British Rail Classes 253, 254 and 255

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British Rail Classes 253 and 254
High Speed Train
Dawlish Warren 1970s - 5.jpg
Class 253 at Dawlish Warren in the 1970s
In service1976 – present
ManufacturerBritish Rail Engineering Limited
Family nameHigh Speed Train
ReplacedSeparate locomotives and carriages
Constructed1975 – 1982
Number built58 sets (Class 253)
36 sets (Class 254)
Number in service54 sets
Number preserved1 power car
Number scrapped3 sets
Formation2+7 cars (Class 253)
2+8 cars (Class 254)
Fleet numbers253001-253058
Operator(s)Western Region
Eastern Region
Scottish Region
Line(s) servedGreat Western Main Line
East Coast Main Line
Cross Country Route
Midland Main Line
Car body constructionSteel
Maximum speed125 mph (200 km/h)
Prime mover(s)Paxman Valenta 12cyl 12RP200L
Power output2,250 bhp (1,680 kW) per power car

Class 253, Class 254 and Class 255 are TOPS classifications that have in the past been applied to InterCity 125 high speed trains in Great Britain.


Class 253 and 254[edit]

Class 254 at Edinburgh Waverley in 1978

When built, from 1976, the InterCity 125 rolling stock was considered to be diesel-electric multiple units, with semi-fixed formations of power cars and intermediate passenger-carrying trailer cars. They were all numbered in the 4xxxx carriage series set aside for HST and Advanced Passenger Train vehicles. Numbers followed those allocated to the prototype Class 252, so power cars were numbered from 43002 upwards. Class 253 were Western Region 2+7 (two power cars and seven coaches) sets operating out of London Paddington, Class 254 Eastern Region and Scottish Region 2+8 sets (with a second buffet car) operating out of London King's Cross.[1][2]

However, because two power cars carried the same 'set number', problems arose when for servicing reasons different units were used on a train, which would then display a different number at each end. For this reason, British Rail abolished the initial numbering system and all individual power cars became identified as such, using the format 43 xxx - this number was previously carried in small digits in the bodysides, prefixed by a 'W', 'E' or 'Sc' to identify the region, thus the power cars were reclassified as Class 43 diesel locomotives and the trailer cars as hauled Mark 3 carriages, collectively known as an InterCity 125. Despite this change in designation, no power car or carriage was renumbered.

Classes 253 and 254 are still referenced in the Network Rail Scottish sectional appendix.[3]

Class Operator Number Year Built Cars per Set Set Numbers.
Class 253 BR Western Region 27 1975-1977 9 253 001-253 027
13 1978-1979 253 028-253 040
BR Cross Country 18 1981-1982 253 041-253 058
Class 254 BR Eastern Region 32 1977-1979 10 254 001-254 032
BR Scottish Region 4 1982 254 033-254 036

Class 255[edit]

British Rail Class 255 Challenger
In serviceNever Introduced
ManufacturerBritish Rail Engineering Limited
Family nameInterCity 125
Constructed1975 – 1982
2002 (planned refurbishment)
Number built14 sets (planned)
Formation2+5 cars
Operator(s)Virgin CrossCountry
Car body constructionSteel
Maximum speed125 mph (200 km/h)
Prime mover(s)Paxman Valenta 12 cyl 12RP200L
Power output2,250 bhp (1,680 kW) per power car

In 2002, Class 255 was allocated for the reformation of some HST power cars and trailers into semi-fixed formation trains, to be known as Virgin Challengers, for use by Virgin CrossCountry after the introduction of its new Voyagers (classes 220 and 221). These formations would have had power cars sandwiching one Trailer First, a Trailer Buffet, two Trailer Seconds and a Trailer Guard Second, and were intended for use on planned services between Blackpool, Manchester and Birmingham, and Paddington to Birmingham via Swindon.[4] These plans were later abandoned with the Strategic Rail Authority deciding to transfer most of the stock to Midland Mainline for London St Pancras to Manchester Project Rio services.[5][6]

Class 255 is used as the overall class description of Great Western Railway's refurbished HST sets.[7] These short formed sets, featuring a pair of power cars and four passenger vehicles, were introduced to increase capacity on GWR's services between Penzance and Cardiff following the replacement of HSTs on the main intercity routes by Class 800s.[8][9] In GWR's service, the sets are referred to as the Castle Class, with each power car receiving the name of a traditional castle from the south-west.[10]

Class Operator Number Year Built Cars per Set Set Numbers.
Class 255 Virgin CrossCountry 14 (planned) 2002 (planned refurbishment) 2+5 255001-255014
Great Western Railway 11 2018-2019 (refurbishment) 2+4 TBC


The vehicle types used to form High Speed Trains are listed below:

Number Range Type Notes
400xx Trailer Buffet (TRSB) Renumbered 404xx in 1983; some converted to 402xx series
403xx Trailer Buffet (TRUB) All converted to 407xx series (first class)
405xx Trailer Kitchen (TRUK) All withdrawn and converted for other uses
41xxx Trailer First (TF) Majority in service, some converted or scrapped
42xxx Trailer Second (TS) Majority in service, some converted or scrapped
43002-43198 Driving Motor (Brake) (DM or DMB) Majority in service, three scrapped after accidents
44000-44101 Trailer Guard Second (TGS) Majority in service, some converted

The 197 power cars produced are numbered 43002-43198. The two prototype power cars, were originally numbered 41001 and 41002, latterly becoming 43000 and 43001.

Accidents and incidents[edit]


  1. ^ "Class 253 High Speed Train". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
  2. ^ "Class 254 High Speed Train". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Sectional Appendix full PDF copies". Network Rail. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  4. ^ Virgin set to rebrand HSTs as Class 255 Challengers The Railway Magazine issue 1210 February 2002 page 4
  5. ^ Virgin's HST Challenger project is put on ice Rail issue 453 22 January 2003 page 15
  6. ^ Privatisation 1993 - 2005 125 Group
  7. ^ Assisted Travel Team (2018). Making rail accessible: Helping older and disabled people (Technical report). Great Western Railway. p. 70. 503058/02.
  8. ^ Clinnick, Richard (21 May 2019). "Speculation increases over use of HSTs". Rail. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  9. ^ GWR to retain 11 HST sets for local services Today's Railways UK issue 181 January 2017 page 67
  10. ^ "HST Nameplate Display". Steam - Museum of the Great Western Railway. Archived from the original on 19 August 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  11. ^ Hoole, Ken (1983). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 4. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 36. ISBN 0 906899 07 9.

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