British Rail Class 456

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British Rail Class 456
South West Trains 456006, Wimbledon (15894675838).jpg
South West Trains Class 456 No. 456017 at Wimbledon station.
South West Trains - Inside of Class 456.jpg
The interior of a South West Trains refurbished Class 456
In service 30 September 1991 – present
Manufacturer BREL York
Family name BR Second Generation (Mark 3)
Constructed 1990–1991
Refurbishment Refresh: 2005–2007 by Southern.
Full refurbishment: 2014–2015 by South West Trains.
Number built 24 trainsets
Formation 2 cars per trainset
Fleet numbers 456001 – 456024
Capacity 152 seats
Operator(s) South Western Railway
Maximum speed 75 mph (121 km/h)
Weight 72.5 t (71.4 long tons; 79.9 short tons)
Power output 500 hp (373 kW)
Electric system(s) 750 V DC third rail
Braking system(s) Air (westcode)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 456 electric multiple-unit trains were built by BREL York Works from 1990–91, for use by Network SouthEast on inner suburban services in South London, mainly out of London Victoria and London Bridge. They are, however, currently operated by South Western Railway.


The Class 456s were delivered in Network South East livery

24 two-car units were built as direct replacements for the elderly Class 416 2EPB units which operated on the Central Division of the Southern Region of British Rail.[1] Units were delivered into traffic painted in Network SouthEast blue, red and white livery with cabs based on the class 321 units. Although Network Southeast had shifted to units painted with pale grey, the Class 456's were given a dark grey shade to match the Class 455 units they would be working with. Units were numbered in the range 456001-024. Each unit consisted of two carriages; a driving motor and a driving trailer.[1] The technical description (when new) of the unit formation is DMSO+DTSOL. Individual carriage numbers were as follows:

  • 64735-64758 – DMSO
  • 78250-78273 – DTSOL

The Class 456 units were notable for being the first Suburban stock to have toilet facilities, which was later removed (after privatisation) for more seating to increase passenger capacity during the peak, The class 456's required end brake piping mounded under the windscreens to enable operation with Class 455 units. This meant that the class 321cabs, which have a lift up panel to access the lights, was unsuitable. As a result, the 456's were designed with exterior headlights lights with angled boxes covering the brake valves and multiple working plugs.

During type testing from Strawberry Hill depot in January 1991, the units were found to be unsuitable for service due to drivers not being able to see the VDU screens at stations where they would be used under Driver Only Operation. The units were stored until the problem could be modified with a new sliding seat which would allow the driver to view the VDU screens from the cabside door window, work being done at Fratton depot.

Class 456 entered service in early October 1991, with some shortage of service delays caused by minor defects. These included problems with door gear, tightlick coupling problems resulting in a temporary ban on coupling and uncoupling, and a number of cases of burning caused by inadequate protection from electrical arcing in the weak-field control circuits.

These teeting troubles delayed the replacement of the 2EPB units by alost a year. However, once they settled down the units were used on many services, including London Bridge to London Victoria via Crystal Palace, and via Denmark Hill and London Victoria to Horsham. Before the lines closed in 1997 to allow the building of Tramlink, Class 456 units worked services on the West Croydon to Wimbledon Line before being allocated to Victoria – Epsom via Sutton and West Croydon, especially at peak times, as well as services from Epsom Downs and Dorking.

The trains then moved to South West Trains, being part of a 455+456+456 set to cover for the refresh of the company's Class 455 sets, before moving to a ten car 455+455+456 set.

Current operations[edit]

Since the privatisation of Britain's railways, the entire Class 456 fleet passed into the Southern (formerly known as South Central) franchise, which was originally won by Connex South Central. Only one unit, No. 456024, was repainted in white and yellow Connex livery, when it was named Sir Cosmo Bonsor after a chairman of the South Eastern Railway.[1][2] The rest of the fleet had remained in NSE livery, until summer 2006 when the fleet started to be repainted.

In 2000, Connex lost the South Central franchise to the Go-Ahead Group, who rebranded the company as Southern in 2004.

The units have ended their career with Southern, as their operations on its Metro routes have been replaced by Class 455 and 377/6 trains. The units transferred to the South West Trains franchise and were refurbished and repainted into the South West Trains red Metro livery.

The units were introduced onto the South West Trains Guildford-Aldershot-Camberley-Ascot route in March 2014, replacing more modern Class 458 trains with toilets and air conditioning. All have now been refurbished and are running in the South West Trains livery, and are fully refurbished internally.[3][4]

In August 2017, all 456 units transferred to the new South Western Franchise, South Western Railway.

The joint Southern/TfL CCTV advertising liveried Southern Metro Class 456 No. 456006 at London Bridge.
The interior of a Southern Railway refreshed Class 456.


In March 2005, No. 456006 was hauled away to Wolverton where it has been studied for corrosion assessment. This caused some doubt as to whether they would be refurbished.[5] However, in a statement in April 2006 Southern said the class would receive a 'refresh', which meant they would not receive a refurbishment as major as the 455s, since the 456s are 10 years newer and already have high-backed seats (although of a different design). Also, new CCTV cameras and flooring were installed; this was not mentioned on the original refurbishment plan.

All units were instead 'refreshed' and were painted into Southern green colours.[5] No. 456006 was completed in a one-off promotional livery for rail safety on the Southern network. 456013 had an experimental cab-cooling system installed and 456022 had some experimental air-conditioning fitted, in an effort to make drivers' jobs more comfortable.

Southern removed the toilets from the trains, to provide more capacity. Despite this the Class 456 EMU trains lost two seats from each pair, due to a space being cleared for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

After the units transferred to South West Trains, a full refurbishment commenced in Wolverton where Class 456s received a new exterior livery and also a refurbished interior with new seating.


Southern's refurbishment of the sets was not as extensive as with the Class 455 EMU trains, due to the 456s being newer. Previously, there were no electronic announcement boards on board, which meant that when they worked in multiple with the 455s (usually to form 6-car trains), none of their Passenger Information System visual boards worked and the automatic announcements could not be played. However this was rectified in 2009, when a Passenger Information System was fitted to the trains. Regardless however, the units were later refurbished by South West Trains when they were transferred over to them, in the style of the company's existing refurbished Class 455 sets.

Accidents and incidents[edit]


On 8 May 2012 it was announced by the DfT that the entire fleet of 24 2-car Class 456s would transfer to South West Trains (SWT) in 2014, to be used in conjunction with SWT's Class 455 fleet on London inner-suburban lines.[8] SWT will be using the 456s to enhance peak-hour Metro services through Wimbledon from 8 to 10 coaches and to provide two additional morning peak services from Raynes Park to Waterloo. These changes will take place from December 2014. Class 456s will be repainted in the red "Metro" version of SWT livery to match the Class 455 with South West Trains and will be refurbished to have a similar interior to the Class 455 before entering service with SWT between March 2014 and December 2014. It was announced that the 456 fleet will retain its standard traction equipment when transferred to SWT. This will leave them as the only fleet on SWT to be powered by conventional DC traction gear.

The Southern services on the South London Line were withdrawn in 2012 and replaced by a new London Overground service, the East London Line, operated using new air-conditioned 5-car Class 378 units.[9] Southern also received 26 new 5 car Class 377/6 units and these entered service at the end of 2013, in place of 92 cascaded carriages promised for extra capacity.[10] This gives a total of 50 replacement carriages in addition to the 92 carriages for extra capacity, leaving the 48 Class 456 carriages surplus to requirements at Southern.

South West Trains[edit]

The first units entered service with South West Trains on 23 March 2014 between Ascot and Guildford.[11] They initially ran in pairs (i.e. 2 x 2 car) still in Southern's green livery, but without fleet names. 10 units were required to provide the half-hourly service. The one train per day from Clapham Junction (07:45) to Guildford via Ascot was also operated by two 456s, but the trains that run through to Waterloo during the rush hours continue to use Class 458 trains. The Class 456 trains are the main units on the line, but occasionally Class 450 sets operate alone on the line.[citation needed]

South West Trains has subsequently started to use the Class 456s on services from London Waterloo to Dorking, Guildford (via Epsom or via Cobham and Stoke D'Abernon), Chessington South, Hampton Court, Shepperton and Woking stopping services, and Guildford to Ascot via Aldershot, including workings coupled to other Class 455 units.[citation needed]

Fleet details[edit]

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos.
Class 456 South Western Railway 24 1990–1991 2 456001 – 456024

Livery Details[edit]

Network South East livery, 1990–1996
Connex livery, 1996–2001
Southern livery, 2001–2014
New post-refurbishment South West Trains livery, in service from 10 November 2014[12]


  1. ^ a b c Class 456 – Southern E-Group. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  2. ^ 456024 Connex SouthCentral livery – Southern E-Group. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-25. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Southern's 456 Overhauls and Refreshing – Southern Electric Group. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  6. ^ Hartley-Parkinson, Richard. "Train derails after colliding with freight train at London Waterloo station". Metro. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 15 August 2017. 
  7. ^ "Collision near London Waterloo station, 15 August 2017". Rail Accidents Investigation Branch. 30 August 2017. Retrieved 3 September 2017. 
  8. ^ Further boost for passengers as South West Trains secures additional carriages – South West Trains. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  9. ^ Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays – Transport for London. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  10. ^ Southern launches competition for 130 new carriages. – Southern. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  11. ^ Class 456 Enters Service – Southern Electric Group. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  12. ^ "Refurbished SWT '456s' enter service". Rail Express (224): 50. January 2015. ISSN 1362-234X.