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InterCity 125

InterCity 125 or High Speed Train (HST)
An InterCity 125 in original British Rail livery near Chesterfield
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Build date 1975–82
UIC classification Bo'Bo' + 2'2' + ... + 2'2' + Bo'Bo'
Performance figures
Maximum speed 125 mph (201 km/h) (service)
148 mph (238 km/h) (record)
Power output Engine: 2x 2,250 bhp (1,678 kW)
Tractive effort Maximum: 2x 17,980 lbf (80.0 kN)
Continuous: 2x 10,340 lbf (46.0 kN) @64.5 mph (104 km/h)
Disposition in service

The InterCity 125 was the brand name of British Rail's High Speed Train (HST) fleet, which was built from 1975 to 1982 and was introduced in 1976. The InterCity 125 train is made up of two Class 43 power cars, one at each end of a fixed formation of Mark 3 carriages (the number of carriages varies by operator). The train operates at speeds of up to 125 mph (201 km/h) in regular service, and has an absolute maximum speed of 148 mph (238 km/h), making it the fastest diesel-powered train in the world, a record it has held from its introduction to the present day. Initially the sets were classified as Classes 253 and 254. A variant of the power cars operates in Australia as part of the XPT.

After three decades, most of the HST fleet is still in front-line revenue service under privatisation, and while the InterCity 125 brand name is rarely mentioned officially by the private train-operating companies (TOCs), the InterCity 125 still forms the backbone of intercity services on several British main lines. Almost all sets are expected to be replaced within the next 10 years by the Intercity Express Programme. Under early plans for that programme, some HSTs were due to continue in use on London to Devon/Cornwall services, where there are no plans to electrify the lines. However, in March 2015 it was announced that the remainder of the Great Western fleet would be replaced with bi-mode Intercity Express sets, equipped with the required powerplants and fuel tanks to tackle the distances and inclines of Westcountry services.[1][2]

The power cars have new engines and new lights, and the coaches have been refurbished. The trains currently operate from London Paddington to Penzance, Plymouth, Newquay (summer), Paignton, Exeter, Taunton, Westbury, Oxford, Cardiff, Swansea, Carmarthen, Pembroke Dock (summer), Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Worcester, Great Malvern, Hereford and Cheltenham; from London St Pancras to Nottingham; from London King's Cross to Aberdeen, Inverness, Harrogate, Hull, Sunderland, Leeds, and Lincoln; on the CrossCountry route from Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Leeds to Plymouth (plus in summer to Paignton, Newquay and Penzance; from Derby to Skegness (summer only) and also Leeds to Aberdeen. One is in departmental use, as Network Rail's New Measurement Train, converted and in use since 2003.


  • Background 1
  • Production 2
    • Prototype 2.1
    • Production versions 2.2
  • Introduction into service 3
  • World records 4
  • Regions and operators 5
    • South West England and South Wales 5.1
    • Eastern England / Scotland 5.2
    • Midland Region 5.3
    • Cross-Country Route 5.4
    • West Coast and North Wales 5.5
    • Network Rail 5.6
  • Numbering and formation 6
    • Livery 6.1
  • Cultural impact 7
    • Public reaction 7.1
    • International attention 7.2
    • Scale models 7.3
  • Developments and changes 8
    • Damaged vehicles and accidents 8.1
    • Re-engining and refurbishment 8.2
    • Replacements 8.3
    • Sewage discharge 8.4
  • See also 9
  • Notes and references 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12


In the later 1950s and early 1960s, the British Transport Commission was modernising its rail network. In particular, it wanted to increase intercity speeds, so that the railways could compete more effectively with the new motorways. The government was unwilling to fund new railways, so the BTC focused its attention on increasing line speeds through the development of new trains and minor modifications to the existing infrastructure. A team of engineers was assembled at the Railway Technical Centre in Derby in the early 1960s, with the aim of developing an "Advanced Passenger Train" (APT), that would be capable of at least 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) and incorporate many features not previously seen on British railways—such as tilting to allow higher speeds on bends.[3]

The APT project had suffered repeated delays, and in 1970, the British Railways Board (BRB) decided that it was not sufficiently developed to be able to provide modernisation of the railways in the short term. Thus, at the instigation of Terry Miller, Chief Engineer (Traction & Rolling Stock), the BRB authorised the development of a high-speed diesel train, an operational prototype of which was to be built by 1972, for short-term use until the APT was able to take over.[4]



Class 252 in 1975 – The prototype HST, seen here at Weston-Super-Mare

The prototype high-speed diesel train, which was to become the InterCity 125, was to be formed of a rake of passenger coaches sandwiched between two power cars—one at each end. The decision to use two power cars was taken very early in the project—engineers had calculated that the train would need 4,500 horsepower to sustain the required speed of 125 miles per hour on the routes for which it was being designed (the Great Western Main Line, Midland Main Line, and the Cross Country Route), and it was quickly established that no single "off-the-shelf" diesel engine was capable of producing such power. Also a factor in the decision was that the use of two locomotives, operating in push–pull formation, would cause less wear on the rails than a single, much heavier, locomotive. The framework of the new locomotive, classified British Rail Class 41, was built at Crewe Works before being transferred to Derby Carriage and Wagon Works for completion. The design of the locomotive incorporated a driving desk fitted around the driver, a sound-proofed door between the cab and the engine room, and, unusually, no side windows.[5] The prototype became the first diesel locomotive in British railway history to use AC alternators in place of a DC generator, with the output converted to DC when used for traction.[6]

The prototype train of seven coaches and two locomotives was completed in August 1972. By the autumn it was running trials on the main line and in May 1973 the prototype, now designated Class 252, set a world diesel speed record of 143.2 mph (230.5 km/h).[7] The concept was proven in trial running between 1973 and 1976, and British Rail decided to build 27 production HSTs to transform InterCity services between London Paddington, Bristol, and South Wales.

Production versions

The first production power car, numbered 43002, was delivered in late 1975, with a significantly different appearance from the prototype. The streamlined front end lacked conventional buffers, and the drawgear was hidden under a cowling. The single cab front window was much larger than the prototype's, and side windows were included. There was also no driving position at the inner end.

The appearance of the train is the work of British designer Kenneth Grange. Grange was initially approached just to design the livery for the train, but under his own impetus decided to redesign the body, working with aerodynamics engineers. He went on to present the new design to British Rail and persuade them to adopt it.[8]

An InterCity 125 consists of two Class 43 diesel-electric power cars, each powered originally by 2,250 bhp (1,678 kW) Paxman Valenta engines (although they have since been fitted with different engines), and a set of Mark 3 coaches (typically 7 or 8). Normally there are two types of HST sets, 8+2 (5 standard class, 1 buffet, 2 first class) and 7+2 (4 standard class, 1 buffet, 2 first class), where the +2 refers to the power cars at each end of the rake.

Key features of the design are the high power-to-weight ratio of the locomotives (1678 kW per ~70-tonne loco),[9] which were purpose-built for high-speed passenger travel, improved crashworthiness over previous models, and bi-directional running avoiding the need for a locomotive to run around at terminating stations.[10] Until the HST's introduction, the maximum speed of British trains was limited to 100 miles per hour (161 km/h).[11] The HST allowed a 25% increase in service speeds along many lines they operated.

The lighter axle loading allowed the trains to travel faster than conventional services along lines not suited to full-speed running, such as the Edinburgh to Aberdeen line. Known as HST differential speeds, coupled with superior acceleration capability over older locomotives, this allowed substantial cuts in journey times over these lines. The increased speed and rapid acceleration and deceleration of the HST made it ideal for passenger use.

Introduction into service

Deliveries continued through 1976, and on 4 October a partial service of HSTs running at 125 mph (201 km/h) began on the Western Region.[12] A radical update of the standard BR livery on the power cars was complemented by the 'Inter-City 125' branding, which also appeared on timetables and promotional literature. By the start of the summer timetable in May 1977, the full complement of 27 Class 253 sets (253001–253027) was in service on the Western Region, completely replacing locomotive-hauled trains on the Bristol and South Wales routes. Passenger volumes on the trains rapidly increased due to the speed and frequency of the service, an effect previously seen only when electric trains had replaced diesel or steam services. The displacement by HSTs of the British Rail Class 50 locomotives to slower services effectively finished off the last 'Western' Class 52 diesel-hydraulics by early 1977.

An InterCity 125 about to depart Manchester Piccadilly on a wet day in 1986

The production of Class 254 continued through 1977 for East Coast Main Line services. Initially, British Rail planned to fit uprated 2,500 bhp (1,900 kW) Valenta engines to these longer HSTs, but this plan was shelved as the intensive running on the Western Region began to result in a high level of engine failures, often due to inadequate cooling; for a while, the WR power cars were derated to 2,000 bhp (1,500 kW). The Class 254s began to work important ECML expresses such as the Flying Scotsman from the summer timetable in May 1978. Within a year they had displaced the Deltics to lesser workings and reduced the London-Edinburgh journey time by up to an hour.

Production of HSTs continued until 1982, allowing them to take over services from London to the West Country, on the Cross Country Route and latterly on the Midland Main Line, serving destinations such as London, Bristol, Edinburgh, as far south as Penzance and as far north as Aberdeen and Inverness. Ninety-five HST sets, including 197 Class 43 powercars, were built between 1976 and 1982. More Mark 3 trailer cars were built in the 1980s for the Western Region Class 253s, making them eight-car rakes in common with those used on East Coast and Midland Main Line services. During the 1990s only the Cross-Country sets remained as seven-car rakes, with just one first-class carriage.

Not only did the HST bring considerable improvements in service on the railways, British Rail entered a period of active marketing which accompanied and supported the train's introduction.[13] The Intercity service overall had become a vast success for British Rail.[14]

World records

InterCity 125 in London Paddington in 1988.

The prototype InterCity 125 (power cars 43000 and 43001) set the world record for diesel traction at 143.2 mph (230.5 km/h) on 12 June 1973.[7] An HST also holds the world speed record for a diesel train carrying passengers. On 27 September 1985, a special press run for the launch of a new Tees-Tyne Pullman service from Newcastle to London King's Cross, formed of a shortened 2+5 set, briefly touched 144 mph (232 km/h) north of York. The world record for the fastest diesel-powered train, a speed of 148 mph (238 km/h), was set by an HST on 1 November 1987,[15][16][17][18] while descending Stoke Bank with a test run for a new type of bogie, later to be used under the Mark 4 coaches used on the same route.

Regions and operators

South West England and South Wales

On Western Region, InterCity 125 trains (designated class 253) were introduced initially for all services from London to Bristol and South Wales,[15] and then extended for most day-time services from London to Devon and Cornwall. Some South Wales services were extended to Milford Haven, Fishguard and Pembroke in West Wales. From introduction, maintenance has always been provided from Old Oak Common and St Philip's Marsh, with Laira also carrying out maintenance once services to Devon and Cornwall were introduced in 1979.

The Class 47 locomotives still operated the cross-country services from Cornwall and South Wales to the North-East via the Cross Country Route, as well as London to the Midlands/Welsh Marches. However, Class 43s also replaced these services once the third batch of power cars was delivered. All these HSTs consisted of a 2+8 formation, normally with two first class coaches, a buffet car, and five second class coaches, all sandwiched between two power cars.

First Great Western HST passing Old Oak Common TMD.

Great Western Trains was formed out of the privatisation of British Rail and operated the InterCity routes from London Paddington to the west of England. In 1998 FirstGroup acquired Great Western Trains and rebranded it First Great Western. InterCity 125s continued to work the same diagrams they had under British Rail, albeit in a different livery.

First Great Western uses its large fleet of 43 HST sets to operate most intercity services from Paddington to Bristol, Bath, Chippenham, Swindon, Cardiff, Swansea, Carmarthen, Cheltenham Spa, Oxford, Worcester, Hereford, Paignton, Plymouth and Penzance, as well as some commuter services to Westbury, Taunton and Exeter St Davids. As of 2012 all First Great Western's intercity services are worked by InterCity 125 sets with the exception of sleeper services and certain Cotswold Line services.

From 2005 the First Great Western HSTs were re-engined with MTU power units, while at the same time the coaches were refurbished.[19] Units for services in the M4 corridor/Thames Valley to Bristol, Hereford, Oxford, Exeter and Cardiff were converted into a high-density layout of mostly airline-style seats (only two tables per coach). This was in order to provide more seats for commuters. The remainder (for the routes to Swansea and the West Country) kept the tables.

The refurbished coaches have new seating (leather in first class), at-seat power points and a redesigned buffet bar.[20] Some standard class carriages now have a Volo TV system.

Eastern England / Scotland

Highland Chieftain InterCity 125 departing Falkirk Grahamston. All Virgin Trains East Coast services north of Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness use InterCity 125 sets, but the services to Glasgow Central use InterCity 225 sets.

On the East Coast Main Line, the InterCity 125 designated Class 254 was the staple stock from the retirement of the Class 55 Deltic locomotives in 1980–1982 to the introduction of the InterCity 225 following electrification in 1990. They were concentrated on services from London King's Cross to Newcastle and Edinburgh Waverley with some extending to Glasgow Queen Street, Inverness and Aberdeen. In the months following the Penmanshiel Tunnel collapse in 1979, London to Scotland services ran via the Tyne Valley Line from Newcastle to Carlisle then on to Scotland via the West Coast Main Line. HSTs were also used on some services from London to Leeds, Bradford Forster Square, Cleethorpes, Hull and Scarborough.

The basic East Coast (ECML) formation was originally 2 + 8, increased to 2 + 9 in 2002 when extra stock became available. The ECML formation is nominally two first-class coaches, one buffet (with further 1st Class seating) and five (later six) standard-class coaches, sandwiched between the buffet and power cars.

For a few years, formations included a TRUK (trailer restaurant kitchen) and buffet car, many formations being 4 × TS, TRUK, Buffet, 2 × TF. Nine trailer car units followed this formation, with the addition of a TS. 'Pullman' services replace a TS with an additional first-class coach.

GNER liveried InterCity 125 departing King's Cross

After privatisation, InterCity sets were operated by Great North Eastern Railway (GNER),[21] alongside electric InterCity 225 units from London to Newcastle and Edinburgh, as well as beyond the electrified sections (or where British Rail Class 91s cannot operate due to route availability restrictions) such as services to Hull, Skipton, Harrogate, Inverness and Aberdeen.

In January 2007 the first of GNER's 13 refurbished HSTs was unveiled, with the coaches rebuilt to the same 'Mallard' standard as its InterCity 225 electric sets with similar seating, lighting, carpets and buffet cars.[22] Members of this fleet which have been refurbished have had '200' added to their original numbers. The power cars were upgraded with MTU engines. The first of the HST Mallards was in service by spring 2007.

National Express liveried InterCity 125 in Central Scotland on the first day of NXEC operations

In 2007 the franchise was taken over by National Express East Coast, which continued the re-engining programme begun by GNER, and completed the refurbishment of the fleet in March 2009.[23] Two power cars were transferred to First Great Western early in 2009.[24] The final Mallard-upgraded Mark 3 coaches entered service with NXEC in October 2009.

Following an announcement by the National Express Group that it refused to provide further financial support to its subsidiary National Express East Coast, the NXEC franchise ceased on 13 November 2009, and the operation of the route returned to public ownership. As a result, the 13 sets are now operated by Department of Transport operator East Coast (as of late 2009). East Coast introduced a new InterCity 125 service to Lincoln in 2011. The InterCity 125 was replaced by the electric InterCity 225 on the line to Skipton when the electrical infrastructure was upgraded. In total, 8 East Coast services per day in each direction use the InterCity 125. 43072 (now 43272), 43074 (now 43274) in 2012 have been transferred to East Midlands Trains re-engined MTU engines.

Grand Central InterCity 125 set departing London King's Cross with a service to Sunderland in 2011. All Grand Central Class 43 power cars have exposed front buffers due to previous use as surrogate DVTs.

In 2006, Grand Central Railway obtained six Class 43 power cars to operate its London-Sunderland passenger service via the East Coast Main Line. The service was due to begin in December 2006 although upgrade work to enable the coaching stock (which was formerly used for locomotive-hauled services and has a different electric heating/power supply system) to operate with Class 43 power cars was heavily delayed and therefore pushed the starting date back to 18 December 2007.[25] HSTs 43084 and 43123 were the final operational Paxman Valenta power cars, being re-engined in 2010 with the MTU treatment. While at the works being re-engined, Grand Central added the orange stripe that appears on their Class 180 units, re-painted the front ends (this making them look more like the non-buffered HSTs), and re-numbered the power cars into the four-hundreds. These are the current numbers: 43465 (065)/467 (067)/468 (068)/480 (080)/484 (084)/423 (123). The re-numbering of 43123 was confusing to some enthusiasts, as they sometimes believed it was originally 43023 because 400 was added to the numbers of the other power cars, yet only 300 to this particular power car.

Midland Region

On London Midland Region, InterCity 125 trains were introduced later than on the other regions. They initially appeared on the former Midland Railway route from London St. Pancras to Sheffield and Nottingham. Although they were initially not permitted to exceed 100 mph (161 km/h) on any part of the route, they still delivered time savings compared with the loco-hauled trains they replaced.

The Midland Main Line received a series of speed improvements over the next two decades, until it became possible for HSTs to run at up to 110 mph (177 km/h) on some sections. An upgrade to the full 125 mph (201 km/h) was proposed by British Rail in the early 1990s, but because of privatisation this did not happen. However line improvements were completed in time for the spring 2014 timetable change, which has permitted 125 mph running on some sections of the line and higher top speeds on others.

Most long-distance services on this route have been transferred to new Class 222 Meridian diesel-electric multiple units, although many London services from Nottingham still use the InterCity 125, as do all services from London St Pancras to Leeds.[26][27] Members of this fleet are currently being re-painted at the company’s Neville Hill Depot in Leeds; they have been refurbished with a different power unit to FGW and NXEC sets and are retaining their original numbers.

East Midlands Trains liveried HST, seen here at Leicester

Midland Mainline inherited HSTs from BR after privatisation and operated them on its primary services at up to 110 mph.

43089 also was returned to work on the mainline after being used in an experimental programme conducted by Network Rail and Hitachi.[28]

43072, 43074 was transferred East Coast in 2012. Currently 24 are in service with East Midlands Trains. Since December 2013, InterCity 125 sets have been permitted to operate at speeds of up to 125 mph on certain parts of the routes from London St Pancras to Leeds and Nottingham.

East Midlands Trains InterCity 125 passing a Class 222 DMU

Cross-Country Route

HST power car in Cross-Country livery, seen here at Bristol Parkway. CrossCountry operates these trains on its northeast-southwest services.

Post privatisation the Cross-Country Route was operated by Virgin CrossCountry, who replaced the InterCity 125 trains in the period 2002–2004 with Voyager high-speed DMUs.[29]

The majority of the former Virgin CrossCountry fleet went into storage for several years but a small number moved to Midland Mainline to supplement its fleet.

In 2007 the franchise passed to CrossCountry (an Arriva subsidiary). Because of overcrowding, Cross Country reintroduced five HSTs to supplement its Voyagers.[30] In late September 2008 Cross Country refurbished its first HST set. The coaches have been refurbished to a similar "Mallard" standard as GNER trains, though their interior is in burgundy and there are fewer tables. They also differ from the East Coast sets by having electronic seat reservations, and the buffet car has been removed, with all catering provided at-seat from a catering base in coach B. Most of the carriages are rebuilt from loco-hauled Mark 3s. The refurbishment was carried out by Wabtec, Doncaster Works.

Each set has had a TS removed (now 2 power cars + 7 coaches). Four sets are now back in daily use again since December 2010, after only two sets were used in service (three on Mondays and Fridays) for a while in 2010. No explanation was provided for the sudden reduction in fleet usage.[24]

CrossCountry operates HSTs to the following destinations:

  • Plymouth
  • Leeds
  • Edinburgh
  • Dundee
  • Glasgow
  • Newquay (summer weekends only)
  • Penzance (summer weekends only)
  • Paignton (summer weekends only)

West Coast and North Wales

Virgin Trains HSTs regularly worked out of London Euston and Birmingham International to Holyhead and Blackpool North, until they were re-deployed in May 2004. Due to there being numerous curves on the West Coast Main Line, the trains were not permitted to exceed 100 mph on any part of the route.

When the West Coast Main Line was upgraded by Network Rail in the 2000s, it became necessary to operate diversionary routes whilst work was going on. As a result, Midland Mainline was asked by the then Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) to operate services between London and Manchester via the Midland Main Line and Hope Valley Line into London St Pancras while West Coast Main Line renovation works took place. In a temporary operation dubbed Project Rio,[31] a large percentage of the stored Virgin CrossCountry power cars were overhauled and returned to service in an enlarged Midland Mainline fleet.[32] Ending on 10 September 2004, the Project Rio fleet was gradually disbanded, with power cars moving to First Great Western, GNER or CrossCountry.

Network Rail

The New Measurement Train speeds past the site of Clay Cross railway station in Derbyshire

One HST set is in service with Network Rail, painted in departmental yellow, and often referred to as the "flying banana" (a nickname that was originally applied to the whole class because when first introduced by BR they wore a predominantly yellow livery). The set is the New Measurement Train.[33]

Another single engine, 43089, was used in tests on hybrid battery powered vehicles in collaboration with Hitachi.[28][34] It has since been returned to normal service with East Midlands Trains.

Numbering and formation

When Crewe Works built them, the InterCity 125 units were considered to be diesel multiple units, and were allocated British Rail Class 253 and Class 254 for Western and Eastern Region services respectively.

British Rail considered the HST, a fixed formation train with a locomotive at each end, as a multiple unit on introduction, and numbered them as such: 253 xxx (Western Region) and 254 xxx (Eastern and Scottish Regions). However, because two power cars carried the same 'set number', problems arose when, for servicing reasons, different units were used on a train, which would then display a different number at each end. For this reason, British Rail abolished the initial numbering system and all individual power cars became identified as such, using the format 43 xxx – this number was previously carried in small digits in the bodysides, prefixed by a 'W' for Western, 'E' for Eastern or 'Sc' for Scottish to identify the region, thus the power cars were reclassified as Class 43 diesel locomotives.

The vehicle types used to form High Speed Trains are listed below:[35]

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Built   Notes 
 mph   km/h 
Class 43 Diesel locomotive 125 201 197 1975–1982 2 InterCity 125 power cars, operated in Top and Tail formation.
Mark 3 Coach Passenger rolling stock 125 201 848 1975–1988 British Rail's third fundamental design of carriage, developed primarily for the InterCity 125.
Carriage number
Number Range Type Notes
400xx Trailer Buffet (TRSB) Renumbered 404xx in 1983; some converted to 402xx series
403xx Trailer Buffet (TRUB) All converted to 407xx series (first class)
405xx Trailer Kitchen (TRUK) All withdrawn and converted for other uses
41xxx Trailer First (TF) Majority in service, some converted or scrapped
42xxx Trailer Second (TS) Majority in service, some converted or scrapped
43002-43198 Driving Motor (Brake) (DM or DMB) Majority in service, three scrapped after accidents
These are now classified as British Rail Class 43
44000-44101 Trailer Guard Second (TGS) Majority in service, some converted

The 197 power cars produced are numbered 43002-43198. 43001 was applied to the second of the two prototype power cars, while the first of the pair (now preserved at York) became 43000 – unusual because BR TOPS classification numbered its locomotives from 001 upwards (this was because it was not, at the time, classified as a locomotive).

In 2002, Class 255 was allocated for the reformation of some HST power cars and trailers into semi-fixed formation trains, to be known as Virgin Challenger units, for use by Virgin Trains. These formations would have had power cars sandwiching one Trailer First, a Trailer Buffet, two Trailer Seconds and a Trailer Guard Second. These plans came to naught as the Strategic Rail Authority planned to transfer most of the stock to Midland Mainline for its 'Rio' services between London and Manchester.[32]


InterCity logo 1978 – 1985
First Great Western HST at Reading railway station in two former First Great Western liveries: "Fag Packet" on the power car and "Barbie" on the coaches

The original "Inter-City 125" livery was blue and grey, with a yellow front to improve visibility which continued down the side of the power cars.[36] This was the livery recorded in British Rail's corporate identity manual of August 1977.[37]

The second livery had mostly grey power-cars with a white band along the middle, yellow underneath the white band, with the InterCity colours (cream, red, white, brown) for the parcel compartment of the power cars and the coaches.

There was brownish-grey, dark grey (almost black) around the windows with a red and white stripe below the windows, and retaining the yellow bands on the power cars. The final variant of this livery saw the yellow side-bands replaced with white and did not feature the British Rail name or logo: it carried the new sector branding Intercity logo in serif type and an image of a flying swallow.[38][39] This is commonly referred to as "InterCity Swallow" livery, and was applied to other locomotives in the sector.

After the privatisation of British Rail, train operating companies painted the HSTs in their own colour schemes, with some lasting longer than others.[40]

Cultural impact

Public reaction

The Intercity service proved an instant hit with the British public.[41] By the early 1980s the HST had caught the travelling public's imagination,[42][43] thanks in part to a television advertising campaign fronted by Jimmy Savile, together with the advertising strap-line "This is the age of the train".[44][45] British Rail enjoyed a boom in patronage on the routes operated by the HSTs, and InterCity's profits jumped accordingly, with cross-subsidisation safeguarding the future of rural routes that had been under threat of closure since the Beeching Axe of the 1960s.

International attention

The success of the HST has had significant international impact. Foreign press for decades observed and praised the speed and quality of the service.[46]

The InterCity 125 was used as a case study for evaluating the potential for a high-speed rail system in California.[47] In Australia, the HST was used as the base for developing the XPT, in cooperation with British Rail.

Scale models

There have been many model and toy guises of the IC125.[48] One of the first in the UK was by Hornby Railways,[49] which launched its first model version in 1977. This model was supplied with an incorrect length Mk3 coach which was shortened to allow the model to reliably negotiate the smallest radius curves. This was done by removing one of the 8 side windows rather than scaling the whole length. It was later released in InterCity 'Swallow' livery, Great Western green-and-white, Midland Mainline and Virgin Trains. Lima released its version of the IC125 in 1982, of which the Mark 3 coaches were correct to the lengths of the real-life coaches and included the guard's coach. Hornby eventually followed suit in the late-1990s, when its short Mark 3 coaches were replaced by correct scale length ones but omitted the guard's coach. Hornby released a totally new version of the InterCity 125 power cars in late 2008. Dapol produces an N gauge model of the train. Railway Shop (Hong Kong) produces a T gauge model (1:450 scale).

Developments and changes

An InterCity 125 with a Paxman Valenta engine. The Paxman Valenta engine produced a lot more noise and exhaust gases than its replacements.

Damaged vehicles and accidents

Three Class 43 locomotives have been written off in railway accidents, all of which occurred on the Great Western Main Line. 43011 was written off in the Ladbroke Grove rail crash, 43019 was written off after the Ufton Nervet rail crash, and 43173 was scrapped at Pig's Bay in Essex after heavy damage in the Southall rail crash. In all cases, the damage was to the leading power car – the trailing end power cars at the other end of the HST set suffered only limited or no damage, and were returned to service. At Ladbroke Grove and Ufton Nervet the accidents were ultimately caused by factors not involving the HST sets or their drivers, although the set involved in the Ladbroke Grove crash had a faulty AWS system;[50][51] however, the Southall accident was due to the HST and a Freight train, which was due to be entering Southall Goods Yard, at approximately 13.20 GMT, Crossing at an odd angle. The Signalling system had reverted the signals for the HST's route to danger. The immediate cause of the crash was the result of the driver of the HST passing a red signal without stopping. In addition, the leading power car of the set had a faulty Automatic Warning System which if operational would have alerted the driver to his error and possibly prevented the accident.[52] Following investigation, this system has since been required to be kept operational and switched on for all use of the Intercity 125 fleet.

Re-engining and refurbishment

Refurbished Mark 3 coach First Class interior (First Great Western)

In 2005, the train leasing company, Angel Trains, initiated and led an industry-wide programme to replace the 30-year-old Paxman Valenta engines in the HST power cars with new MTU 16V 4000 engines.[53] The upgrade, which was part of a £110 million total investment made by Angel Trains on its fleet of High Speed Trains, included the re-powering and refurbishment of 54 HST power cars, then on lease to GNER (now Virgin Trains East Coast) (23),[54] First Great Western (26) and CrossCountry (5). Virgin Trains planned a similar project in the early 2000s, but with the collapse of the programme the upgraded trainsets were sold along with their unupgraded stablemates.

Additionally many operators undertook some sort of reburbishment programme on the Mark 3 carriages in the early 2000s. With the long-term delay and change of direction of the HST2 programme,[55] operators began to refurbish their HST fleets in 2006 – both by remotoring with the more modern MTU4000 diesel engine,[56] and by refurbishing the carriage interiors.[57] It is anticipated that these overhauls will give the HST at least another 10 years in front-line service.[58]


The first partial replacement of HSTs occurred from 1988 on the East Coast Main Line, with the introduction of the InterCity 225 when the line to Edinburgh was electrified.[59] Some were retained for services to Aberdeen, Inverness, Skipton, Bradford and Hull.

As the Intercity 125 fleet has become old compared to most stock used in passenger service it has been recognised that it is near the end of its service life.[60] More recently HSTs have been replaced (or augmented) by high-speed DMUs such as the Voyagers and the UK express version of Alstom's Coradia.

These new DMUs have better acceleration than the HST due to a higher power/weight ratio, with greater efficiency and braking performance in addition.[61] However, passenger comfort is reduced due to the vibrations and noise caused by the underfloor engines,[62] compared to the much quieter Mark 3 coaches.

In 2005 the initial concept of HST2 was rejected by the government and the rail industry as a like-for-like replacement for the HST fleet.[63] In the light of this rejection, in 2006 existing operators turned to refurbishments of the Intercity 125 trains.

Nevertheless, the HST2 concept was expanded and replaced by the Intercity Express Programme, with proposals for a joint replacement of both HST and Intercity 225 trains.[64] The eventual successor to the two Intercity fleets is the Hitachi Super Express,[65] comprising two classified types of fixed-rake formations: the BR Class 800 electro-diesel sets and the BR Class 801 electric multiple unit sets.

On the Greater Western franchise, the current fleet of HSTs is expected to remain in service until at least 2017, the scheduled date for introduction of the Intercity Express.

Sewage discharge

Legally in the UK, train operators are allowed to discharge 5 imperial gallons (23 l; 6.0 US gal) of sewage per carriage per journey, on to the railtrack. Most Mk3 carriages have no toilet tanks, discharging directly onto the track. In the 2000s both the RMT trade union and politicians were concerned at the environmental impact of this legacy issue. The problem was first raised in 2003 after Railtrack staff at Nottingham abandoned local clean-up and then track maintenance procedures due to an excessive built up of sewage waste in the area.[66] In 2006 the RMT agreed waste-tank and clean-out developments at Northern Rail's Heaton depot in 2006 with GNER, plus new clean-out procedures at all other depots, to solve an ongoing dispute over the previous 18 months.[67] By 2011, the European Union had started a formal investigation to see whether trains composed of such carriages were breaking EU environmental and health laws, although the Environment Agency confirmed that train companies claimed special exemptions to dump waste along the tracks.[68] In 2013, transport minister Susan Kramer branded the practice "utterly disgusting" and called on the industry to take action. ATOC responded by stating that, as all new vehicles had to be fitted with compliant toilet tanks, with withdrawal of the HSTs by the end of 2017 the problem would be solved.[69] Unless the toilets are modernised, the cascading of stock onto other lines may continue this practice for many years after 2017 (see 'Replacements' paragraph above).

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "HSTs are good to 2035". Railway Gazette International (London). 8 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "New train fleet to replace Devon, Cornwall and Somerset's ageing inter-cities". Western Morning News (Plymouth). 23 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Marsden, pp.7–10.
  4. ^ Marsden, pp.10–11.
  5. ^ Marsden, pp.15–16.
  6. ^ Marsden, p.16.
  7. ^ a b "Testing the prototype HST in 1973". Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  8. ^ "Everywhere and Nowhere". Financial Times (London). 27 May 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Marsden, Colin (2001). HST: Silver Jubilee. Ian Allan. p. foreword.  
  10. ^ "HST Power Car".  
  11. ^ Collins, R.J. (May 1978). "High speed track on the Western Region of British Railways".  
  12. ^ "1976: New train speeds into service". BBC News. 4 October 1976. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  13. ^ Owen, A.D.; Phillips, G.D.A. "The Characteristics of Railway passenger demand" (PDF).  
  14. ^ "New opportunities for the railways: the privatisation of British Rail" (PDF). Railway Archive. p. 8. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  15. ^ a b "Paxman and Diesel Rail Traction". Richard Carr's Paxman history pages. 3 March 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  16. ^ "Intelligence August 2002".  
  17. ^ "Rail Timeline". BBC News (London). Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  18. ^ Hollowood, Russell (16 March 2006). "The little train that could". BBC News (London). Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  19. ^ "Trains undergo GBP63m redesign". Europe Intelligence Wire. 18 January 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  20. ^ "New look trains for First Great Western".  
  21. ^ "GNER wins British franchise". International Railway Journal. 1 April 2005. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  22. ^ Stirling, Tom (12 March 2007). "Makeover for GNER 125 trains". The Press (York). Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  23. ^ "National Express East Coast launches final refurbished and upgraded HST power cars back into service" (Press release). National Express Group. 13 March 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  24. ^ a b InterCity 125 Group fleet list.
  25. ^ Jameson, Angela (5 October 2006). "Delay for Grand Central trains". The Times (London). Retrieved 18 May 2009.  (subscription required)
  26. ^ "DEMU inspection ensures quality".  
  27. ^ "Change to our trains" (Press release).  
  28. ^ a b "Hitachi reveals 200km/h hybrid HST". International Railway Journal. June 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  29. ^ "New dawn for Virgin Trains".  
  30. ^ "New beginning for CrossCountry train travel" (Press release).  
  31. ^ "Track access agreement between Network Rail and Midland Mainline" (PDF). Track Access Executive. Retrieved 6 January 2008. 
  32. ^ a b "Privatisation 1993 – 2005". Retrieved 19 May 2009. 
  33. ^ "Network Rail, Britain, has unveiled its new 200km/h measurement train". International Railway Journal. 1 August 2003. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  34. ^ "Towards Sustainable Technology in Transport Sector" (PDF).  
  35. ^ The individual units (carriages and power cars) were all numbered in the 4xxxx carriage series set aside for HST and Advanced Passenger Train vehicles. Numbers followed those allocated to the prototype British Rail Class 252 unit, so power cars were numbered from 43002 upwards
  36. ^ Morrison, Gavin (2007). Heyday of the HST. Ian Allan. p. foreword.  
  37. ^ "BR livery HST 4/19 C.I.M.". BR. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  38. ^ Parkin, Keith (2006). British Railways Mark 1 coaches (Revised ed.). The Historical Model Railway Society. pp. 67–73.  
  39. ^ "BR InterCity Executive HST 125 High Speed Train". Model Railways Direct. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  40. ^ "Examples of different liveries on HSTs". Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  41. ^ Campbell, Joe (4 October 2006). "High Speed Train marks 30 years". BBC News. Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  42. ^ "Both English, French trains getting fancy". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 8 September 1985. Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  43. ^ Mitchell, Alan (8 March 1990). "Train of Thought". Marketing (Haymarket Business Publications). Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  44. ^ Wake, Tony (14 September 2007). "Rod Allen Advertising 'jingle king' (obituary)".  
  45. ^ An example of this advertising campaign can be found through online video sites such as YouTube.
  46. ^ Gottlieb, A. Harold (24 September 1987). "Can Railroads Come Back at High Speed? (Letter to the editor)". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  47. ^ Barnett, Roger. "British Rail's InterCity 125 and 225" (PDF). University of California Transportation Centre. Retrieved 17 May 2009. 
  48. ^ Example of a model Intercity 125 –
  49. ^ "A Hornby BR InterCity 125 High Speed Train model".  
  50. ^ The Ladbroke Grove Rail Inquiry – Part 1 Report (PDF). Health and Safety Commission. 2001.  
  51. ^ "Preliminary report into railway accident at Ufton Nervet" (PDF). Rail Safety and Standards Board. 25 January 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  52. ^ "The Southall rail accident inquiry report: Summary of progress" (PDF). Health and Safety Commission. February 2002. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  53. ^ "Clear plans for the future of the HST fleet" (Press release).  
  54. ^ Dooks, Brian (25 May 2006). "GNER's high-speed trains to become lean, green machines". Yorkshire Post (Leeds). Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  55. ^ "State leads Britain's high speed train replacement strategy".  
  56. ^ "Fitting the MTU power unit into the HSTs". Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  57. ^ "Official video by First Great Western documenting the refurbishment programme". Retrieved 6 September 2009. 
  58. ^ "A refreshing change! First Great Western's Intercity 125 fleet looked tired and old-fashioned—but a radical upgrade means these 30-year-old trains are now better than ever". International Railway Journal. 1 July 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  59. ^ "Intercity 225: Fastest in the fleet". BBC News. 17 October 2000. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  60. ^ Clark, Andrew (18 October 2004). "Intercity 125 nears the end of the line". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  61. ^ "Strategic Business Plan: Rolling Stock paper" (PDF).  
  62. ^ "Alternative train vehicles – Light Diesel Multiple Units" (PDF). Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  63. ^ "Experts cast doubt over rail revolution". Europe Intelligence Wire. 16 March 2006. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  64. ^ "Intercity Express Programme, United Kingdom". Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  65. ^ "Agility Trains to supply Super Express fleet".  
  66. ^ Geoghegan, Tom (24 July 2003). "'"Toilet waste 'hampers rail repairs. BBC News. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  67. ^ "Toilet waste 'sprays' track staff". BBC News. 6 August 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  68. ^ Ungoed-Thomas, Jon; Clover, Charles (9 January 2011). "Rail bosses face EU inquiry over sewage on tracks". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 13 November 2013.  (subscription required)
  69. ^ "End 'disgusting' train toilet sewage – Lady Kramer". BBC News. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 

Further reading

  • Green, Chris (2013). The InterCity Story 1964–2012. OPC.  
  • Jane's Information Group (1978). Jane's World Railways. Jane's Information Group. 
  • Roza, Greg (2004). The Incredible Story of Trains. Rosen Publishing.  
  • Sievert, Terri (2002). The World's Fastest Trains. Ian Allan.  
  • Solomon, Brian (2003). Railway Masterpieces. Newton Abbot:  

External links

  • World speed records
  • 125 Group
  • Brush Traction
  • Testing the prototype HST
  • The High Speed Train Picture Gallery
  • HST pictures from around the North East
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