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The InterCity 125 (originally Inter-City 125,[1] or High Speed Train) is a diesel-powered high-speed passenger train built by British Rail Engineering Limited between 1975 and 1982. Each set is made up of two Class 43 power cars, one at each end, and a rake of Mark 3 carriages. The name is derived from its top operational speed of 125 mph (201 km/h). Initially the sets were classified as Classes 253 and 254.

As of May 2021, InterCity 125s remained in service with Abellio ScotRail, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway and Network Rail.


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the British Transport Commission (BTC) was modernising its rail network. It wanted to increase intercity speeds so that railways could compete more effectively with motorways. The government was unwilling to fund new railways and the BTC focused on increasing line speeds by developing new trains and modifications to the infrastructure. A team of engineers was assembled at the Railway Technical Centre in Derby in the early 1960s, to design and develop an Advanced Passenger Train (APT) capable of at least 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) incorporating many features not previously seen on British railways—such as tilting to allow higher speeds on curves.[2]

The APT project suffered repeated delays and in 1970, the British Railways Board (BRB) decided it was not sufficiently developed to modernise the railways in the short term and at the instigation of Terry Miller, Chief Engineer (Traction & Rolling Stock), the BRB authorised the development of a high-speed diesel train for short-term use until the APT was able to take over. An operational prototype was to be built by 1972.[3]



Class 252 prototype HST at Weston-super-Mare in 1975

The prototype high-speed diesel train, which became the InterCity 125, was formed of a rake of passenger coaches between two power cars, one at each end. The decision to use two power cars was taken early in the project as design engineers calculated that the train would need 4,500 horsepower to sustain 125 miles per hour on the routes for which it was designed (the Great Western Main Line, Midland Main Line, and the Cross Country Route), and it was established that no "off-the-shelf" diesel engine was capable of producing such power. Another factor was that two locomotives operating in push–pull formation, would cause less wear on the rails than a single locomotive. The framework of the new locomotive, classified British Rail Class 41, was built at Crewe Works and transferred to Derby Litchurch Lane Works for completion. The design incorporated a driving desk around the driver, a sound-proofed door between the cab and the engine room, and, unusually, no side windows.[4] The prototype was 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.[5]

The prototype train of seven coaches and two locomotives was completed in August 1972 and in the autumn was running trials on the main line. The following year, high-speed testing was undertaken on the "racing stretch" of the East Coast Main Line between York and Darlington. The set was reduced to two power cars and five trailers, and there was a concerted attempt to see how fast the train would go. On 6 June 1973, 131 mph was reached, which was bettered as the days passed. On 12 June a world diesel speed record of 143.2 mph (230.5 km/h) was achieved, and the drivers believed that 150 mph was possible, but the BRB issued instructions for the high speed tests to cease. It was believed at the time that this was because the BRB wanted to promote the APT as the future of high speed rail travel in the UK.[6]

The fixed-formation concept was proven in trial running between 1973 and 1976, and British Rail built 27 production HSTs to transform InterCity services between London Paddington, Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea.

Production versions[edit]

The first production power car, numbered 43002, was delivered in late 1975 with a 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 no driving position at the inner end.

The train's appearance is the work of British designer Kenneth Grange who was approached to design the livery but under his own impetus decided to redesign the body, working with aerodynamics engineers. "It really was rather quite brutal, rather clumsy. I thought, 'Oh I'd like to get my hands on that', although the brief was nothing to do with the shape, absolutely not at all."[7] He presented the new design to British Rail and persuaded them to adopt it.[8] After being withdrawn from GWR service, 43002 was acquired by the National Collection in September 2019 and was displayed at the Locomotion museum.

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 six to nine Mark 3 coaches.

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

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

Introduction into service[edit]

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.[1] The 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, replacing locomotive-hauled trains on the Bristol and South Wales routes. Passenger numbers rapidly increased due to the speed and frequency of the services. The displacement by HSTs of Class 50 locomotives to slower services effectively finished off the last Class 52 diesel-hydraulics by early 1977.

An InterCity 125 about to depart Manchester Piccadilly in 1986

The production of Class 254 continued through 1977 for East Coast Main Line services. British Rail had planned to fit uprated 2,500 bhp (1,900 kW) Valenta engines to the longer HSTs, but the 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 and reduced the London-Edinburgh journey time by up to an hour.

Production of HSTs continued until 1982 for services from London to the West Country on the Cross Country Route and 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. The first Inter-City 125 train for Bristol left Paddington station, London on 4 October 1976 at 08:05.[1] 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 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, British Rail began active marketing to support the train's introduction.[12] The InterCity service was a great success for British Rail.[13]

World records[edit]

InterCity 125 at London Paddington in 1988.

The prototype InterCity 125 (power cars 43000 and 43001) set the world speed record for diesel traction at 143.2 mph (230.5 km/h) on 12 June 1973.[14]

A 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 a HST on 1 November 1987,[15][16][17][18] while descending Stoke Bank with a test run for a new type of bogie for use on Mark 4 coaches on the same route. The record run was led by 43102 and trailed by 43159.[19][20][21]

Regions and operators[edit]

South West England and South Wales[edit]

On the Western Region, InterCity 125 trains (designated class 253) were introduced on services from London to Bristol and South Wales,[15] and extended to most daytime services from London to Devon and Cornwall. Some South Wales services were extended to Milford Haven, Fishguard and Pembroke in West Wales. Maintenance was provided at Old Oak Common and St Philip's Marsh, and Laira also carried out maintenance after services to Devon and Cornwall were introduced in 1979.

British Rail Class 47 locomotives still operated cross-country services from Cornwall and South Wales to the North-East via the Cross Country Route, and London to the Midlands/Welsh Marches. Class 43s replaced them when the third batch of power cars was delivered in 2+7 formation with two first class coaches, a buffet car, and four second class coaches between two power cars. They were later expanded to a 2+8 formation, with an extra second class carriage.

First Great Western HST passing Old Oak Common Train Maintenance Depot

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.

43002 has received vinyls of its original InterCity 125 livery to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the IC125 and named after the man that designed them, Sir Kenneth Grange.

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

From 2005 the First Great Western HSTs were re-engined with MTU power units and the coaches were refurbished.[22] Units for services in the M4 corridor/Thames Valley to Bristol, Hereford, Oxford, Exeter and Cardiff were converted to a high-density layout of mostly airline-style seats in standard class (only two tables per coach) to provide more seats for commuters. The remainder, for routes to Swansea and the West Country, included four tables per standard class coach.

The refurbished coaches had new seating (leather in first class), at-seat power points and a redesigned buffet bar.[23] From 2010, one standard class carriage in each set had a Volo TV system,[24] but this was removed in 2014.

Another change was made in 2014, when some first class coaches were converted to standard class or composite (half standard and half first class), leaving 1½ first class coaches per set.[25] The first class coaches were refurbished in a more luxurious style, and many tables with one seat each side in first class were replaced by individual airline-style seats.[26]

By mid-2019, Great Western Railway no longer had any HSTs operating service to or from Paddington, having replaced all of them with Class 800 and Class 802.

Great Western Railway are to retain 24 powercars and 48 carriages to form 11 four-carriage sets for use on local services between Cardiff and Penzance.

Eastern England / Scotland[edit]

Highland Chieftain InterCity 125 arriving at Haymarket

On the East Coast Main Line, the InterCity 125 designated Class 254 was the staple stock after the retirement of the Class 55 Deltic locomotives in 1980–1982, until the introduction of InterCity 225 following electrification in 1990. They were concentrated on services from London King's Cross to Newcastle and Edinburgh Waverley, and 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 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 East Coast (ECML) formation was originally 2 + 8, increased to 2 + 9 in 2002 when extra stock became available. The ECML formation was two first-class coaches, one buffet (with 1st Class seating) and five (later six) standard-class coaches between the buffet and power cars. For a few years, formations included a TRUK (trailer restaurant kitchen) and buffet car, a TS (trailer second class) and TF (trailer first class) coaches, many formations were 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 125s were operated by Great North Eastern Railway (GNER),[27] alongside electric InterCity 225 units from London to Newcastle and Edinburgh, and beyond the electrified sections (or where British Rail Class 91s cannot operate due to route availability restrictions) services to Hull, Skipton, Harrogate, Inverness and Aberdeen.

In January 2007 the first of GNER's 13 refurbished HSTs was unveiled with coaches rebuilt to the same 'Mallard' standard as its InterCity 225 electric sets with similar seating, lighting, carpets and buffet cars.[28] The power cars were upgraded with MTU engines. The first of the HST Mallards was in service by spring 2007.[citation needed]

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

In 2007 the franchise was taken over by National Express East Coast (NXEC), which continued the re-engining programme begun by GNER, and completed the refurbishment of the fleet in March 2009.[29] Two power cars were transferred to First Great Western early in 2009.[30] The final Mallard-upgraded Mark 3 coaches entered service with NXEC in October 2009.[citation needed]

Following an announcement by National Express that it would not provide further financial support to NXEC, the franchise ceased on 13 November 2009, and the operation of the route returned to public ownership. As a result, the 13 sets were operated by East Coast from late 2009. East Coast introduced an InterCity 125 service to Lincoln in 2011.[31] The InterCity 125 was replaced by the electric InterCity 225 on the line to Skipton when the electrical infrastructure was upgraded. Eight East Coast services per day in each direction used the InterCity 125.[citation needed] In 2012, 43072 (now 43272), 43074 (now 43274) were transferred to East Midlands Trains and received MTU engines. In April 2015, Virgin Trains East Coast took over operation of the InterCity East Coast franchise. All trains passed with the InterCity East Coast franchise to London North Eastern Railway in June 2018.

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

In 2006, Grand Central 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 had 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.[32] HSTs 43084 and 43123 were the final operational Paxman Valenta power cars, being re-engined in 2010 with the same MTU engines as other units. 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. Grand Central's HSTs were cascaded to East Midlands Trains at the end of 2017.[33]

In February 2019 Hull Trains commenced using a First Great Western set between London King's Cross and Hull due to ongoing reliability issues with its Class 180s.[34] A month later they introduced an additional set following further reliability issues. LNER withdrew its last InterCity 125s in December 2019.[35]

Midland Region[edit]

On the 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[36][37] Midland Mainline inherited HSTs from BR after privatisation and operated them on its primary services at up to 110 mph.

East Midlands Trains liveried HST at Leicester

43089 also was returned to work on the mainline after being used in an experimental programme conducted by Network Rail and Hitachi.[38] 43072, 43074 was transferred to East Coast in 2012. Currently, 30 are in service with East Midlands Railway. 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

Cross-Country Route[edit]

HST power car in CrossCountry livery at Bristol Parkway. CrossCountry operates these trains on its northeast-southwest services.

After privatisation, the Cross-Country Route was operated by Virgin CrossCountry, who replaced their InterCity 125 trains in the period 2002–2004 with Bombardier Voyager high-speed DMUs.[39] Most of the former Virgin CrossCountry fleet were stored for several years but a few ran on the Midland Mainline.

In 2007 the franchise passed to Arriva CrossCountry. Because of overcrowding, the company reintroduced five HSTs to supplement its Voyagers.[40]

In late September 2008, CrossCountry refurbished its first HST set: the coaches were 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 in 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, making them 2 power cars + 7 coaches.[30]

All carriages to be retained are to be fitted with automatic doors, toilets with controlled emission tanks and other accessibility modifications at Wabtec, Doncaster.

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[edit]

Virgin Trains West Coast HSTs regularly worked out of London Euston and Birmingham International to Holyhead and Blackpool North. They also worked some Euston to Manchester Piccadilly services. Virgin's HST's 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 110 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 from Manchester via the Hope Valley Line and Midland Main Line into London St Pancras while West Coast Main Line works took place. In a temporary operation dubbed Project Rio,[41] a large percentage of the stored Virgin CrossCountry power cars were overhauled and returned to service in an enlarged Midland Mainline fleet.[42] Ending on 10 September 2004, the Project Rio fleet was gradually disbanded, with power cars moving to First Great Western and GNER.

ScotRail Inter7City[edit]

Twenty-six HST sets, 9 of which will have four carriages and 17 of which will have five carriages, are to move from Great Western Railway to Abellio ScotRail after being refurbished by Wabtec at Doncaster with new interiors, controlled emission tanks and automatic sliding doors. They will operate on services from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen and Inverness, as well as between Aberdeen and Inverness.[43][44] The first set entered service in October 2018.[45] ScotRail's HST fleet operates under the brand name Inter7City.

Network Rail[edit]

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

One specially converted HST set is in service with Network Rail, painted in the yellow livery used for maintenance vehicles , 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.[46]

Another single engine, 43089, was used in tests on hybrid battery powered vehicles in collaboration with Hitachi.[38][47] It has since been returned to normal service with East Midlands Trains.

Numbering and formation[edit]

Because they were fixed formation trains, British Rail considered the Inter-City 125 sets to be diesel multiple units. They were allocated British Rail Class 253 (2+7 sets allocated to Western Region depots for use on Western Region and Cross-Country services) and Class 254 (2+8 sets allocated to the Eastern and Scottish Regions for use on the East Coast Main Line), the prototype train having been Class 252. Therefore, each set was allocated a set number (253 xxx or 254 xxx), which was carried on the front of the power cars. Individual vehicles were numbered in the 4xxxx series (see table below), and, because they were regarded as multiple unit vehicles, also had regional prefixes according to their allocated depot (E for Eastern Region, SC for Scottish and W for Western); this included the power cars as well as the trailers.

With power cars often requiring maintenance more frequently than the trailer cars, power car swaps soon began to take place; there were a few spare power cars to allow for this. This often resulted in different set numbers being displayed at each end of the same train. As a result, during the early 1980s the power cars began to be regarded as "loose", and the use of set numbers for the whole train was abandoned. The trailer cars remained in fixed formations, however, and still allocated a set number of sorts, although that was not displayed anywhere.

As sectorisation began to take hold during the mid-1980s, the use of regional prefixes on coaches and multiple unit vehicles was discontinued. At about the same time it was decided to reclassify the InterCity 125 trains (the hyphen having been dropped by the new InterCity sector) as locos and coaches. To avoid renumbering the power cars, they became British Rail Class 43 diesel locos, although a space was never inserted between the second and third digits (as was common practice on other locos at the time, e.g. 47 401).

The vehicle types used to form High Speed Trains are listed below:[48]

The 197 production series power cars were numbered 43002-43198. 43001 was applied to the second of the two prototype power cars, while the first of the pair (now preserved as part of the National Collection) 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). Subsequently, on fitting of new engines, power cars operated by the InterCity East Coast and Cross Country franchisees have been renumbered in the 432xx or 433xx series (by adding 200 to their serial numbers), while Grand Central also changed the third digit of its power cars to 4 (by adding 300 or 400).

The renumbering of the 400xx series catering vehicles in 1983 was to avoid their numbers clashing with the Class 40 diesel loco fleet (numbered 40 001 to 40 199) when BR's loco (TOPS) and coaching stock number series were merged.

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 CrossCountry. 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.[42]


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.[49][50]

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.[51][52] 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.[53]

Two of Great Western Railway's powercars have been repainted into heritage liveries; 43002 has repainted into original InterCity 125 Blue & Yellow livery whereas 43185 has been repainted into InterCity Swallow livery.

Two powercars [43046 and 43055] owned by Locomotive Services Limited have been repainted into Blue Pullman colours.[54] The units will be used for railtour services operated by LSL beginning on 14 November 2020.[55]

Cultural impact[edit]

Public reaction[edit]

The Intercity service proved an instant hit with the British public.[56] By the early 1980s the HST had caught the travelling public's imagination,[57][58] thanks in part to a television advertising campaign fronted by the since-disgraced entertainment personality Jimmy Savile, together with the advertising strap-line "This is the age of the train".[59][60] British Rail enjoyed a boom in patronage on the routes operated by the HSTs and InterCity's revenues increased, although the total was not enough to remove the need for subsidies to British Rail.[61]

International attention[edit]

The success of the HST has had significant international impact. Foreign press for decades observed and praised the speed and quality of the service.[62]

The InterCity 125 was used as a case study for evaluating the potential for a high-speed rail system in California.[63] In Australia, the HST was used as the base for developing the XPT, in cooperation with British Rail.

Scale models[edit]

There have been many model and toy guises of the IC125.[64] One of the first in the UK was by Hornby Railways, which launched its first model version in 1977.[65][66] This model was supplied with an incorrect length BR Mk3 Open 2nd 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. In 1978 Hornby Railways issued an additional BR MK3 Open 2nd coach.[67]In 1979 Hornby Railways produced their first model of a BR MK3 Open 1st Coach.[68] Which was followed by a BR Mk3 Restaurant Buffet Car (TRUB) produced in 1980.[69] The incorrect seven side windows was corrected to eight windows in 1988 when Hornby made modifications to the tooling for the BR MK3 (TS) and (TF) coaches.[70] 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. In 2008 after acquiring tooling's from ex Lima rolling stock which then became the Hornby RailRoad range. Hornby released in a variety of different liveries both BR and post-privatisation a newly tooled super-detailed BR Class 43 (HST) Powers cars[71],alongside a basic representation BR Class 43 HST Power cars models of the Railroad Range.[72] In 2009 Hornby released newly tooled BR MK3 carriages which included for the first time a BR MK3 (TGS) Coach.[73] Graham Farish were the first to produce a HST in N gauge, recently Dapol have produced another N gauge model of the train. Railway Shop (Hong Kong) produces a T gauge model (1:450 scale).

Developments and changes[edit]

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[edit]

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 1999 Ladbroke Grove rail crash, 43019 was written off after colliding with a car at Ufton Nervet in 2004, and 43173 was scrapped at Pig's Bay in Essex after heavy damage in the Southall rail crash of 1997. In each of these cases, the damage was to the leading power car – the trailing power cars suffered 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;[74][75] however, the Southall accident was due to the HST colliding with a goods train which was entering Southall Goods Yard, crossing the main lines. 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.[76] Following investigation, this system has since been required to be kept operational and switched on for all use of the InterCity 125 fleet.

An InterCity HST, comprising four coaches between power cars, was involved in the Stonehaven derailment on 12 August 2020, in which three people died.[77][78]

Re-engining and refurbishment[edit]

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.[79] 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: those then on lease to GNER (now London North Eastern Railway) (23),[80] First Great Western (26) and CrossCountry (5). Virgin CrossCountry planned a similar project in the early 2000s, but with the collapse of the programme the upgraded trainsets were sold along with their unmodified stablemates.

Additionally, many operators undertook some refurbishment of the Mark 3 carriages in the early 2000s. In view of the delay and change of direction of the HST2 programme,[81] operators began to refurbish their HST fleets in 2006 – both by remotoring with the more modern MTU4000 diesel engine,[82] and by refurbishing the carriage interiors.[83] It was anticipated that these overhauls would give the HST at least another 10 years in front-line service.[84]


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.[85] 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.[86] More recently, HSTs have been replaced (or augmented) by high-speed DMUs such as the Bombardier Voyagers and the UK express version of the Alstom Coradia. These DMUs have better acceleration than the HST due to a higher power/weight ratio, with greater efficiency and braking performance in addition.[87]

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.[88] 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.[89] The eventual successor to the two Intercity fleets is the Hitachi Super Express,[90] comprising three classified types of fixed-rake formations: two electro-diesel types, the Class 800 sets and the Class 802 sets and the electric multiple unit Class 801 sets.

On the Greater Western franchise, the first HST was returned to its leasing company in September 2017, and by June 2019, all sets on Intercity routes were withdrawn in favour of the Class 800 and the Class 802 sets.[91][92]

Sewage discharge[edit]

Legally in the UK, train operators are allowed to discharge up to 25 litres of untreated waste at a time on to the track.[93] 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 buildup of sewage waste in the area.[94] 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.[95]

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.[96] 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.[97] HSTs remained in operation after 2017, but sliding-door conversions of CrossCountry's fleet and the shortened sets for GWR and ScotRail have all included the fitting of controlled emission toilets,[98][99] while ScotRail is seeking to fit retention tanks to its remaining unrefurbished carriages.[100]


As of the start of 2019, HSTs in their original form are not permitted to operate passenger services on the National Rail network because various deficiencies make them non-compliant with accessibility regulations (in particular, the need to manually open the doors). However, to avoid rolling stock shortages, some operators have been temporarily granted permission to operate them anyway: ScotRail, whose sets planned to be modified to be compliant,[101] and East Midlands Trains, who will withdraw their sets once new rolling stock arrives.[102][103]

Similar products[edit]

A NSW TrainLink XPT at Central station, Sydney in January 2017

In 1982 the State Rail Authority in Australia placed the first of what would ultimately be 19 power cars and 60 carriages into service.[104][105][106][107][108]

Built locally by Comeng and ABB Transportation, the HST design was significantly modified, with the power cars being 50 cm (19.7 in) shorter, the Paxman Valenta engine downrated from 2,250 to 2,000 bhp (1,680 to 1,490 kW), gearing lowered for a top operating speed of 160 km/h (99 mph), suspension modified to operate on inferior track, and air filters and the cooling system modified to cater for hotter and dustier Australian conditions. However, the XPT is theoretically capable of reaching speeds of 200 km/h (120 mph).[109] A different light cluster was fitted along with three high-beam spotlights mounted to the roof. The carriages were based on a Budd design, with the British Rail Mark 3s considered unsuitable.

In 1986 agreement was reached to build a fleet of XPTs for the State Railway of Thailand. To allow it to be built to the narrower 1,000 mm (3 ft 3+38 in) gauge and retain the same fuel capacity, it was proposed to extend the power cars by 2.7 metres to 20 metres and mount them on Bo-Bo-Bo bogies. The negotiations were sufficiently advanced for the Prime Minister of Thailand to announce it on television, however the Australian Department of Trade withdrew its support at the last moment and the deal fell through.[110][111]

See also[edit]

  • Blue Pullman
  • Train categories in Europe
  • List of high-speed trains
  • Inter-city rail in the United Kingdom
  • High-speed rail in the United Kingdom

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "New train speeds into service". BBC News, 1976-10-04; reproduced in the BBC "On This Day" website, accessed on 2019-05-15.
  2. ^ Marsden, pp.7–10.
  3. ^ Marsden, pp.10–11.
  4. ^ Marsden, pp.15–16.
  5. ^ Marsden, p.16.
  6. ^ Railway Performance Society "HST 40 Glorious Years" 2016 p8
  7. ^ Channel 5 documentary Intercity 125 episode 1, broadcast 15 May 2018
  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. ISBN 0-7110-2847-8.
  10. ^ "HST Power Car". National Railway Museum. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
  11. ^ Collins, R.J. (May 1978). "High speed track on the Western Region of British Railways". Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Institution of Civil Engineers. 64 (2): 207–225. doi:10.1680/iicep.1978.2755. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  12. ^ Owen, A.D.; Phillips, G.D.A. "The Characteristics of Railway passenger demand" (PDF). University of Bath. p. 234.
  13. ^ "New opportunities for the railways: the privatisation of British Rail" (PDF). Railway Archive. p. 8. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
  14. ^ "Testing the prototype HST in 1973". Archived from the original on 15 September 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  15. ^ a b "Paxman and Diesel Rail Traction". Richard Carr's Paxman history pages. 3 March 2012. Archived from the original on 2 April 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
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  48. ^ 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
  49. ^ Morrison, Gavin (2007). Heyday of the HST. Ian Allan. p. foreword. ISBN 978-0-7110-3184-5.
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  51. ^ Parkin, Keith (2006). British Railways Mark 1 coaches (Revised ed.). The Historical Model Railway Society. pp. 67–73. ISBN 0-902835-22-X.
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  59. ^ Wake, Tony (14 September 2007). "Rod Allen Advertising 'jingle king' (obituary)". The Independent. London. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  60. ^ An example of this advertising campaign can be found through online video sites such as YouTube.
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  63. ^ Barnett, Roger. "British Rail's InterCity 125 and 225" (PDF). University of California Transportation Centre. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2008. Retrieved 17 May 2009.
  64. ^ Example of a model Intercity 125 – Archived 5 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  65. ^ "Hornby 1977 - B.R. High Speed Train Set". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  66. ^ "HST - InterCity 125 (Class 43)". Hornby. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  67. ^ "Hornby 1978 -B.R. Mk III Inter-City Open 2nd". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  68. ^ "Hornby 1979 -Mk III Inter-City Open 1st". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  69. ^ "Hornby 1980 - B.R. Mk.3 Restaurant Buffet Car (TRUB)". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  70. ^ "1988 Passenger Rolling Stock Images". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  71. ^ "2008 - B.R. Intercity 125 High". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  72. ^ "2008r - Virgin HST Pack (Class 43)". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  73. ^ "Hornby 2009 Passenger Rolling Stock Images". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
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  110. ^ "Comeng poised to win deal" Newsrail October 1985 page 302
  111. ^ "Thai train deal" Newsrail February 1986 page 52

Further reading[edit]

  • 125 Group (2019). Inter-City 125 Owners' Workshop Manual. Haynes. ISBN 978-1-78521-266-6.
  • 125 Group (2018). 125 The Enduring Icon. Amberley. ISBN 978-1-4456-7859-7.
  • Green, Chris (2013). The InterCity Story 1964–2012. OPC. ISBN 978-0-86093-652-7.
  • Jane's Information Group (1978). Jane's World Railways. Jane's Information Group.
  • Roza, Greg (2004). The Incredible Story of Trains. Rosen Publishing. ISBN 0-8239-6712-3.
  • Sievert, Terri (2002). The World's Fastest Trains. Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7368-1061-7.
  • Solomon, Brian (2003). Railway Masterpieces. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 9780715317433. OCLC 52695896.
  • Vehicle Diagram Book No. 230 for Diesel Electric Multiple Unit Trains (including H.S.T.) (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. British Railways Board. September 1987. GH102-3, GH202-3, GJ201, GK101-2, GK202, GK401, GL101, GL402, GM401, GN401.
  • Kapolka, Chris (February–March 1982). "Have a banana!". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. pp. 58–59. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  • Cooper, Basil (June 1982). "The ABC of the HST". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. pp. 28–33. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  • Kelly, Peter (May 1983). "Keep the HSTs flying". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. pp. 39–42. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.

External links[edit]

  • World speed records
  • 125 Group
  • Brush Traction
  • Testing the prototype HST