British Rail Mark 4

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British Rail Mark 4
Rake of VTEC Mark 4 London Kings Cross 1.jpg
VTEC Refurbished Mark 4 Standard Class Interior.jpg
The interior of Standard Class aboard a Virgin Trains East Coast refurbished Mark 4 TSO vehicle
In service1989 - present
Washwood Heath
Constructed1989 - 1992
Number built302
Number in service144
Number scrapped19
Formation9 carriage sets
Operator(s)London North Eastern Railway
Line(s) servedEast Coast Main Line
Car body constructionFully integral, steel monocoque
Car length23 m (75 ft 6 in) over buffers (23.4 m (76 ft 9 in) over couplings)
Width2.73 m (8 ft 11 in) (over body)
Height3.79 m (12 ft 5 in) (rail to roof)
DoorsHinged plug, pneumatically operated
Maximum speed140 mph (225 km/h)
Weight39.9–43.5 tonnes (39–43 long tons; 44–48 short tons)
BogiesSIG BT41A[1]
Braking system(s)Triple axle mounted discs, pneumatically operated
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge

British Rail's fourth design of passenger carriages was designated Mark 4, built for use in InterCity 225 sets on the East Coast Main Line between King's Cross, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

As of July 2020, 19 Mark 4s have been scrapped, 144 are still in service (formed of 16 9 carriage sets), and 139 are in storage.

History and construction[edit]

The interior of First Class aboard a Virgin Trains East Coast refurbished Mark 4 FO vehicle

A small build compared with the Mark 2 and Mark 3 designs, 314 Mark 4s were built between 1989 and 1992 by Metro-Cammell's Washwood Heath factory to operate services on the newly electrified East Coast Main Line.[2][3][4] Today they are operated by London North Eastern Railway in 30 fixed formations of nine coaches, with a Class 91 locomotive and Driving Van Trailer.

The Mark 4 is an all-steel coach incorporating a number of improvements over the Mark 3 stock - notably the inclusion of automatic push-button operated plug-type doors, in place of manually operated slam-doors, fully sealed gangways and controlled emission toilets (CET). Body shells were built by British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) and Società Italiana Ernesto Breda.[5]

After a period of evaluation in 1988, Swiss SIG type BT41A[1] bogies were selected rather than BREL Type T4 bogies when BREL could not provide commercial guarantees on the demanding lateral ride comfort required for 140 mph running (BT41B/C refer to the bogie types used on the Mk4 DVT).[6][7][8]

However, during the first year of operation in 1989, complaints were made about the "lively" ride of the coaches. This required modifications to the damper and spring rates of the bogies and the fitting of inter-coach "car coupler dampers" to improve damping between the vehicles.[9] Disabled access was another priority of the design, so the door vestibules were enlarged to allow a more generous turning circle for a wheelchair. With ever-increasing levels of overcrowding, the so-called 'gangway passenger' had become an important consideration, so the vestibule environment was improved with carpeted walls, better lighting, sealed gangways and carriage doors plus four flip-down seats per vestibule (since removed and replaced with bench style perch seats).[citation needed]

Many of these innovations came courtesy of the abandoned Advanced Passenger Train, upon which the Mark 4 was heavily based. This influence was most obvious with the profiled sides, intended to allow the retrofitting of tilt-equipped bogies derived from the APT. This would have allowed up to 6° of tilt; modified coaches would have been designated "Mark 4 T" but this plan was abandoned in January 1986. The business case for the Mark 4 anticipated them also being operated on the West Coast Main Line as a follow-on order after the East Coast Main Line electrification, but after the failure of the InterCity 250 project to gain Treasury support, British Rail ordered a small number of Class 90 locomotives to supplement existing locomotives on the West Coast Main Line.

The Mark 4 has gained widespread praise for its exceptional crashworthiness, something that was proven in the Hatfield and Selby crashes, where experts identified the integral construction of the vehicles as being a key factor in restricting the death toll.

The Class 158 and Class 159 diesel multiple units, although superficially similar, are not based on the Mark 4 bodyshell: the Mark 4 is derived from the Class 156.[6]

The Iarnród Éireann Mark 4 push-pull carriages introduced on the Irish railway system in mid-2006 are of a different design, manufactured by the Spanish manufacturer CAF.

The Mark 4 was the first British Rail vehicle not to use the iconic Rail Alphabet typeface for interior signage and operating notices.

Via Rail Canada's Renaissance fleet of inter-city and sleeper coaches are derived from British Rail's Mark 4. They were built for the abortive Nightstar services to Europe, and adapted by Bombardier Transportation to meet Canadian requirements.

Project Mallard[edit]

The interior of Standard Class aboard a GNER 'Project Mallard' refurbished Mark 4 TSO vehicle
The interior of First Class aboard a GNER 'Project Mallard' refurbished Mark 4 FO vehicle

Between October 2003 and November 2005, Bombardier Transportation, under contract from GNER, rebuilt and refurbished the carriages under Project Mallard. Trains with rebuilt coaches became known as Mallards to distinguish them from unrefurbished sets during the upgrade programme, named after the Mallard steam locomotive, built in the 1930s by the London & North Eastern Railway and holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives.[10][11][12]

The Mallard refit gave the coaches all-new interiors with new seats, carpeting and power points at every seat. The vestibule areas lost their flip-down seats near the entrances with perch-type seats being put in their place. The buffet coach was turned around with first class seating converted to standard. Wheelchair-width doors were fitted and the seating capacity was increased by fitting airline-style seats in place of the previous groupings of pairs of seats facing each other across a table.

Additionally GNER introduced WiFi Internet connectivity as a trial from December 2003 and into service from April 2004, making it the first service of its kind in the United Kingdom. Prior to National Express East Coast (NXEC) taking over the franchise in December 2007, WiFi was free in first class and chargeable in standard class; under the new NXEC franchise access it became free for all passengers. In October 2010, under East Coast operation, charges for standard class passengers were reintroduced.[13]

All were revinyled in East Coast livery with the last completed in April 2013.[14] They were revinyled in Virgin Trains East Coast livery in 2015.[15] In February 2016, a refurbishment program called Plush Tush, commenced with new seat covers, carpets and purple mood lighting in First Class.[16]


The Mark 4s were largely replaced on the East Coast Main Line by Class 800s & Class 801s in 2019/20.[17][18] Virgin Trains East Coast were to retain seven or eight nine-carriage sets to operate extra services to Edinburgh.[19][20] LNER later stated this plan had been cancelled.[21] In September 2020, Eversholt Rail Group and London North Eastern Railway extended their lease to 10 by 2023. In addition, there are options to make it operational until 2024. It will be overhauled at the Wabtec Doncaster plant.[22][23]

Grand Central planned to use on Mark 4 coaches on their London Euston to Blackpool North services, However these services were permanently abandoned on 10 September 2020.[24]

Twelve Mark 4 carriages are to be refurbished for use by Transport for Wales on an expanded Holyhead-Cardiff Premier Service from May 2021.[25][26]

Grand Union is proposing to operate Mark 4s on its London Paddington to Cardiff Central services from December 2020.[27]


  1. ^ a b "New bogie for German ICE (Intercity Express) based on BT41", C. Freitag and S. Karch, SIG Swiss Industrial Company, Proceedings of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Vol 208, 1994.
  2. ^ "Met-Cam scoops MkIV contract" Railway Gazette International February 1987 page 73
  3. ^ Marsden, Colin (November 1989). Peter, Peter (ed.). "Lid Comes Off Mk IV Stock". Railway Magazine. Cheam: Prospect Magazines. 135 (1063): V. ISSN 0033-8923.
  4. ^ Pritchard, Robert; Fox, Peter; Hall, Peter (2010). British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock 2010. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. pp. 118, 121–3, 125. ISBN 978-1-902336-78-7.
  5. ^ "Italians to build BR high speed coaches" Railway Gazette International December 1988 page 792
  6. ^ a b "Mark IV Passenger Vehicles For East Coast Main Line Electrification", P H Watts and M S Hawkridge, Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, 1989.
  7. ^ "Swiss bogie to carry BR MkIVs" Railway Gazette International September 1989 page 667
  8. ^ "A new way to travel" Rail issue 106 pages 40-41
  9. ^ "The Mk 4 and Mk 5 coaches for British Rail Intercity Part 2: testing, commissioning and service experience with the Mk 4 coach and development of the Mk 5 specification", J A Higton and D R Temple, Proceedings of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Vol 206, 1992.
  10. ^ "Bombardier confirmed for Mk4 refurbishment" The Railway Magazine December 2002 page 69
  11. ^ "Queen launches Mk 4 coaches at King's Cross" Rail issue 473 29 October 2003 page 12
  12. ^ "GNER unveils last Mallard" Today's Railways UK issue 49 January 2006 page 62
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 November 2009. Retrieved 1 November 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Last GNER blue Mark 4 set to Wabtec" Today's Railways UK issue 138 June 2013 page 68
  15. ^ "VTEC's first HST in vinyl-based red enters traffic" Rail issue 778 8 July 2015 page 30
  16. ^ "First refurbished Mark 4 sets in traffic" Today's Railways UK issue 173 May 2016 page 69
  17. ^ Government gives green light for more state-of-the-art intercity trains Archived 23 August 2019 at the Wayback Machine Department for Transport 18 July 2013
  18. ^ "IEP order to replace Mark 4s" Today's Railways UK issue 141 September 2013 page 8
  19. ^ "Stagecoach/Virgin bid wins East Coast franchise" The Railway Magazine issue 1366 January 2015 page 6
  20. ^ "Review delays ORR decision on ECML train paths" Rail issue 778 8 July 2015 page 10
  21. ^ More new trains on LNER wish list Archived 9 August 2019 at the Wayback Machine Rail 8 August 2019
  22. ^ IC225 Fleet Lease Extension and Overhaul - Eversholt Rail Limited. Retrieved 2020-12-25.
  23. ^ LNER to retain 10 Class 91s up to 2023, as overhaul contracts awarded - RailAdvent. Retrieved 2020-12-25.
  24. ^ "Grand Central's planned Blackpool to London route falls victim to COVID-19 | Grand Central Rail". Archived from the original on 4 November 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  25. ^ "Transport for Wales: What's Happeining in North Wales". 4 June 2018. Archived from the original on 7 June 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  26. ^ "Written Statement - Update on the Procurement for the Wales and Borders Rail Service and South Wales Metro". 4 June 2018. Archived from the original on 29 October 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  27. ^ Cardiff - London open access plan Railway Gazette International 19 June 2019

External links[edit]

Media related to British Rail Mk4 coaches at Wikimedia Commons