The Anonymous Widower

ScotRail Finds A Use For The Unloved Class 153 Trains

Class 153 trains are the unloved members of British Rail’s Sprinter family. I occasionally use one on excursions to Felixstowe, but they are cramped, noisy and slow.

As the pictures show, some are not in bad condition and to be fair, some train operators have tried hard to provide a better level of service.

Greater Anglia still has five Class 153 trains in service and the fact that they will be replaced by three-car Class 755 trains by the end of 2020. You don’t increase capacity by that amount, unless the current one-car trains are overcrowded or you know that there is a lot of untapped demand on the route.

If on the Felixstowe Branch, a doubling of capacity would have been sufficient, then surely a refurbished two-car Class 150, 156 or 170 train, would have been a more than adequate replacement.

Currently, there are seventy of these trains in service and many of them, like those in East Anglia are being replaced with new or refurbished trains.

Greater Anglia’s five units are going to Wales, where they will join another eight on rural lines in West Wales. Nothing has ben said about how they will be used, but they could be used singly, in pairs or in multiple with Class 15x or Class 17x trains.

So they could be useful to the Welsh in providing extra capacity.

In the November 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, Alex Hynes of ScotRail talks about how a number of Class 153 trains will be used to add bicycle space to trains on some of Scotland’s scenic routes. Alex Hynes is quoted as saying.

The interior format is yet to be fixed, but is likely to include a large amount of space given over to bicycles. Bike tourism is a growing area and the aim would be to allay fears about whether or not you’d get your bike on a train by providing plenty of space. Part of the vehicle might be given over to a lounge car layout to make the most of the magnificent views on these routes.

Transport Scotland sees the scenic routes as a key part of the rural economy for the part they play in stimulating tourism.

Our inspiration is to get “158s” on the West Highland route.

So it looks like ScotRail could be running Class 158/Class 153 pairs to provide increased capacity on the West Highland Line.

Wikipedia says this about the use of the Class 153 trains on the West Highland Line.

These single car units are to be completely adapted to accommodate bikes, skis and other outdoor equipment.

They will be attached to the Class 156s either as centre cars, or as extra coaches at either end.

If ScotRail’s scheme is a success, I suspect more of the Class 153 trains could end up doing the same task, in Wales, the South West and North of England.

It should also be noted, with respect to bicycle tourism, that ScotRail’s shortened HSTs will hopefully retain their bicycle swallowing abilities in the back ends of the power cars, thus enabling bicycle tourists to do the longer Scottish journeys with ease.

My one worry about bicycle tourism in Scotland and Wales is not concerned with trains internally, but with getting there from other parts of the UK with a heavily-loaded bicycle.

With the replacement of the HSTs and InterCity 225 from the London to Edinburgh and London to Wales and the West routes, will the new Class 800 trains have enough bicycle capacity? The bicycle storage on these trains look to be a good design for a racing bicycle, but some of the heavily-loaded bicycle tourists I’ve seen in Suffolk, would find them inadequate.

This article in The Guardian is entitled New High-Speed Trains Go Slow On Provision For Cyclists.

The article is critical.

I wonder what provision has been made for bicycles on the new rolling stock for the Caledonian Sleeper?



October 26, 2018 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,


  1. The conversion of Class 153 cars for carriage of bicycles was mentioned on the RailScot web-site a couple of days ago. I was intrigued, and I’ve been searching on google for further information. It seems like a very welcome plan to me, and I hope it proves successful and worthy of expansion.

    “Class 153 trains are the unloved members of British Rail’s Sprinter family. I occasionally use one on excursions to Felixstowe, but they are cramped, noisy and slow.”

    So are the Class 156s, which are to the same basic specification. They are very noisy, from engine, track and poor sound-insulation, and also due to the lack of saloon partitions which allows conversations and yelling children to be heard from one end of the carriage to the other. However, if my experience as a ScotRail driver from 1993 to 2003 is anything to go by, they are very reliable. I never experienced a failure with a 156, unlike the 158s which are prone to door faults, earthing faults and engine shut-downs. I believe the official figures bear this out. A 156 will also do 80mph or more with ease. Maybe the 153s are more sluggish due to greater air-resistance per hp for a single car.

    My understanding is that the Class 153s will be inserted as the centre cars of Class 156 sets as that will obviate the need to provide their cabs with RETB equipment. Also, I believe the cabs that were added to the 153s on rebuilding from 155s are exceptionally cramped. Class 156 cabs are pretty hellish, but they may be marginally better than 153 cabs!

    Comment by Michael Laing | December 20, 2018 | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment!

      Some of the 153s in the Midlands are pretty smart, but they are being replaced with London Overground’a 172s.

      Bicycle carriage is going to get more and more important. Even on the London Overground, you regularly find four bikes on a five car train, outside of the Peak.

      Comment by AnonW | December 20, 2018 | Reply

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