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British Rail Class 508 (or 4PER[5][6]) electric multiple units (EMUs) were built by BREL York works in 1979-80. They were the fourth variant of BR's standard 1972 design for suburban EMUs, eventually encompassing 755 vehicles and five classes (313/314/315/507/508). They have mostly worked on the Merseyrail network since 1983, and continue to do so, now refurbished by Alstom's Eastleigh Works. The Class 508 unit is now 40 years old, making them among the oldest units still in service on the UK mainland rail network, after the Class 313 and Class 507.

British Rail Class 508
Beatles train, Hillside Railway Station (geograph 2993523).jpg
Merseyrail 508111 at Hillside in 2012
508139 Interior.jpg
The interior of a Merseyrail refurbished Class 508
In service1979 - Current
Order no.
  • 30979 (DMSO)
  • 30980 (TSO)
  • 30981 (BDMSO)[1]
Built atBREL York
Family nameBREL 1972 "PEP"
ReplacedBritish Rail Class 503
Entered service17 December 1979
Number built43 trainsets
Number scrapped12 trainsets fully scrapped
3 trainsets partly scrapped
  • 3 cars per trainset
  • (Originally 4 cars)
  • As built: DMSO+TSO+TSO+BDMSO
  • EA208 (DMSO)
  • EH218 (TSO)
  • EI203 (BDMSO)[1][2]
Fleet numbers
  • 508001-043 (as built)
  • 508101-143 (Merseyrail)
  • 508201-212[3]
  • 64649-64691 (DMSO)
  • 71483-71525 (TSO)
  • 71526-71568 (TSO, as built)
  • 64692-64734 (BDMSO)[3]
  • 320 seats (as built)
  • 234 seats (508/1)
  • 222 seats (508/1 modified, 508/3)
  • 219 seats (508/2), 192 seats (Merseyrail refurbished)
Line(s) served
Car body constructionSteel underframe and body frame, aluminium body and roof[2]
Train length
  • 264 ft 10 in (80.72 m) (as built)[3]
  • 199 ft 7 in (60.83 m)
Car length19.8 m (65 ft 0 in) (over body)[2]
Width2.82 m (9 ft 3 in) (over body)[2]
Height3.58 m (11 ft 9 in)[2]
Entry1.146 m (3 ft 9.1 in)[2]
  • 4 × Twin electro-pneumatic sliding doors per car
  • 2 × electro-pneumatic sliding doors per driving car
  • 2 × gangway end doors per car
Articulated sections
  • 4 (as built)
  • 3 (Merseyrail)
Wheelbase14.170 m (46 ft 5.9 in) (bogie centres, per car)[2]
Maximum speed75 mph (121 km/h)[1]
  • 104.5 tonnes (102.8 long tons)
  • 36.15 t (35.58 long tons; 39.85 short tons) (DMSO)
  • 26.72 t (26.30 long tons; 29.45 short tons) (TSO)
  • 36.61 t (36.03 long tons; 40.36 short tons) (BDMSO)[1]
Traction motorsGEC G310AZ or Brush TM61-53[2]
Power output656 kW (880 hp) from 8 x GEC G310AZ electric motor (82.125kW each)[3]
Train heatingElectric-ducted warm air[2]
Electric system(s)750/850 V DC third rail[1][2]
Current collection methodContact shoe
UIC classificationBo'Bo'+2'2'+Bo'Bo'
Braking system(s)Disc and rheostatic[1][3]
Safety system(s)
Coupling system
Multiple workingWithin class and Class 507
Headlight typeFluorescent and tungsten[2]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
One TSO removed during 1980s, transferred to Class 455/7[1]



The class was developed for Merseyside following extensive trials and testing of the 4Pep/2Pep stock built in the early 1970s. Testing of Class 313 took place on the Northern Line on Merseyside, using 313013/063[7] which were loaned from the Great Northern Line of the Eastern Region[8] to Hall Road depot. Original plans were drawn up for 58 Class 508s to be constructed,[8] although costing issues limited the eventual number to 43. However, following planning and building, British Rail decided to divert the 508s to work alongside much older first-generation 4Sub EMUs in the London Waterloo area. The first unit was delivered to Strawberry Hill depot on 9 August 1979.[8] Based at Wimbledon Park depot, they soon became problematic due to their non-standard dimensions and brake problems caused by leaf fall.[8][9] Once a new build of Class 455 EMUs were complete, the Class 508s were slowly sent to their originally intended home on the Merseyrail network. Driver training began at Kirkdale on 17 February 1982,[10] and the first Class 508 began service on the Northern Line the following month.[10] The first Wirral Line service commenced on 8 June 1984,[10] and the Class 508s had completely displaced the Class 503 fleet by the end of March 1985.[10] The fleet was then working in parallel with the already well-established fleet of Class 507 EMUs across the River Mersey, which had been working on Merseyside since 1978.

Delivered to the Southern Region as four-car sets numbered 508 001–043, all of the sets were reduced to three cars for Merseyside operation by the removal of one trailer and renumbered as 508/1. The individual passenger door controls were plated over before they were sent north. The spare trailer car from each set was incorporated into class 455/7 EMUs. Carriage numbering is as follows:

  • 64649-64691 - DMSO
  • 71483-71525 - TSO
  • 71526–71568 – TSO (removed before transfer to Merseyside)
  • 64692-64734 - BDMSO

Current operationsEdit


Merseyrail Class 508 No. 508115 at Birkenhead North

Merseyrail operates 27 508s, which are used interchangeably between the Northern Line and the Wirral Line. They commonly work the following services:

Merseyrail's fleet of Class 508 units are primarily maintained at Birkenhead North TMD, with minor maintenance being undertaken at Kirkdale TMD. The units, when out of service, have stabling points at various sidings around the Merseyrail network. These can be found at the station termini and the depots, as well as at Rock Ferry station and Birkenhead North station.

Past operationsEdit


Southeastern Trains refurbished Class 508/2 No. 508203 at London Bridge

Connex South Eastern leased twelve Class 508s freed up by capacity reductions on Merseyrail services in 1996 (508101/105/106/107/109/113/116/119/121/129/132/133), for operation on specific Kent services. Their main duties included London Bridge to Tunbridge Wells, Paddock Wood to Strood, Maidstone West to Three Bridges and Sittingbourne to Sheerness-on-Sea, as well as Grove Park to Bromley North for a short period. Units were based at Gillingham Depot.[11]

In September 2006 new operator Southeastern announced that a cascade of rolling stock would see Class 466 units replace the 508s on the Sheerness and Medway Valley lines in the December 2006 timetable.[12] Following this timetable change the fleet was reduced to six serviceable units. There were five sets in 'warm store' at Ashford Chart Leacon, and one unit, 508212, was cannibalised to keep the surviving service units in operation, including the swap of its TSO coach with one from a unit that ran into a tree on the Redhill to Tonbridge Line. With the transfer of the Tonbridge to London via Redhill services to Southern, Southeastern placed its remaining 508s in store in December 2008.[citation needed]


Silverlink leased three 508s from Angel Trains in 2003 for operation on the Watford DC Line to assist its fleet of Class 313 EMUs. These were withdrawn following the delivery of Class 378 Capitalstar units. These three Class 508/3 units were modified by Alstom Eastleigh to designs provided by Interfleet Technology to make them inter-operable with Class 313 units.

Fleet informationEdit

A Class 508 at Hampton Court in 1984, with its original number and livery.
  • They were originally numbered 508001–508043. When they transferred to Merseyside they were renumbered to 508101–508143 and designated as Class 508/1 to avoid confusion with the similarly numbered Class 507s.
  • The Merseyrail 508s were refurbished in 2003/04, the first unit to re-enter service being 508110. The final unit to leave for the works for refurbishment was formerly black-striped 508137.
  • Southeastern units were renumbered 508/2 when they were refurbished in 1996. 508203, 205, 207, 208, 210 and 211 were further overhauled at Wabtec, Doncaster in 2007.
  • Silverlink units were renumbered 508/3 when they were refurbished in 2003, modified to make them compatible with Class 313s for operation on Euston to Watford Junction services.
  • Both Southeastern and London Overground have withdrawn their fleets for replacement - Southeastern has been able to cascade existing rolling stock to the Sheerness and Medway lines, while the London Bridge to Tonbridge via Redhill service has been transferred to Southern; London Overground has fully introduced its new Class 378 units.
  • 508/2 units 508201-508206, 508209, 508211 and 508212 as well as parts of 508207, 508208 and 508210 were scrapped at Eastleigh in 2013.
  • 508/2 BDMSO carriages 64710 (508208) and 64720 (508210) survive.
  • 508/2 DMSO carriages 64649 (508201) and 64712 (508209) survive and are in use at the Merseyside Emercency Services Training Centre, Seacombe. [13][14]
  • DMSO carriage 64664 and BDMSO carriage 64707 (ex. 508207) are in use as translator vehicles.
  • All of the 508/3 units were scrapped at Eastleigh in 2013.
Class Operator No. in service Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos. Notes
Class 508/1 Merseyrail 27 1979–80 3 508103–508104, 508108, 508110–508112, 508114–508115, 508117, 508120,
508122–508128, 508130–508131, 508134, 508136–508141, 508143
Converted from 508/0
Class 508/2 -- 0 (scrapped) 508201–508206, 508208–508212
Arlington Fleet Services, Eastleigh 1 2 508207 (end cars in departmental use)
Class 508/3 -- 0 (scrapped) 3 508301–508303

Network Rail's Route Utilisation Strategy for Merseyside has called for an expansion to Merseyrail's current fleet to allow for both additional services and lengthening of trains to six cars. In December 2009 it was reported by various sources that the former Southeastern and London Overground units would be transferred to Merseyrail.[15][16] Two ex-London-Overground units were moved to Warrington Arpley Yard in November 2009, but returned south soon after. Meanwhile, the ex Southeastern 508s were moved to Telford Railfreight Terminal for storage between May 2010 and February 2011 [17] before they moved to Eastleigh for further storage in late 2011. On 14 August 2012, 508212 was moved to the Fire Training College at Moreton-in-Marsh.[18]


London Overground unit 508301 stands at London Euston in Silverlink Metro livery.

Class 508s have appeared in many colours over their lifetimes, more so than any EMU of similar type.

  • BR Blue and Grey (1979–1997): the initial livery lasted until well into their careers on Merseyside. The units also carried the MPTE 69 logo and Merseyrail branding on the driver's side of the outer ends of the driving vehicles after transfer to Merseyside.
BR Corporate Livery 1979 - 1997
  • Merseyrail Original (1992–2001; repaints 2002–2004): yellow with white around the windows and black and grey stripes, exclusive to Merseyside EMUs.
  • Connex Yellow and White (1996–2006): white with yellow effects down the sides.
Connex South Eastern livery 1996 - 2006
  • Merseyrail Revised (2000–2004): a lighter yellow, and no black stripe.[19]
  • Merseyrail trial liveries (2001): One car of 508123 used for testing new liveries on each side of the carriage.[20]
  • Merseyrail Refurbished (2003–2015): silver, with vertical curved yellow stripes receding from the cab ends. The passenger doors were all yellow, introduced as a safety measure by Merseyrail. 'M' branding on the front ends and on the sides, and a Merseyrail vinyl. The vinyl was purchased without graffiti protection, and so it does not wear well if vandalised. Several sets are run with their 'M' logos missing or worn away.
Class 508/1 diagram
  • Silverlink Metro (2004–): purple, green and silver, applied when they were modified in 2003.
Silverlink livery 2004 - 2010
  • South Eastern Trains (2005–2006): white with yellow and black side stripes. Unit 508208 was one of the first to receive this, in May 2005.
  • Southeastern (April 2006 – December 2008): white, black and grey as carried by the 465/466 fleet, with the doors in corporate lilac.
South Eastern livery, 2006 - 2008
  • Merseyrail Capital of Culture (2008–2009): based around the Merseyrail Refurbished livery, with overlain graphics. One of the four sets in the promotional Capital of Culture liveries[21] is 508134, with the theme of creativity with a purple background. Photographs depicted focus on some of the culture of Liverpool, such as the SuperLambBanana. The colourful liveries met with mixed reactions from travellers. It was most often on the Southport – Hunts Cross line. Passenger doors carry diagonal safety stripes.[22][23]
The train in The Beatles Story livery at Hillside railway station.
508108 at Moreton displaying one of the Merseyrail Good Communications liveries.
  • Merseyrail The Beatles Story (October 2011 –): blue background, with mainly-white text and graphics, advertising The Beatles Story exhibition at the Albert Dock in Liverpool. The passenger doors are all yellow, as a safety measure which was introduced, previously, by Merseyrail. The livery is applied as a vinyl skin.[24] This livery is unique to unit number 508111.
  • Merseyrail Good Communications (January 2014 –): six different designs, half with a yellow background, and half with a brushed metal background, applied with each set having one yellow side and one brushed metal side.[25][26] Both sides have lifestyle text, in a rounded font, and graphics along a lower railway map-type stubbed stripe. The passenger doors are white on the yellow sides and yellow on the brushed metal sides. There is Merseyrail 'M' branding on each of the passenger doors, as well as on the cab fronts. The livery is applied as a vinyl skin.[27][28]


Named units are as follows:[29]


  • 508118 was gutted by fire during 2001 at Birkenhead.[citation needed]
  • On 26 October 2005 508124, forming 2W43 1706 West Kirby return via Liverpool Lime Street, derailed 200m short of Liverpool Central, caused by track gauge widening due to poor track condition. There were no serious injuries. The RAIB report[32] cited incompatibility between Class 508 (and 507) EMUs and the Liverpool Loop track as a causal factor, along with maintenance and other track design concerns.
  • On 6 March 2007 508210, forming the 0500 Tonbridge to Gatwick Airport, derailed near Crowhurst, Surrey, after hitting a fallen tree on the line. None of the eight people on board were hurt.[33]


On 14 May 2012, Merseytravel announced that it was beginning a project for replacement of the 508s and 507s.[34][35] The lease on the Class 507s and 508s has been extended to 2018. As part of the agreement with Angel Trains, the fleet will receive a refresh package including external re-livery, internal enhancements and engineering work.[36]

On 11 January 2016 Merseytravel announced the short list of companies bidding to build new trains which will replace the Class 507 and Class 508s on the Merseyrail network.[34] In December 2016, Merseytravel announced that Stadler had won the £460 million contract and that the new Class 777 trains would be delivered from summer 2019 with all the old trains replaced by 2021.[37]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Fox 1994, p. 86
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Vehicle Diagram Book No. 210 for Electric Multiple Units (Including A.P.T.) (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. Derby: British Railways Board. 1981. p. EA208, EH218, EI203.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Class 508". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 24 July 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  4. ^ Maund 2001, p. 78
  5. ^ Marsden 1982, pp. 4, 6
  6. ^ "Trans Pennine: The Magazine of the Pennine Railway Society". AbRail. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  7. ^ Cadwallader & Jenkins 2010, p. 42
  8. ^ a b c d Maund 2001, p. 82
  9. ^ "Readers' round-up". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. February – March 1982. p. 51. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  10. ^ a b c d Maund 2001, p. 85
  11. ^ "Class 508". Kent Rail. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  12. ^ "New Southeastern timetable begins in December". 5 September 2006. Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Class 508 (508201) at Seacombe". Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  14. ^ "508209 - Seacombe". Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  15. ^ Broadbent, Steve (December 2008). "Merseyside RUS addresses serious growth issues". Rail. Peterborough (607): 10–11. ISSN 0953-4563.
  16. ^ "North Wales Coast Railway Noticeboard". Charlie Hulme. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2009.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "South-Eastern & Connex South-Eastern Class 508/2s at Donnington Railfreight Terminal, Telford". Flickr.
  18. ^ "508212 goes to Moreton Aug 12". Flickr.
  19. ^ "508138 at Birkdale". Martyn Hilbert Railway Photography. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  20. ^ Maund 2001, p. 83
  21. ^ "Trains take fast track to Capital of Culture". Wirral Globe. 25 February 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  22. ^ "Matty P's Railway Pics". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  23. ^ "Step on the Culture train!". Stewart Signs. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  24. ^ "Stewart Signs wrap The Beatles Story train for Merseytravel's ultimate Ticket to Ride!". Stewart Signs. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  25. ^ "New Look Trains". Merseyrail. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  26. ^ "New Look Trains". Production PEP. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Good Communications designs new-look Merseyrail trains". Prolific North. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  28. ^ "507017 breaks cover in the new Merseyrail livery". RMWeb. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  29. ^ "The Encyclopaedia of Modern Traction Names". Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  30. ^ "The Encyclopedia of Modern Traction Names: C". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 8 February 2009.
  31. ^ "T7 001". Flickr. 508207 - nameplate in unit
  32. ^ "Derailment near Liverpool Central underground station 26 October 2005". RAIB. 11 August 2006. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  33. ^ "Train derails after hitting tree". BBC News. 6 March 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2008.
  34. ^ a b "Another step towards new Merseyrail trains as bidder shortlist announced". Merseytravel. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  35. ^ "Merseyrail trains to be replaced". BBC News. 14 May 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  36. ^ Hodgson, Neil (1 May 2014). "Best Merseyrail service for two years". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  37. ^ Houghton, Alistair (16 December 2016). "Merseytravel reveals new £460m train fleet plans - with no train guards". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 6 February 2017.


  • Cadwallader, Jonathan; Jenkins, Martin (2010). Merseyside Electrics. Ian Allan. ISBN 9780711034174. OCLC 455806364.
  • Fox, Peter (1994). Electric Multiple Units. British Railways Pocket Book No.4 (7th ed.). Platform 5. ISBN 9781872524603.
  • Marsden, Colin (1982). Motive Power Recognition:2 EMUs (1st ed.). Ian Allan. ISBN 0 7110 1165 6.
  • Maund, T.B. (2001). Merseyrail Electrics: The Inside Story. NBC Books. OCLC 655126526.

Further readingEdit

  • Hilbert, Martyn (2016). Merseyrail Electric. Fonthill Media. ISBN 9781781555132.
  • West, Lee (26 August – 8 September 1998). "Connex '508s' go to work on Isle of Sheppey line". RAIL. No. 338. EMAP Apex Publications. p. 15. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.