Siemens Desiro


Desiro is a brand name of modular train manufactured by Siemens of Germany.

The Desiro can be built as a diesel or electric multiple unit (DMU or EMU). Most common are two- and three-parts layouts. Although there are various differences between these trains, the body design is the same. These trains are mostly used for regional services. They are part of a new generation of light, modular trains which have become widespread in many European countries; sometime referred to as light train. These trains are relatively cheap to build and operate. Fast acceleration makes them suitable for train services with a short station distance. However, they are sometimes criticized for their lack of passenger comfort.


Germany's Deutsche Bahn introduced Desiro two-part DMUs for local services in 2000. With a top speed of 120 km/h, these Class 642 units are mainly used for branch lines and secondary main lines. In addition to 234 units purchased by DB until 2007, various private German rail companies are also using Desiro DMUs.

Class 642 is equipped with two MAN diesel engines with 275 or 315 kW each (hydro-mechanic transmission, with retarder). It typically has 100 seats. Up to three units can be operated together, connected by Scharfenberg couplers. The Desiros are quite popular with most passengers due to their good acceleration. As they often replaced push/pull trains, the shorter travel times, for example on the Müglitzbahn, led to an increasing number of passengers.

Originally DB intended to jointly operate modern DMUs of different manufacturers, but due to incompatible software this was not possible. Therefore Class 642 can only mechanically be coupled with other DMUs like the Class 643.


The ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) is currently using about 60 diesel powered Desiro trains called ÖBB 5022. It is based on the Class 642 used by Deutsche Bahn but has got some additional safety installations.

United Kingdom

Siemens uses the name Desiro UK for new DMU and EMU trains used by various United Kingdom train operators. These trains have a completely different design to the above light train variant. The trainsets have modern facilities, such as biological waste storage tanks, ergonomic seats and spoken announcements. All the electric units are owned by Angel Trains, whilst the diesel units are owned by HSBC Rail. Angel and HSBC Rail then lease the units to the train operators.

Class Operator Introduced Number Power Carriages Door configuration End gangways
185 TransPennine Express 2006 51 Diesel 3 High-volume No
350 London Midland 2004 30 AC/DC electric 4 High-volume Yes
360 National Express East Anglia 2003 22 AC electric 4 High-volume No
360 Heathrow Connect 2005 5 AC electric 5 High-volume No
380 Scotrail 2010 38 AC electric 3/4 High-volume Yes
444 South West Trains 2004 45 DC electric 5 Low-volume Yes
450 South West Trains 2003 127 DC electric 4 High-volume Yes

South West Trains

The first electric Desiro UK units were ordered by South West Trains for both short and long distance service out of Waterloo station to Alton, Basingstoke and the Hampshire/Dorset coast. They became two different classes, both use the 750V DC third rail power supply.

  • 45 x Class 444 five-car units for long distance intercity services which entered traffic in 2004. Nicknamed by South West Trains drivers "Arkwrights" after Ronnie Barker's "Arkwright" in the television comedy Open All Hours because the number 4 is repeated 3 times, often stuttered by drivers on purpose.
  • 127 x Class 450 four-car units for commuter services which entered traffic in 2003. The later order for 17 more Class 450 units was completed with all trains in service by late 2006/early 2007.

Class 450 units consist of:

DMSO (Driving Motor Second Open) + TCOL (Trailer Composite Open Lavatory) + TOSLWB (Trailer Open Second Lavatory Wheelchair Bicycle) + DMSO (Driving Motor Second Open)

Class 444 units consist of:

DMSO (Driving Motor Second Open) + TSOLB (Trailer Second Open Lavatory Bicycle) + TSOLB (Trailer Second Open Lavatory Bicycle) + (P)TOSRMBLW (Trailer Open Second Restaurant Micro Buffet Lavatory Wheelchair + DMCL (Driving Motor Composite Lavatory)

Class 444 units differ in appearance from Class 450 units in many ways, most obviously the livery. Class 444 units also have 23m long cars instead of 20m, and the frontal design is also different, with the Class 444 units having no alcove for the springs on the corridor connections by the dumb buffers.

The entire fleet is limited to 100mph, but the Class 444 units were limited to 85mph during their introduction. Class 444 units are used on express services, whereas Class 450 units are generally used on suburban trains. The units can often be found working together in any of the following combinations:

450 + 450
450 + 450 + 450
444 + 444
450 + 444
450 + 444 + 450 (exceeds 12 cars)
444 + 450 + 444 (exceeds 12 cars)

The only ones commonly found in service are the first four as all the other combinations exceed the 12 carriage limit.

National Express East Anglia

The East Anglia train operator National Express East Anglia use 25 kV overhead electric supply units from London Liverpool Street to Clacton/Walton-on-the-Naze, Harwich and Ipswich.

  • 21 x Class 360 four-car units, entered traffic in 2003.

Heathrow Connect

The stopping service between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport, Heathrow Connect, uses similar 25 kV overhead electric supply units.

London Midland

As part of the West Coast Main Line modernisation the former Strategic Rail Authority ordered thirty Class 350 25 kV overhead sets for use on stopping services. They are operated by London Midland (ex. Central Trains/Silverlink). These units were originally ordered as Class 450 third rail units for South West Trains, however following a review by the Strategic Rail Authority they were diverted to the West Coast Main Line.

Department for Transport proposals for rail services following the completion of modernisation of the West Coast Main Line (planned for 2008) call for these units to be employed on an improved regular-interval stopping train service from London Euston along the Trent Valley route (Northampton - Rugby - Nuneaton - Tamworth - Stafford) to Crewe or possibly be extended to Liverpool. In the interim period, the trains are operated by London Midland between London Euston and Northampton, and between Northampton, Birmingham, Crewe, Liverpool, and Preston.

A further 37 units have now been ordered. These will be designated class 350/2 and will be operated by London Midland. Deliveries are expected to commence in late 2008.

TransPennine Express

To fulfil their franchise commitment, TransPennine Express ordered the first diesel variant of the Desiro UK for use on intercity services across the north of England, and they are now also used on services to Edinburgh and Glasgow via the West Coast Main Line.

First Scotrail

On 11 July 2008, First Scotrail ordered Class 380 EMU's for delivery in 2010. The order was for 22 three car and 16 four car units. .


Caile Ferate Romane (CFR), the national railway operator of Romania, is one of the largest users of Siemens Desiro trainsets (the light train variant). CFR, which is currently going through a process of modernisation has bought many Desiro trainsets and uses them on all train types, including Intercities, "Rapid", "Accelerat" and "Personal", but a large part on "Rapid" trains, an express train type. There was some criticism on the use of Desiros for long-distance trains, because they were found uncomfortable. CFR has recently refitted them, and is now using Desiros mainly on medium- and short-disstance routes. It is for example planning to use them as part of a proposed commuter railway in Bucharest and Ilfov county. For more information on routes, see Caile Ferate Romane.


In Greece eight (8) diesel DMU2 Desiro trains were in use temporarily by the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), during 2004-2005 and again in 2007 for Athens-Chalkis, Athens-Kalampaka, Athens-Corinth and Athens-Airport services. Afterwards they were returned to their owner (Hellenic Shipyards S.A.) who sold them to another customer abroad, possibly CFR.

Also OSE operates twenty (20) electric EMU5 Desiro trainsets equipped for the 25 kV overhead catenary system. They operate on the Neratziotisa-Athens Airport suburban section and on the newly electrified Thessaloniki-Litochoro mainline section for a stopping service (advertised as suburban). This service is expected to reach Larissa within 2008.


At present 23 diesel Desiros in service at MÁV mainly on secondary line Budapest-Esztergom as suburban trains and on weekends as InterCity-trains from Budapest to Baja and to Sátoraljaújhely and back.


In 2005 and 2006, the Bulgarian State Railways began operating Desiro trains as part of an €67 million deal with Siemens AG for a total of 25 Diesel multiple unit. As of 22 March 2006, 16 of the trains had been delivered and a number of them serve the Sofia-Kyustendil-Sofia line. Another €117 million deal for 25 EMUs has also been signed with Siemens AG, with deliveries expecting to finish until the end of 2007. The EMUs will be furnished in Varna, where BDZ and Siemens AG are set to establish a joint venture company.

United States

The SPRINTER, serving Northern San Diego County, California, United States between Oceanside and Escondido along a 25 km (22 mi) railway line, has twelve married pairs of Siemens VT642 Desiro DMUs delivered in August 2006 to the operator North County Transit District (NCTD). Service began on March 9, 2008, serving fifteen stations.


The 57km KLIA Ekspres and KLIA Transit airport rail link uses the Desiro ET 425 M four-car Electric Multiple Units. 12 trainsets are currently in operation.

These EMUs have a commercial maximum speed of 160 km/h


Nine 25 kV AC Desiro UK EMUs based on the Heathrow Connect Class 360/2 will be used for the Suvarnabhumi Airport Link which is currently under construction in Bangkok.


Slovenian Railways possesses electric Desiro units, designated as DESIRO EMG 312 SR 31E. They are used as commuter stop-trains mainly on connections to and between Ljubljana and Maribor on the lines:

  • Ljubljana (-Litija, -Zidani Most, -Sevnica)-Dobova
  • Ljubljana-Maribor
  • Ljubljana-Jesenice
  • Ljubljana (-Sežana)-Koper


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