Standard
Class 442 in original Network South East livery

The motor buffet vehicles were all modernised in a works programme at Crewe in 1997/98. At the same time units were repainted from their original Network SouthEast livery into South West Trains' Express livery. During 2006 South West Trains sent some units to Bombardier at Ilford, where the livery was modified to make it Disability Discrimination Act friendly; however, not all trains were modified as it was later announced that the trains were to be withdrawn from service. In 2008, units started to go to Wolverton works for refurbishment. The refurbishment included the removal of the buffet from the motor coach, all new seats, and the removal of first class from the front of the train to the motor coach. Door controls were also placed in the driving cabs so doors could be released and closed by the driver, although Gatwick Express intends to use this only for door release.

The description of this formation is DTS+TSO+MLC+TSW+DTS.

During the years of Network SouthEast and South West Trains, various units have received names. Most of these were towns or places along the routes that they worked, but a few were for publicity purposes. When the South West Trains lease expired all nameplates were removed.

The complete fleet list is shown below, with details of vehicle numbers, former names and livery.

Unit number Former name
(Removed after the South
West Trains lease expired)
Livery Individual coach numbers Date withdrawn
442401 Beaulieu Gatwick Express 77382 71818 62937 71842 77406 22 January 2007
442402 County of Hampshire Gatwick Express 77383 71819 62938 71843 77407 16 February 2007
442403 The New Forest Gatwick Express 77384 71820 62941 71844 77408 17 January 2007
442404 Borough of Woking Gatwick Express 77385 71821 62939 71845 77409 15 January 2007
442405 City of Portsmouth Gatwick Express 77386 71822 62944 71846 77410 15 February 2007
442406 Victory Gatwick Express 77389 71823 62942 71847 77411 15 January 2007
442407 Thomas Hardy Gatwick Express 77388 71824 62943 71848 77412 22 January 2007
442408 County of Dorset Gatwick Express 77387 71825 62945 71849 77413 17 January 2007
442409 Bournemouth Orchestras Gatwick Express 77390 71826 62946 71850 77414 12 January 2007
442410 Meridian Tonight Gatwick Express 77391 71827 62948 71851 77415 24 January 2007
442411 The Railway Children Gatwick Express 77392 71828 62940 71858 77422 29 January 2007
442412 Special Olympics Gatwick Express 77393 71829 62947 71853 77417 12 February 2007
442413 Gatwick Express 77394 71830 62949 71854 77418[9] 02 February 2007
442414 Gatwick Express 77395 71831 62950 71855 77419 24 January 2007
442415 Mary Rose Gatwick Express 77396 71832 62951 71856 77420 10 November 2006
442416 Mum in a Million 1997 - Doreen Scanlon Gatwick Express 77397 71833 62952 71857 77421 31 December 2006
442417 Woking Homes Gatwick Express 77398 71834 62953 71852 77416 19 January 2007
442418 Wessex Cancer Trust Gatwick Express 77399 71835 62954 71859 77423 24 January 2007
442419 BBC South Today[10] Gatwick Express 77400 71836 62955 71860 77424 12 February 2007
442420 City of Southampton Gatwick Express 77401 71837 62956 71861 77425 12 January 2007
442421 Gatwick Express 77402 71838 62957 71862 77426 26 January 2007
442422 Operation Overlord Gatwick Express 77403 71839 62958 71863 77427 11 January 2007
442423 County of Surrey Gatwick Express 77404 71840 62959 71864 77428 18 April 2007
442424 Gerry Newson Gatwick Express 77405 71841 62960 71865 77429 22 January 2007
Class 442 Southern Diagram.PNG

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Gatwick service benefits Brighton". BBC News. 14 December 2008. 
  2. ^ Hentis-rail - Tribute to the Wessex Electrics Archived 27 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "More trains arriving on busy rail routes" (Press release). Department for Transport. 4 April 2007. Extra carriages for the service will be provided by Southern probably leasing some of the class 442 fleet which is currently not in use. 
  4. ^ "Gatwick service benefits Brighton" BBC News. 14 December 2008.
  5. ^ "New rail franchising deal set to transform passenger services across London and south east" (Press release). Department for Transport (DfT). 23 May 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  6. ^ "Govia wins Thameslink rail franchise". BBC News. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  7. ^ "TransPennine Express Invitation to Tender Clause iv" (PDF). Department for Transport. 27 February 2015. p. 93. 
  8. ^ "FirstGroup awarded TransPennine Express franchise". Rail Technology Magazine. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  9. ^ For a short while the DTS vehicles from units 442413 and 442418 were swapped following problems with these units. The DTS from 442413 had a broken windscreen, and the motor coach in 442418 had suffered a failure. A complete working unit, numbered 442413, was thus created. The four coaches from the original 442413 carried the new livery, having just undergone overhaul, while the DTS (still numbered 2418) carried the old livery.
  10. ^ De-named by Sally Taylor (BBC South Today Presenter) on 9 January 2007.