Ordered class

British Rail Class 159

The British Rail Class 159, known as "South Western Turbo" by Network SouthEast (but in reality a member of the Sprinter family), is a diesel multiple unit, built from 1989-93 by BREL at Derby Works.

Twenty-two 3-car units were built for Network SouthEast's West of England route from London Waterloo to Salisbury, Yeovil and Exeter. They were used to replace Class 50 and Class 47 locomotive-hauled passenger trains. Unlike Regional Railways units Class 159s were fitted with four step braking and initially could not work in multiple with any other class.

These original 22 units were in fact built as Class 158 units, but were rebuilt by Babcock Rail in Rosyth before entering traffic. The rebuild consisted of the fitment of first class accommodation, installing retention toilets and other modifications. The rebuild was required as Regional Railways had over-ordered Class 158s, just as Network SouthEast was looking for a similar number of new diesel units. It was not possible for Network SouthEast and BREL to agree terms on the variation order to NSE specification, hence the rebuilding at Rosyth.

The 1992-build units are numbered 159001-022, with individual cars numbered 52873-894 and 57873-894 for driving motor vehicles, and 58718-739 for intermediate motor vehicles. The entire class is maintained at a purpose built depot at Salisbury.

In 2007, eight further Class 159 units were created through the rebuilding of surplus Class 158 units displaced from Transpennine Express.

Current operations

Upon privatisation of British Rail, the West of England route passed to the South West Trains franchise, which was won by the Stagecoach Group. Units were progressively repainted from Network SouthEast's blue, red and white livery, into South West Trains' express livery from 2000 onwards. Other post privatisation modifications include clearer LED Destination displays, upgraded air conditioning and more openable windows.

Units tend to operate in six or nine coach formations between Waterloo and Salisbury, in three or six coach formations between Salisbury and Exeter, and as single units west of Exeter. At weekends, some services west of Exeter operate in six coach formations.

Since then, the Class 159 fleet has been supplemented by nine Class 170 "Turbostar" units, eight of which have since been relocated to First TransPennine Express, and one to Southern, and eleven Class 158s.

Now days the Class 159s operate from London Waterloo to Salisbury/Exeter and the units' sphere of operation has increased to include trains beyond Exeter to Paignton, Plymouth, and Penzance at weekends. Very rarely the 159s go to [[Bristol Temple Meads railway station|Bristol Temple Meads], this service in normally in the hands of South West Trains' Class 158s.

Cleaning of trains

Every night South West Trains’ Class 159s return to Salisbury Depot for cleaning. Some are serviced there, others at Fratton or Exeter St Davids. The Class 159s are on a rolling programme of carpet unholstery cleaning every six months at the Clapham depot on Saturday nights. The depot has a machine designed specifically for carpets and upholstery. It cleans and dries so that the train can go back into service at 07:00 the next morning.

159/1 refurbishment

Following the introduction of the Class 185 Pennine (Desiro) units with First TransPennine Express, all of South West Trains' Class 170 Turbostars, barring one which went to Southern, have been transferred to complement them. Some of TransPennine's surplus three coach Class 158 units have been refurbished to Class 159 standards at Wabtec Doncaster and have been renumbered as Class 159/1. The first unit arrived with SWT in November 2006, and by May 2007 all eight of the new subclass were in service. The refurbishment included new first class accommodation, interior lighting and the plating over of the disused toilet in the MSL. Now that the Class 159/0s have gone through a mid-life refurbishment the Class 159/1s have been fitted with retention toilets along with an automated PIS and CCTV to match the 159/0s.

159/0 refurbishment

South West Trains have now completed their refurbishment for their 22 159/0s. These units have returned with CCTV and PIS (Passenger Information Systems) installed. They have returned with a modified version of the South West Trains' express livery - which includes orange doors throughout the coaches, a larger South West Trains logo and bigger 'swooshes'. All PIS and CCTV are now working.

East Midlands Trains Class 158's will be refurbished to class 159 standards at Deltarail works, Derby starting in August 2008.

Fleet Details

Four of South West Trains' units have been named after towns along the West of England route.


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