The Anonymous Widower

How Many Diesel Multiple Units Might We Need?

in this post, I said that I wouldn’t be surprised if some new Class 172 diesel multiple units were ordered.

But how many might we need.

It is best to list all the smaller diesel multiple units that are running on the UK railways, with a few comments and thoughts.

Class 142

There are 96 two-car Class 142 trains. They were built in 1984 and Wikipedia says this about their use.

They were initially built for use on rural branch lines. However, as of September 2011 they are mainly used on busy commuter routes in the major cities in the north of England, with some also in use on local services around Cardiff and on Devon branch lines.

Regular readers of this blog, will know that I don’t have a very high opinion of these trains.

But their biggest problem is that they must be withdrawn by 2020 because of the disability regulations.

However because of the Liverpool-Blackpool-Manchester electrification and the possibility of electrification in the Welsh Valleys by the cut-off date, some of them might find other uses as scrap metal.

Currently Northern Rail has 79 and Arriva Trains Wales has 15, so some may need to be replaced by new diesel multiple units, as electrification won’t probably replace them all.

Class 143

There are 25 two-car Class 143 trains.  They were built in 1985 and were refurbished in 2000. Like the Class 142, they will have to be withdrawn because of the disability regulations.

Arriva Trains Wales has 15 working the Welsh Valleys and therefore could be replaced, but the seven ran by First Great Western in the Exeter area, don’t have that happy conclusion.

As electrifying the Exeter local routes is probably a never-never, some new or cascaded stock must be found for these lines.

Class 144

There are 13 two-car and 10 three -car Class 144 trains. They were built in the late 1980s and also will have to be withdrawn.

All work for Northern Rail in the Leeds area on commuter routes. Some of the lines may be electrified by 2020, thus allowing some to proceed quietly to the scrapyard, but others might have to be replaced by new or cascaded trains.

Class 150

There are 135 two-car and 2 three-car Class 150 trains. They were built in the mid-1980s and can spruce up remarkably well, as this one has on the St. Ives branch. But I have been delayed by an unreliable Class 150.

A well-planned refurbishment of these trains could probably limp them on for a few years, provided they all receive the TLC that the unit on the St. Ives branch gets. Moving them to low-traffic routes would also help, as in some instances I’ve been on Class 150s, where two are needed.

Some in the Welsh Valleys and around Liverpool and Manchester, may also be released by electrification, so after updating, they might even be used to send the truly dreadful Class 142, 143 and 144 to the scrapyard.

Class 153

There are 70 of these 1-car Class 153 trains, which were created from Class 155 in the early-1990s.

Their main problem is capacity. When I lived in Suffolk, they used to work Ipswich to Cambridge and still work Ipswich to Felixstowe. But some like this unit on the Transwilts are reasonable transport if there aren’t many passengers.

I’m sure a lot of operators would like a nice refurbished Class 150 instead.

Class 156

There are 114 two-car Class 156 trains, which were built in the late 1980s.

In my view they are a better train than the Class 150 and 153 and there is only one serious problem with them. British Rail didn’t build enough!

Some are now being refurbished, with new disabled toilets.

Class 158 and Class 159

The classes 158 and 159 trains will soldier on for a couple of decades until they are replaced by electrification.

Some might even be replaced on long-distance services by that cavalry of the UK rail network, the InterCity 125.


If I come to a conclusion after all this, it is a complicated problem to decide how many trains are needed.

I think we can assume that the Class 15x will not be directly replaced, except possibly some Class 153. But many, perhaps displaced by electrification, will find themselves replacing 14x Pacers elsewhere.

I can’t do a detailed calculation, as I don’t have all the information. But it does seem that an order for say ten or twenty Class 172 trains from Bombardier could start the biggest game of musical trains ever seen.

Because of all the links, if say five sets were to be delivered before the May 2015 General Election, this could mean that many hard-pressed commuters and train passengers had greatly improved trains around the same time.



November 11, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Heathrow and Gatwick Will Cost More

Surprise! Surprise! The BBC is reporting that the proposals for a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick will cost more!

The Airports Commission says a second runway at Gatwick would cost £2bn more than the bid suggests.

Two separate plans to expand Heathrow are predicted to cost £3-4bn more.

T’was, ever thus! The first real estimate of the cost of a large project is  inevitably more than the back-of-a-fag-packet estimate.

Only when the designers and project engineers work out how the project is to be realised do we get a figure for the actual cost. Usually, in construction projects, this figure can generally be relied upon.

But as I’ve believed for some time, I don’t think we’ll ever build a new runway in the South East.

November 11, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

My Nineteenth Letter In The Times Since 2005

I had a letter published in The Times yesterday in a whole group of letters under the general heading of Don’t deny drivers a glimpse of Stonehenge. It said.

Sir, I have just taken a train to Cornwall and eaten lunch on the way. It was Britain at its best, on a British Rail-era, but well-refurbished high-speed train with superb locally sourced food and the best service.

Who in their right mind would want to drive all the way on the A303, even after the Stonehenge tunnel has been built?

If you want to have a memorable journey like me, see here.

Incidentally, I’m not counting my letters, but someone else is and in the on-line comments to the letter publishes the statistics of all the writers’ letters. As that is nineteen in just under two years, I wonder if I’ll be here long enough to reach my century.


November 11, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Payday Loans Get A Cap and a Kicking

This morning the Financial Conduct Authority has imposed a cap on payday lenders. The BBC report starts like this.

Payday loan rates will be capped at 0.8% of the amount borrowed a day,said the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

In total, no one will have to pay back more than twice what they borrowed, and there will be a £15 cap on default charges.

I do hope that this type of loan quickly becomes a blip on the history of finance.

If you might at some time need to borrow money, make sure that you can get the best credit rating you can, by behaving responsibly. This should help to give you access to finance at a reasonable rate when you need it.

But we can all help to get rid of these high cost loans.

I believe that if we put our savings in a peer-to-peer lender that lends to others, this will put more money in the hands of responsible lenders, who can lend to those that need to borrow, who fit their lending requirements.

So you’ll be helping yourself and also helping others.

But do choose a peer-to-peer lender that is or will be regulated under the FCA.

Zopa, who are regulated, say this about their relationship with the FCA

November 11, 2014 Posted by | Finance | , | Leave a comment

Do You Have A Community Energy Partnership?

We all pay too much for our energy, because whatever the politicians do, the Big Six just use their muscle and highly-paid lawyers to get around every attempt that is made to force prices down.

They also can rely on our natural inertia to stop us changing.

So I was particularly pleased to see OVO has setup a community energy partnership in Sussex with Community Energy South.

Everyone should check out their local community energy partnership.

We’re only small consumers but we must give the Big Six as tough a time as possible.

Do you think large consumers of electricity like Network Rail, Transport for London, just roll over and pay what the Big Six think they will charge?

November 11, 2014 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments