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But their biggest problem is that they must be withdrawn by 2020 because of the disability regulations.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 Like the Class 142, they will have to be withdrawn because of the disability regulations.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 They were built in the late 1980s and also will have to be withdrawn.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 | ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.