The Anonymous Widower

Plans For New Rolling Stock To Replace BR DMUs

This is the title of an article on the Rail Magazine. This is said.

Diesel multiple units built in the 1980s by British Rail could be replaced in the next decade, as the Department for Transport believes there are “likely to be significant opportunities” to replace them with modern diesels.

Outlined in the Rolling Stock Perspective: Moving Britain Ahead report published on May 18, this would mean that as well as the Pacers, potentially all Class 150s, ‘153s’, ‘155s’, ‘156s’, ‘158s’ and ‘159s’ could be withdrawn. That would be 1,033 vehicles if all were replaced like-for-like.

The article is based on a Department for Transport document entitled Rolling Stock Perspective. The document says this.

Are self-powered, where required, with such trains meeting the latest emission standards and being built by a range of suppliers. New diesels are being procured as part of the Northern franchise improvements and there are likely to be significant opportunities over the next decade to replace the last remaining diesel multiple units ordered in the BR era with modern diesels that offer much more for passengers, and are designed with manufacturers and TOCs working ever more closely with Network Rail, to reduce the amounts of money needed to be spent to introduce them into service and to allow them to operate reliably and safely.

The report also says.

Good, high quality refurbishment can deliver a passenger experience comparable with new rolling stock.

So is this a feasible plan to remove the 15x trains in their present form from the network?

I will start by summing them up from a passenger perspective.

Class 150

The Class 150 train probably suffers from being too small and inadequate for a lot of the routes it serves. This alone means that they should be replaced, probably with something of at least three cars, as many are on routes, where ambitious train operating companies are endeavouring to grow traffic.

There are only so many elephants you can get in a Mini!

In 2014, I went to St. Ives and wrote St. Erth Station And The St. Ives Branch, where an immaculate Class 150 trundles the few miles along the branch.

This use sums up the class well.

  • The two-car train was totally inadequate for the route.
  • They can be cleaned up to be adequate for some purposes in their present form.
  • Step free and wheelchair access is not very good.
  • There is not enough space for bicycles.
  • Seats are not the most comfortable.

On short branch lines like the St. Ives Branch, two refurbished units coupled together, might provide the service needed, but would it be better to spend more money on either a refurbished Class  165 train or even a new train?

In A Trip Around Wiltshire, I encountered a Class 150 train. As it was Glastonbury, it was loaded over capacity with heavy baggage. At least a five-car formation of say Class 165s was needed, not a two-car Class 150.

These days the Class 150 trains are mainly used in the North, Wales and the West Country, with some in the Midlands.

I would love to know the train operating companies attitude to these trains.

They may be cheap to lease. But!

  • Running costs can’t be much less than say a three-car Class 165 train.
  • The difficult train access must mean despair for the disabled and staff.
  • Station stops are probably slower than needed, leading to late trains.
  • Passengers will be turned away by the bad experience.
  • They are not large enough for a lot of their routes.

Some like those in the North and Wales are planned for replacement and hopefully once GWR electrification is sorted and the Class 165 trains are replaced by electric ones, most of the Class 150 trains can go to appropriate retirement in the scrapyard.

Class 153

If anything sums up the cheapskate approach to the railways under successive governments it is the Class 153 train.

In my travels around Europe, I’ve never seen another single car train, excerpt on something like a mountain railway.

They may have a use, but it is certainly not running on the Nuneaton to Coventry Line.

On a lightly-used line they probably wouldn’t be as bad an experience as a Class 150 train, but they certainly wouldn’t be any good to generate traffic.

Class 156

There are 114 two-car Class 156 trains, which are certainly much better than the Class 150 and Class 153 trains.

I’ve certainly ridden some pretty comfortable Class 156 trains.

According to Wikipedia, some are being refurbished. This is said.

38 of the 114 Class 156 sets belong to leasing company Porterbrook, which announced in mid-2011 that they will be substantially refurbished at the time of their C6 overhauls. Seating layouts will be revised to provide priority seating and wheelchair spaces, and new universal toilets are to be installed, as also a passenger information system. Interior doors between vestibule and passenger saloon will be removed, and external door sounders fitted. The trains in question are as follows; 11 leased to East Midlands Trains, 9 toAbellio Greater Anglia and 18 to Northern.

I have a feeling that a lot of this class will be replaced by new or newer trains, simply because they run on the more important lines.

In the North and Scotland, electrification will directly replace some trains and others will be replaced by newer diesel multiple units cascaded from the newly electrified lines.

I believe that refurbishing these trains to a high standard could be possible, and these trains could be ideal for lightly used lines, either working singly or in a four-car formation.

But their top speed of only 75 mph probably means on some of the routes they serve, they cause problems for train operators.

Also, because they have a good range, they might well be a good train to have as cover to help solve the problems of breakdowns and extra capacity for events like Glastonbury.

Class 158 And Class 159

I am considering the Class 158 and Class 159 trains together, as it is rather a moveable feast as to which class the trains belong.

They are slightly younger than the other trains and on some routes like Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter, they are certainly not a bad experience.

When the Government report said.

Good, high quality refurbishment can deliver a passenger experience comparable with new rolling stock.

They might have had these trains in mind.

I think though, they have qualities that make them suitable for longer routes that have to use diesel traction.

  • They are a 90 mph train.
  • They have a long range.
  • They could have plenty of tables.
  • They can accommodate a catering trolley.
  • They could be a good route-development train.
  • As they are Mark 3.5 coach based, they would certainly scrub up brilliantly.

I think the only problem could be that there are two hundred trains. But seeing the way traffic is developing in the UK, I’m sure that train operating companies could find a use for them.

I have travelled on Class 158 trains on the Settle to Carlisle Line and this is the sort of journey for which the trains are ideal. So what would happen, if routes like this were given a more frequent service with refurbished Class 158/159 trains, that perhaps had the following.

  • Good catering.
  • Lots of tables.
  • Wi-fi
  • Lots of luggage and cycle space.
  • London Bus-style wheelchair access.

I don’t think the affect on traffic would be negative.

Summing Up The Current Situation

If I look at the numbers of each type of older diesel multiple units we get.

  • Class 150 – 137 trains – 133 x two-car and 4 x three-car. – 278 coaches.
  • Class 153 – 70 trains – 70 x one-car – 70 coaches.
  • Class 156 – 114 trains – 114 x two-car – 228 coaches.
  • Class 158/159 – 200 trains – 143 x two car and 57 x three-car – 343 coaches.

Which gives a total of 919 coaches.

On the other hand, I think we can assume the following.

  • Great Western Electrification should release a mixture of thirty seven three car and twenty two-car  Class 165/166 trains.
  • The Class 150 and Class 153 trains could go to a more suitable place.
  • The Class 156 trains could possibly be refurbished to a standard to make them a good Class 150 and Class 153 replacement for some routes.
  • The Class 158/159 trains could probably be refurbished to the required high standard.

So we’re left with a deficit of about two hundred carriages, without counting good quality trains released from Scottish and Lancashire electrification.

How Could We Bridge The Gap?

At least though we have various trains and solutions available and some have been noted in the last couple of months.

The following sections detail the various solutions.

New Civity Diesel Multiple Units from CAF

Arriva Rail North surprised a lot of people with their order for a mixture of new Civity diesel and electric multiple units from CAF.

I wrote about the order in Arriva Rail North’s New Trains.

The Civity design is modular and this data sheet from CAF describes the Civity range.

Points to note.

  • Diesel, electric and bi-mode versions are available.
  • It has been designed for standard gauge.
  • There is a UK version called Civity UK.
  • Top speed is 160 kph, but 200 kph is available.
  • The list of interior options is wide.

Reading the data sheet, I get the impression that operators get standard trains with the features they want.

I don’t know the answer, but I suspect that like the Class 378 trains of the London Overground, the Civity trains can be lengthened or shortened, by adding or removing trailer cars between the two driving cars. This concept has worked so well on the Overground, I doubt that a train manufacturer wouldn’t copy it.

Thus you could have four car DMUs on a route like the Calder Valley Line. If and when the line gets electrified, you do a bit of swapping and add two electric driving cars and get four-car EMUs and two-car DMUs.

I believe the flexibility of the design, means that we’ll see more Civity trains in the UK.

New Diesel Multiple Units from Other Manufacturers

I said earlier, that there could be a total need of about two hundred carriages, but this is probably not many, unless you have a proven product ready to be built.

Given that CAF have already sold ninety-eight assorted trains to Arriva Rail North and another twelve 200 kmh-capable trains to TransPennine Express, it would be hard to sell a new design of modern diesel multiple unit into the UK. More Class 172 and Class 185 trains are probably not an option.

Rakes Of Coaches From CAF

Rakes of coaches seem to be making a comeback, as I wrote in Are Train Coaches Making A Comeback In The UK?

Fitted with a suitable and available locomotive at one end and a driving cab at the other, these could be used in some of the difficult and perhaps scenic routes.

Again CAF seem to have got the proven product, which has been sold to Caledonian Sleeper and TransPennine Express.

Have the clever Spanish designed a driving cab with bags of style and panache, for the TPE rakes? It certainly won’t be a driving van trailer knocked up from the parts bin.

One of the advantages of coaches, is that there are a lot of suitable and acceptable locomotives available. Fleet details for the Class 68 locomotive, already show a new order for seven extra units for TransPennine Express.

Anybody, who doesn’t believe that Class 68s and coaches, are a viable option, should be forced to go to Birmingham from London on Chilton and see how good upgraded 1970s-built Mark 3 coaches hauled by a modern diesel locomotive can be.

Rakes Of Refurbished Mark 3 Coaches

If buying new coaches from CAF is a viable order, why didn’t TransPennine Express, do what Chiltern have done and refurbish some of the many Mark 3 coaches.

I think it comes down to these factors.

  • Mark 3 coaches need a driving van trailer, so a five-car train is effectively seven units long if you count the locomotive and the DVT.
  • Are Mark 3 coaches coming to the end of their lives?
  • Is there a shortage of DVTs?
  • If CAF build a stylish driving cab in the end coach, the train will have an enormous wow factor!
  • The operator can get the interior layout they want.
  • Could the cost be not much different between the new and refurbished trains?

In the end the CAF route gives the operator exactly what they want.

The only thing that might happen, is that somebody copies the CAF idea and creates a short rake of Mark 3 coaches, with a driving cab in the last coach. But that is probably a more expensive option.

Chiltern Railways

Chiltern Railways could have a valuable part of play in the replacement of older diesel multiple units.

They currently run some of their Chiltern Main Line services to Birmingham and Oxford using rakes of Mark 3 coaches and Class 68 locomotives.

They currently have the following stock for this.

  • 8 Class 68 locomotives
  • 31 Mark 3 coaches
  • 6 Driving Van Trailers.

Is that enough, given that Oxford will be served later this year?

Probably not! So is Chiltern scratching around searching for coaches and DVTs to create some extra rakes of coaches?

I don’t know, but with the three stations of Bicester Village, Oxford Parkway and Oxford on the new branch, two and three-car multiple units will surely not be big enough.

I would certainly suspect that as Chiltern is an ambitious company, one of their aims is to have all services between London and Oxford and Birmingham, run by modern rakes of coaches hauled by Class 68 locomotives.

These could either be new rakes from CAF or refurbished ones of Mark 3 coaches.

The big side effect would be that Chiltern may be able;e to release some of their modern diesel multiple units.

This probably illustrates why Class 68 and other locomotives pulling rakes of coaches could be very important in improving the quality of diesel multiple units in the UK.

Playing The Joker

There is even a joker in the pack of available locomotives to pull and push the coaches.

The Class 73 locomotive dates from the 1960s, but it has some unique advantages.

  • They were built to run all over the Southern Region, including the narrow tunnels of the Hastings Line.
  • They can run on third-rail electric lines or on diesel power.
  • They seem to be reliable.
  • They are capable of 90 mph, which is the same speed as a Class 159 train.
  • There are over thirty still available.
  • Re-engineering with modern diesel engines is being undertaken, to create a Class 73/9 variant.
  • To say they scrub up well is an understatement.

Their latest application is far from their original habitat in the South, as they are now hauling the Caledonian Sleeper trains all over the Highlands, where in some places, the loading gauge is restrictive.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Class 73/9 locomotives hauling new coaches from Waterloo to Exeter.

  • This would mean that new trains could serve Salisbury and Exeter from Waterloo, without extending the electrification from Basingstoke.
  • The Class 73 locomotives would use the third-rail electrification at the London end of the route.
  • The trains would have the same top speed as the current Class 159 trains.
  • The Class 159 trains would be released for refurbishment and cascade to other routes and operators.

But the biggest advantage of this would be that South West Trains or its successor could offer a high-quality alternative service to Exeter and the wider West Country in competition with Great Western Railway’s new Class 802 bi-mode trains.

If anybody had suggested a few years ago, that you might replace a 1990s-built multiple unit with Spanish coaches hauled by a re-engineered 1960s-built locomotive, they’d have been taken away by men in white coats.

But then engineering is the science of the possible!

Battery Trains And IPEMUs

Clare Perry, who is the Rail Minister, says this in Rolling Stock Perspective about battery-powered trains and other similar developments.

Rail is already one of the most environmentally friendly forms of powered travel, but we need to go further. I want to see the industry develop and introduce uk-led innovative solutions such as battery-powered or hybrid trains which will make rail even better for the environment and reduce the industry’s operating costs.

I think we can say, that means that Government will look favourably on good innovative solutions for the replacement of diesel multiple units.

Bombardier are developing the Aventra train and trains will be wired to accept on-board energy storage, just like the demonstrator based on a Class 379 train, that I rode in January 2015.

These are now called IPEMUs or Independently Powered Electric Multiple Units. They would charge their batteries on an electrified main line, then use this power on a branch line or to perhaps bridge a section of line that was not electrified.

As a large number of diesel multiple units are used on branch lines from electrified main lines, IPEMUs could be a direct replacement without any new electrification. Some examples would be.

  • Marks Tey to Sudbury
  • Ipswich to Felixstowe
  • Ipswich to Cambridge/Ely
  • Cambridge to Norwich
  • Norwich to Yarmouth
  • Ely to Peterborough
  • Liverpool to Preston via Ormskirk
  • Oxted to Uckfield
  • Ore to Ashford

Nothing has been said about the ordering and service entry of IPEMUs, but I don’t believe that the technology will be abandoned.


The elimination of the older diesel multiple units or their conversion into modern trains of the highest standard, is not an impossible dream.

But expect some surprises!








May 25, 2016 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,

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