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British Rail Class 153

The British Rail Class 153 Super Sprinters are single-coach railcars converted from two-coach Class 155 diesel multiple units. The class was intended for service on rural and branch lines where passenger numbers do not justify longer trains.

British Rail Class 153 Super Sprinter
Class 153 at Ty Glas station crop (geograph 6162860).jpg
Transport for Wales 153333 at Ty Glas in 2019
153310 Interior.jpg
The refurbished interior of an East Midlands Trains Class 153
In service1991/92 – present
ManufacturerLeyland Bus[1]
Converted to Class 153 by Hunslet-Barclay[2]
Order no.31026[3]
Built atKilmarnock (conversion)
Family nameSprinter
ReplacedFirst generation DMUs
  • 1987–1988
  • Converted 1991–1992
Entered service1991
Number built70
  • Single car
  • DMSL[3]
  • DX203[3]
  • (From DP248 and DP249[4])
Fleet numbers
  • 153301-153385 (class)
  • 52301-52335 (DMSL, cars)
  • 57301-57385 series (DMSL, cars)
  • 57351-57385 (57xxx series renumbered)[3]
Capacity66, 72 or 75 seated (PRM modified: 59 seated)[5]
Car body constructionSteel.[6]
Car length23.208 m (76 ft 1 34 in)[4]
Width2.700 m (8 ft 10 14 in) (over body)[4]
Height3.746 m (12 ft 3 12 in) (over body)[4]
DoorsSingle leaf sliding plug[6]
Articulated sectionsSingle car
  • 16.000 m (52 ft 5 78 in) (bogie centres)
  • 2.600 m (8 ft 6 38 in) (bogies)[4]
Maximum speed75 mph (120 km/h)[1][7]
Weight41.2 t (40.5 long tons; 45.4 short tons)[5]
Prime mover(s)1 × Cummins NT855R5[1]
Engine typeDiesel
Power output285 hp (213 kW)[1]
Train heatingWarm air, hot water radiators[4]
UIC classificationBo'2'
  • BREL P3-10 (powered)
  • BREL BT38 (trailer)[6]
Braking system(s)Air/EP[6]
Safety system(s)
Coupling systemBSI[8]
Multiple workingClasses 14x, 15x, 17x[6]
Headlight typeFluorescent[4]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Converted from 35 × Class 155 sets


A half internal view of a refurbished East Midlands Trains Class 153

In 1987/88, British Rail (BR) took delivery of 35 two-coach Class 155 units built by Leyland Bus at its Workington factory[1] to replace older Regional Railways DMUs. Shortly after, the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (WYPTE) took delivery of seven two-coach units for use in Yorkshire. After the Class 155s entered service, it became an emerging requirement for ageing rural and branch line trains to be replaced. In the early 1990s, British Rail decided to convert the Regional Railways Class 155 fleet into single-coach multiple units and to replace its fleet of Class 121 and 122 diesel railcars.[9]

In 1990, British Rail awarded a contract to Hunslet-Barclay with the work completed in 1991/92.[9] A total of 70 single-coach Class 153 multiple units were created which were numbered in the range 153301-335 and 153351-385. Individual coaches are numbered 52301-335 and 57351-385 (originally 57301-335). The seven WYPTE Class 155s were not modified and remained as two-coach Class 155 multiple units.[10]

The layout of the original non-cab ends was different from the original cab end, so the ends are noticeably distinct, and the vehicles are not symmetrical. Their maximum speed is 75 mph (121 km/h)[1] and they are suited for working less busy local services such as the West Midlands Trains service from Coventry to Nuneaton and the Heart of Wales Line. They are fitted with standard BSI auto-couplers and are therefore able to work in tandem with other multiple units fitted with the same coupler, including classes 142, 143, 144, 150, 156, 158, 170 and 172.

The new, small cab is significantly smaller than the original Leyland cab and encroaches on the door vestibule area, providing cramped conditions for drivers and guards. Similar to other Sprinter family units, such as Classes 150/2, 156, 158 and 159, these units have gangway door connections at either end that allow passengers and staff to walk between units working in multiple. These units also have the benefit of passenger door control panels at either end of the cars.


Regional RailwaysEdit

Pre-privatisation, Regional Railways operated Class 153s on many branch lines throughout the Midlands, Wales and Northern England. They were initially allocated to Heaton (15), Cardiff Canton (9), Plymouth Laira (10), Crown Point (16) and Tyseley (20).[9] Due to their multiple working ability, Class 153s were often seen with other classes of Sprinter units such as Class 156s and Class 150s. Class 153s were often found working services from;

The class was a common sight in Regional Railways areas.

Post privatisationEdit

Upon privatisation of British Rail, the Class 153 fleet was divided amongst several operators.


Transport for Wales has a fleet of 18 Class 153s. They are normally used on rural branch lines – such as the Heart of Wales Line from Shrewsbury to Swansea and on local stopping services from Crewe to Shrewsbury via Nantwich – but are also used on some mainline services. One is used daily on the short Cardiff Queen Street to Cardiff Bay shuttle.

Following a timetable change in December 2007, then-operator Arriva Trains Wales had lost 3 of its then-11 Class 153 units, leaving them with 8. Two were transferred to East Midlands Trains with the other going to Great Western Railway. In October 2018, Arriva Trains Wales' 8 end-of-franchise 153s transferred to Transport for Wales, who acquired Great Western Railway's last 5 in April 2019, and later Greater Anglia's 5 in December 2019, bringing TfW's total number of 153s up to 18.

Transport for Wales is the first train operating company with some PRM modified 153s, which comply with the Persons with Reduced Mobility regulations which come into effect on 1 January 2020. 153325 was the first compliant unit in class to re-enter service on 21 October 2019.


West Midlands Trains used ten Class 153 DMUs on commuter lines in the West Midlands including the Leamington Spa to Nuneaton line and the Marston Vale Line between Bedford and Bletchley. Since the Class 172/0 from London Overground and Class 230’s deployment on those 2 lines, now they are used as back-up units of Class 170 and Class 172 in Birmingham-Hereford and Snow Hill Lines; they will be replaced by Class 196s in 2020.

All ten were inherited from Central Trains in their livery. All were repainted into London Midland city lines livery upon refurbishment at Eastleigh Works. The Class 153s that were used on the Stourbridge Town Branch Line have been replaced by new built lightweight Class 139 railcars. This was due to take place in December 2008, but the delivery of the new units was delayed, and after several months of bustitution London Midland reintroduced diesel services from 15 March pending the completion of Class 139 testing. The Class 139 received passenger certification from Network Rail in March 2009[11] and the service finally began three months later.[12]

East Midlands Trains inherited many examples of Class 153 units, receiving six from Central Trains, three from National Express East Anglia and four from storage at Eastleigh Works (formerly in service with Great Western Railway). In December 2007, East Midlands Trains received two more Class 153 units from Arriva Trains Wales and two more trains from Northern Rail. Following the Department for Transport awarding the East Midlands franchise to Abellio in 2019, EMT's 153 fleet transferred over to East Midlands Railway (EMR).

All of the East Midlands Trains Class 153 units were repainted into the local lines livery of the company.

In July 2010, the first unit 153319 entered Neville Hill depot in Leeds for a C6 refresh programme. The work included corrosion repair, internal refresh and a cab refurbishment programme.[13]

East Midlands Railway's fleet of Class 153s are used on rural routes:

Summer only:

  • Nottingham to Cleethorpes

via Newark North Gate, Lincoln Central & Grimsby Town (often with another 153 or 156/158)

South West EnglandEdit

A pair of First Great Western refurbished Class 153 No. 153368 and No. 153305 at Filton Abbey Wood
The interior of a First Great Western refurbished Class 153
153399 was a hybrid 2-car unit consisting of a class 150 vehicle No. 57221 (nearer camera) and class 153 153369.

Great Western Railway took over the Wessex Trains fleet upon the merger of the two franchises. Wessex Trains had, in turn, inherited its fleet of 13 units from its predecessor, Wales & West.

Units were used on local services in Cornwall, Devon, and around Bristol. They are also used on Bristol Temple Meads to Weymouth, Southampton Central, and Worcester Foregate Street services, and the Swindon via Melksham to Southampton Central service.

In mid-2004, Wessex Trains received a further two units from Central Trains to allow it to lengthen some services.

Following the introduction of a new timetable in December 2006, four units were taken off lease and stored at Eastleigh Works. After a period in storage these four units were pressed into service with East Midlands Trains.

In December 2007, First Great Western received an additional Class 153 from Arriva Trains Wales, bringing its total to 12. This unit arrived in the blue with gold star livery of former operator First North Western.

For summer 2011, two London Midland Class 153s were allocated to the South West for strengthening purposes, based at Exeter (EZ) depot for the duration. This allocation was eventually made permanent as a result of London Midland keeping three Class 150 units after the new Class 172 units entered service. This brought First Great Western's number of Class 153 units up to 14.

9 of those 14 units later left their fleet, with the remaining 5 leaving Great Western Railway's fleet in April 2019 after being displaced by internal cascading.

Northern EnglandEdit

Arriva Trains Northern repainted unit no. 153304 at Doncaster

The Northern Rail franchise started operations in December 2004. They inherited the fleets previously operated by Arriva Trains Northern (ATN) and First North Western (FNW), whose routes the new franchise incorporated. Northern Rail's successor Northern operates the largest fleet of Class 153 units.

Northern inherited a fleet of eight units from FNW, which were used on local services around Manchester, Chester and on Lancaster and Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle and Preston to Ormskirk services. The fleet was repainted in the now obsolete North Western Trains blue and gold livery. Prior to becoming part of Northern, four former FNW units were transferred to the Arriva Trains Wales franchise, since the lines operated by FNW in Wales were transferred to this new company.

A larger fleet of 12 units were inherited from ATN. They are used on various local services around Leeds, Doncaster and Sheffield. One regular job is the Cleethorpes to Barton-on-Humber services, which see a unit stable at Cleethorpes overnight and Sunday. Other jobs are the Lincoln to Scunthorpe via Retford and Sheffield, and the Saturday only Sheffield to Cleethorpes via Retford.

In December 2007, two units were taken off lease from Northern and transferred to East Midlands Trains.

East AngliaEdit

Anglia Railways inherited a small fleet of seven units, for local services in Suffolk and Norfolk. Services operated by these units included Ipswich to Cambridge, Peterborough, Felixstowe and Lowestoft, and Norwich to Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Cromer. One set was also hired to First Great Eastern for use on the Gainsborough line.

In 2004, Anglia Railways became part of the Greater Anglia franchise operated by One which was subsequently renamed National Express East Anglia. Two units left the franchise to East Midlands Trains. During 2012, Porterbrook began refurbishing the body and interiors and repainting them in base white with red doors and 'Greater Anglia' logos.

In 2014, a rolling refurbishment of Abellio's Class 153s commenced, which included new interior panels, tables, carpets and lighting. All are scheduled to be replaced by Class 755s in 2020.[14][15]. These will then move to Transport for Wales to cover for delays with their new rolling stock.


Class 153 consists of 70 single-car units converted in 1991–92 from Class 155 two-car units.

Class Operator Number Year built Unit nos.
Class 153 Transport for Wales 18 1987–88 153303, 153306, 153309, 153312, 153314, 153320, 153322–323, 153325, 153327,
153329, 153333, 153335, 153353, 153361–362, 153367, 153369
East Midlands Railway 19 153302, 153308, 153311, 153313, 153318–319, 153321, 153355, 153357,
153368, 153372, 153374, 153376, 153379, 153381–385
Northern 20 153301, 153304, 153307, 153315–317, 153324, 153328, 153330–332, 153351–352,
153358–360, 153363, 153373, 153378, 153380
ScotRail 3 153305, 153370, 153377
West Midlands Trains 10 153310, 153326, 153334, 153354, 153356, 153364–366, 153371, 153375
Great Western Railway livery

Named unitsEdit

Some units have received names:[16]


In 2019, five former GWR 153s will move from Northern to Abellio ScotRail for use on the West Highland Line attached to Class 156s.[18][19]

Railway modelsEdit

When the units were first introduced, Hurst models produced a detailing kit to convert a Dapol model of a 155 into a 153.[20]

The Class 153 has been produced in OO scale by Hornby. The following liveries are/were available; Central Trains, First Northern Star, Abellio Greater Anglia, Northern Rail, Regional Railways, East Midlands Trains, London Midland City, Arriva Trains Wales and Great Scenic Railways of Devon and Cornwall (Wessex Trains). These models have been praised for their detail.[21]

More recently, Dapol have announced a N Scale version.[22]

Making Tracks have a digital model available for the PC Railway simulator Microsoft Train Simulator.[23]

Just Trains has released a digital model for the PC railway simulator Railworks.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dave Coxon. "Class 155 Super Sprinter DMU". Archived from the original on 3 November 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  2. ^ "Class 153 - Arriva Trains Wales, Great Western Railway, East Midlands Trains, Arriva Rail North". Angel Trains. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Fox & Hughes 1994, pp. 31–32
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Vehicle Diagram Book No. 220 for Diesel Multiple Unit Trains (Railcars) (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. Derby: British Railways Board. 1982. DP248, DP249.
  5. ^ a b Marsden 2011, p. 115
  6. ^ a b c d e "Class 153". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 9 March 2005.
  7. ^ "Our Fleet". Arriva Trains Wales. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Mechanical And Electrical Coupling Index". Rail Safety and Standards Board. Archived from the original on 21 December 2013. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  9. ^ a b c "Leyland's final rail vehicles" Today's Railways UK issue 107 November 2010 pages 44-51
  10. ^ "Class 155 Fleet Details". Porterbrook Leasing. Archived from the original on 21 May 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  11. ^ "Stourbridge railcar receives its passenger licence". London Midland. 2 April 2009. Archived from the original on 26 November 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Latest News". Parry People Movers. 19 June 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  13. ^ "The News in Pictures" (PDF). Railway Herald. No. 241. 4 October 2010. p. 2. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  14. ^ Newly refurbished Class 156 train re-enters service Abellio Greater Anglia 3 December 2012
  15. ^ Stadler and Bombardier to supply trains for Abellio East Anglia franchise Railway Gazette International 10 August 2016
  16. ^ "DMU FORMATIONS". AbRail. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Class 153 named" Railways Illustrated issue 173 July 2017 page 9
  18. ^ "Cycle coaches to be hitched to trains to ease bike crush". The Scotsman. 15 June 2018.
  19. ^ "ScotRail bike train plans take shape". Rail. 17 December 2018.
  20. ^ "DKU103 Pair of Class 153 Conversion Kits". Hurst Models. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  21. ^ "HORNBY CLASS 153". Intertrains. Archived from the original on 11 April 2009.
  22. ^ "Class 153 released". Dapol. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011.
  23. ^ "BMUC 6 :: Leyland Class 153 / Class 155 Stock Pack". Making Tracks. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015.


  • Fox, Peter; Hughes, Barry (1994). DMUs & Channel Tunnel Stock. British Railways Pocket Book No.3 (7th ed.). Platform 5. ISBN 978-1-872524-59-7.
  • Marsden, Colin J. (2011). Traction Recognition (2nd ed.). Ian Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-3494-5.
  • Marsden, Colin J. (2014). Traction Recognition (3rd ed.). Surrey: Ian Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-3792-2.