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British Rail Class 142

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British Rail Class 142

British Rail Class 142 Pacer
142061 in original condition
The original interior of a Northern Class 142 which received a refresh while subleased to First Great Western
In service 1985 - 2020
Manufacturer BREL Derby and Leyland Bus
Family name Pacer
Constructed 1985 - 1987[1]
Refurbishment 1997 - 2003
2008 - Present
Number built 96 trainsets
Number in service 94 trainsets
Number scrapped 2 trainsets
Formation 2 cars per trainset
Fleet numbers 142001 - 142096
Capacity 102[2] to 121 seats per trainset
Northern Rail:
106, 114 or 121 seats per unit[3]
Operator(s) Arriva Trains Wales
Northern Rail
Line(s) served Cheshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester
Lancashire, Merseyside, Teesside
Tyne & Wear, Valley Lines, Yorkshire
Car body construction Steel underframe. Aluminium alloy body and roof.
Car length 15.55 m (51 ft 0 in)[1]
Width 2.8 m (9 ft 2 in) [1]
Height 3.86 m (13 ft) [1]
Articulated sections Flexible diaphragm within unit only
Maximum speed 75 mph (120 km/h) [1]
Weight 48.23 t (47.47 long tons; 53.16 short tons) per trainset
Prime mover(s) Cummins LTA10-R 6-cylinder 10-litre [4]
Power output

225 hp (168 kW) at 2100 rpm[4]

(Originally fitted with Leyland TL11 6-cylinder 11.1-litre 205 hp (150 kW) at 1950 rpm)[1]
Transmission Mechanical - later converted to Hydraulic [1]
Safety system(s) AWS, TPWS
Coupling system BSI[5]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 142 is a class of Pacer diesel multiple units used in the United Kingdom. 96 units were built by BREL in Derby between 1985 and 1987. They were a development of the earlier Class 141 which were introduced in 1984.

They were initially built for use on rural branch lines. However, as of April 2015 they are mainly used on busy commuter routes in the major cities in the north of England, with some also in use on local services around Cardiff. Until 2009, they operated in Devon, by First Great Western.

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008 require that all public passenger trains must be accessible by 1 January 2020. Only one of the 'Pacer' family of trains currently meet this requirement, this is 144 012 of the Class 144 fleet. It was refurbished by Porterbrook and branded as the Class 144e (e standing for Evolution). This is only a mock up of what could be done to a 'Pacer' to make them accessible. Ramps were fitted at the doors, Passenger Information Systems and announcements installed and a disabled toilet fitted. It is currently in passenger service with Northern Rail. No refurbishment of the Class 142s has been proposed by Angel Trains. Bidders for the next Northern Rail must not operate any Pacer trains after 31 December 2019. They are required to order at least 120 new self-powered vehicles and are permitted to take on Sprinters and Turbostars released by other franchises.[6] The Long Term Passenger Rolling Stock Strategy for the Rail Industry indicates up to 500 non-electric carriages will need to be built in the short term.[7]


  • Description 1
    • Rail squeal 1.1
  • Upgrades and refurbishments 2
  • Operations 3
    • British Rail Provincial/Regional Railways 3.1
      • 142/0 – The first fifty 3.1.1
      • Class 142/1 – The second fifty 3.1.2
      • 142049's visit to Canada 3.1.3
      • 142050 3.1.4
      • The 'Skippers' 3.1.5
      • Pacer Renumbering 3.1.6
      • Revised Liveries 3.1.7
    • Post privatisation 3.2
      • Northern England 3.2.1
      • Merseyside 3.2.2
      • Wales 3.2.3
      • South West England 3.2.4
  • Future 4
  • Liveries 5
  • Fleet details 6
    • Named units 6.1
  • Accidents 7
  • References 8


The units body is based on that of the original Leyland National bus, and many fixtures and fittings of the bus can be found on the units.[8][9] Each unit has a seating capacity of any number between 102[2] and 121 passengers per twin-car set. In theory there should be 106 or 121 seats per unit.[10] However, many units have had seats removed to provide additional space for wheelchair access. The same engines and mechanical transmissions were used as on Class 141, as well as the double-folding external doors.

Rail squeal

Excessive flange squeal on tight curves has been a problem on many routes operated by 142s,[11] caused by the long wheelbase and lack of bogies. The rough ride, which can result, has led to the units being nicknamed (along with the related Class 143s) Nodding Donkeys. In Scarborough train crews referred to them as "Spam Tins". The 142s were officially known as "Skippers" when they were briefly allocated to Cornwall in the mid-1980s. They were transferred elsewhere when they proved to be unsuitable for the sharply curved branch lines there.

Upgrades and refurbishments

The class was upgraded in the early 1990s. This was after a number of problems were experienced with the mechanical transmission and engines (including complete seizures), and now all units carry a more powerful Cummins engine - 230 bhp per car, which equals 460 bhp (340 kW) per twin-car unit - and Voith two-stage hydraulic transmission, starting with a torque converter which switches to fluid coupling drive once the unit is up to 45 miles per hour (72 km/h). This has proven successful, although incidents have occurred, such as when a Northern Rail unit derailed en route from Blackpool to Liverpool in June 2009.[12]

Other modifications included replacing the unreliable double folding doors with standard rigid folding doors as used on Class 143 and 144 Pacers. The units have also had new fire extinguisher equipment fitted, and the cable-worked brakes replaced by direct-acting brakes. Fifteen Valley Lines Pacers have been refurbished. This included an external relivery into the Valley Lines colours of red, white, lime green and green. The doors were painted in lime green.

The interior refurbishment included the following:

  • Installation of non-slip vinyl flooring
  • Replacement of the existing 2+3 bench-style bus seats with Chapman bespoke high-backed seats to the 2+2 layout
  • Repainted dado side panels and wall ends
  • Installation of DPTAC 'easy to see, easy to press' yellow tactile LED Passenger Door Control buttons on a raised rubber surface surround.


British Rail Provincial/Regional Railways

142088 in the original British Rail Provincial railbus two-tone blue livery at Castleford.

142/0 – The first fifty

The first batch of Class 142 units were numbered 142001-142014 and were delivered in Greater Manchester PTE orange and brown livery in Spring 1985. This livery would be retained by these units until the mid-1990s. These Pacers worked a range of services from their home at Newton Heath depot, from short-distance commuter routes like the Oldham Loop (which passed along one side of Newton Heath's depot) to cross-country services such as Holyhead-Scarborough.

The second batch, numbered 142015-142027, was delivered in a chocolate and cream livery for use in the West Country. These units, named "Skippers", went straight to Plymouth Laira depot for use on branch-line services in Devon and Cornwall, although their success on these duties was hindered by their lack of bogies. Their long wheelbase caused heavy flange wear when they were negotiating the tight curves of the West Country branch lines, as well as producing loud screeching sounds. Adhesion problems were also encountered by the lightweight 'Skippers' when tackling the gradients of the Gunnislake, St Ives and Looe branches. For a time, consideration was given to fitting sanding equipment and lubricators to the 'Skippers' but this was rejected in favour of transferring the class north to Neville Hill (Leeds) and Newton Heath (Manchester) depots in 1988/89.

The third batch, 142028 to 142050, was delivered in BR Provincial Services two-tone blue livery with a white stripe below the window surround for use on suburban and regional services in the North West and North East of England. Of these, only two were late entering service. 142049 was sent to Canada (see below) while 142050 was fitted with a Voith hydraulic transmission to test the equipment. Overall the first fifty units were designated Class 142/0.

Class 142/1 – The second fifty

Despite all the overseas marketing, the second order of Class 142 units was from the UK. In October 1985, BR ordered 46 units and these were designated Class 142/1 to distinguish them from the earlier fifty. The Class 142/1 units were numbered 142051-142096 and were almost identical in their external design and interior arrangement to the Class 142/0 units. The only obvious difference between the two is the number of strengthening ribs in the roof. Class 142/0 units have ten ribs running almost the entire length of each vehicle, whereas Class 142/1 units have a much simpler roof with just three ribs. All of the Class 142/1 units were delivered in BR Provincial Services two-tone blue and white stripe livery and were allocated to both Newton Heath and Neville Hill depots.[13]

From new, some units were painted according to the region they operated in. For example, the first 14 Greater Manchester PTE-sponsored units (142001-014) received GMPTE Orange and Brown, then the next 13 WestCountry-based units (142015-027) were painted in a GWR-inspired chocolate and cream livery and marketed as 'Skippers'.[14] The remaining 69 units (142028-096), initially working across Lancashire / Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Yorkshire, received Provincial Services two-tone blue and white stripe livery.[13]

142049's visit to Canada

BREL/Leyland was keen to fill its order book for the Class 142 design and so 142049 was sent to the Expo 86 exhibition in Vancouver, Canada in order to generate some publicity for the class. It operated a shuttle service along the BC Hydro Railway from Abbotsford to Vancouver throughout the course of the international exhibition. As the Canadian stations had much lower platforms than those for which 142049 was designed, special temporary boarding platforms had to be constructed. The unit certainly got its moment in the media spotlight, as the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is known to have taken a short ride on board. 142049 was also used to assess the viability of the class 142 units as a replacement for ageing RDC railcars then in operation in Canada, but little seems to have come from it. After Expo 86 finished, 142049 returned quietly back to the UK where it re-entered service around the North of England; its days in the spotlight now over.[15]


Unit 142050 was the first Pacer to be fitted with Voith hydraulic transmission - initially on an experimental basis - to see if this configuration would be more reliable than the SCG mechanical gearboxes had been. In early Summer 1988, it was sent to Heaton depot (Newcastle) to work alongside the similarly troubled Class 143s, on what were considered arduous routes. The trial was considered enough of a success for all Pacers to be so converted in due course.

The 'Skippers'

Owing to problems with excessive wheel wear on the sharp curves of the Cornish branches, the units from the West Country (142015-027) were moved north from 1987 - seven to Neville Hill depot (Leeds) and six to Newton Heath depot (Manchester), to help alleviate DMU shortages in those regions. From late Summer 1988, the seven that had been based at Neville Hill were transferred to Heaton depot (Newcastle). By the mid-1990s, the four of the former West Country units which had initially gone to Newton Heath were also transferred to Heaton, and 142023-027 carried their original chocolate and cream livery until mid/late-1990s.

Pacer Renumbering

In 1989, Heaton depot implemented a planned Pacer renumbering scheme - which was to cover all Classes 142-144 - in which Class 142s would be renumbered 1422XX (SCG mechanical gearboxes) and 1425XX (Voith hydraulic transmission), thus, their units carried numbers 142516, 142518, 142519, 142520, 142521, 142522 and 142525, and all of their Class 143s were renumbered. However, the other two depots with Pacers, Newton Heath and Neville Hill (Leeds), never implemented this scheme. 142050 was not renumbered 142550, even though it remained allocated to Heaton throughout this time, possibly because it was (still) considered to be 'on loan' from one of the other depots for the purpose of the trial. Subsequently, most of the original Heaton units, plus new arrival 142017, received a modified version of Tyne & Wear PTE yellow+white livery from 1992 (142017-022, after the class 143s originally carrying this livery had transferred to Cardiff), and the opportunity was taken to renumber these back to 1420XX, in line with the rest of the class at the other depots. 142516 was repainted into Regional Railways livery and renumbered back to 142016. However, 142525 was not amongst the repaints, so continued to carry that number (along with its chocolate and cream livery) for some years after.

Revised Liveries

Towards the end of the British Rail period, apart from T&WPTE livery mentioned above, other units began to be out-shopped in a revised GMPTE scheme, MerseyRail yellow+white, or standard Regional Railways livery.

Post privatisation

Northern England

Northern Spirit liveried Class 142

Upon the privatisation of British Rail, the Class 142 Fleet was divided between North Western Trains in the North West and Northern Spirit in the North East.

Northern Spirit started its operations in 1997 and continued until 2000. At this point, Parent company MTL ran into difficulties and the company was sold to Arriva, who renamed it as Arriva Trains Northern.

In the early 2000s ATN swapped 15 Class 142s for Class 150/2 units from Valley Lines. In 2004 First North Western and Arriva Trains Northern were merged into the Northern Rail franchise, which inherited the combined fleet of 68 Class 142s.

All 68 Class 142s are now painted in Northern Rail Livery. 142009 is named "Newton Heath 125. 1876–2001".

Due to rising passenger numbers in the north of England (by about 10% per annum and even by over 25% per annum at some stations where 142s are in operation)[9] some have been replaced by Sprinter trains[16] and there are plans to replace more 142s.

Five Class 142 Pacers, in service with First Great Western, were returned to Northern Rail in December 2008, the rest returned to Northern Rail by November 2011, much later than originally planned.

Despite being built for branch line stopping services, the Class 142s are mainly used on urban commuter services in and out of cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle and can be seen on longer distance services of up to three hours including the 1632 Middlesbrough-Carlisle service (nearly 110 miles) and had been used on services between Blackpool North to Chester via Stockport, which ceased to operate in December 2008.

Class 142s have operated the following routes:

Northern had wished to dispense with Pacers altogether by 2011. However, it now looks unlikely that they will be dispensed of before the end of the Northern franchise in 2016.


A total of seventeen Class 142 units based at Newton Heath depot (142041-9 and 142051-8) were refurbished for use on Merseyside PTE's City Line on services around the Liverpool and Greater Manchester areas.[17] The refurbishment included dot-matrix route indicators, a new design of individual low-backed seating and the units were repainted into Merseyrail's livery. Upon privatisation these units passed to First North Western in March 1997. All of these sets are now with Northern Rail and are in their livery.


The interior of a refreshed Arriva Trains Wales Class 142 Pacer

Valley Lines acquired its Class 142s by swapping Class 150/2 units with Arriva Trains Northern. The Class 142s were initially painted in Valley Lines livery.

Barry and Penarth known as the Valley Lines. All of its Class 142 Pacer fleet now bear the turquoise and cream house colours of Arriva Trains Wales.

The Class 142s are frequently used for the Cardiff to Penarth service calling at Grangetown, Dingle Road and Penarth.

The Class 142 units are also primarily used on South Wales Valley line routes and routes through the Vale of Glamorgan. The Wales and Borders franchise does not specify the introduction of new rolling stock, and Class 142s are likely to be in service until at least 2018. On Valley and Vale of Glamorgan services, Class 142s are often coupled together with Class 143 or Class 150 units to cope with demand on the busy Valley Lines network. The Class 142s have received a minor refurbishment with retrimmed seats in new moquette and the installation of ceiling-mounted CCTV cameras.

South West England

Twelve Class 142 Pacers were received by First Great Western in 2007, and started operations in December 2007. These were loaned from Northern (where they had been stored), in part to cover for refurbishment of FGW's Sprinter fleets but also to allow the Class 158s to be reformed as three-coach sets.

The 142s were based at Exeter TMD, working alongside the similar Class 143s on services in Devon and Cornwall, including the Avocet Line, Riviera Line and Tarka Line.

Five 142s were returned to Northern Rail in the Autumn of 2008, following the completion of the refresh of Class 150 Sprinter units. The remaining seven units were returned to Northern Rail in November 2011 as they have been replaced by class 150 units cascaded from London Overground and London Midland.


All 94 Class 142s will be withdrawn by the end of 2020, as their owner, Angel Trains, does not plan to have them extensively refurbished to comply with the Persons of Reduced Mobility Technical Specification for Interoperability (PRM-TSI).[18]

Bidders for the next Northern Rail franchise must order at least 120 new self-powered vehicles and are permitted to take on Sprinters and Turbostars released by other franchises as replacement.[19]


Fleet details

Class Operator No. Built Cars per Set Unit nos.
Class 142 Arriva Trains Wales 15 1985–1987 2 142002, 142006, 142010, 142069, 142072-142077, 142080-142083, 142085
Northern Rail 79 142001, 142003-142005, 142007, 142009, 142011-142058, 142060-142068, 142070-142071, 142078-142079, 142084, 142086-142096

Vehicle Number - when built ran like this:

  • 1st order 142001-142050 55542-55591 55592-55642
  • 2nd order 142051-142096 55701-55746 55747-55792

Named units

One unit received a name - however it was later denamed:[20]

  • 142073 - Myfanwy


There have been a number of accidents involving Class 142s since their introduction, the most serious of which happened at Winsford in 1999. The driver of a First North Western unit running empty from Crewe to Liverpool Lime Street overran a red signal on the slow line and stopped in the path of the 06:15 London Euston to Glasgow Central Virgin Trains express, hauled by a Class 87 electric locomotive.[21] The impact, which caused the unit to be written off, severed the Pacer's body from its frames and caused severe internal damage. This raised concerns over the crashworthiness of the design.[22]

On 11 June 2009, a Class 142 (No. 142042) operated by Northern Rail derailed while en route from Blackpool to Liverpool. All but one of the 40 passengers on board escaped injury. An initial investigation was carried out by the UK Rail Accident Investigation Branch which determined that the engine mounted under the rear coach became detached and fell onto the track at a recorded speed of 57 mph, derailing the rear axle. The detachment of the engine caused extensive damage to underfloor equipment, severing control wires and damaging the braking system resulting in an automatic emergency brake application.

The engine became detached following the failure of its attachment to the flywheel housing. Two of the three engine mounting points are on the flywheel housing which remained attached to the vehicle.

Engine parts were recovered and taken to the engine overhauler’s workshops for supervised examination and dismantling. The bearings and other internal engine parts were found to be in order with no signs of overheating or seizure. The engine crankshaft had broken between the big end bearing of the 6th cylinder and the main bearing in the engine casing at the flywheel end. This break exhibited marks characteristic of a fatigue failure. The torque load on the crankshaft of an engine on full power is at its maximum between the last cylinder and the flywheel, the location of the fracture.

A piece of main bearing and its fixing bolt were the first items found in the debris trail towards the derailed train at 453m back from where the train stopped. The engine block was 205m back from the stopped train. The track was damaged over a distance of 330m.

The engine had been overhauled, and was fitted to 142042 in March 2008. The crankshaft had been used in two other engines prior to being fitted to this engine. It had been reground and subjected to magnetic particle inspection (MPI) to check for flaws before it was fitted to this engine. The unit had covered 114,577 miles since returning to service. The rebuilt engines were given an interval of 400,000 miles between overhauls. Subsequently newer more sensitive MPI equipment was introduced by the engine overhaulers.[23]

Problems with engines on 142s have been experienced before.[24]

142008 and 142059 have been withdrawn, both through accident damage. 142059 was withdrawn in 1990 after colliding with a buffer stop at Liverpool Lime Street. The train had run away down the hill from Edge Hill whilst returning with brake problems. The train was running without passengers at the time and the driver and guard both survived the accident without serious lasting injury. The platforms were evacuated in time before the train struck the buffers.

John Pugh, Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, has described the 142 trains as "unsafe". However the UK Government's Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon denied this claim saying, "I would not accept that any of that rolling stock is unsafe", and that they constantly upgrade them.[25][26]

A cardan shaft failure led to an incident at Durham on 10 April 2011, injuring a member of the public with a piece of ballast kicked up by the detached shaft.[27]

On 27 April 2012 142091 was working the 1125 Lincoln - Adwick service when it hit a landslide after exiting Clarborough Tunnel near Retford causing major frontal damage to the unit. Two people were taken to hospital with minor injuries, one of these being the driver.[28][29] The landslide was blamed on heavy rain and poor drainage.[29] The unit has since returned to service.

On 8 August 2009, Arriva Trains Wales unit 142069 derailed during an empty stock movement at Rhymney station, South Wales. The unit was preparing to work a morning service with 143625 when it derailed on a set of points and hit the platform edge. 142069 was later removed by road to Cardiff Canton depot and fears were raised that the frame might have been damaged beyond repair. These fears proved unfounded and the unit has since returned to service.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Colin J Marsden. "Class 142 Technical Data". Retrieved 24 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Passenger Focus
  3. ^ (PDF) Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Diesel Multiple Units 2010. Platform 5. 2010. p. 15.  
  5. ^ "Mechanical and Electrical Coupling Index". Rail Safety and Standards Board. Retrieved 13 October 2010. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Goods & Not So Goods - Diesel Multiple Units
  9. ^ a b Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association
  10. ^ "142 - BREL/Leyland Pacer". Data Sheets.  
  11. ^ What's your favourite train? [Archive] - Cricket Web
  12. ^ "Passengers stranded by derailment". BBC News. 12 June 2009.
  13. ^ a b Pacer Group Website.
  14. ^ "Cornish Capers". 
  15. ^ "History". The Class 142 Pacer Group. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  16. ^ "More trains for busy routes" (PDF). Railwatch (Railfuture). July 2007. p. 3. 
  17. ^ "Pacer Page 1- Class 142". pacerchaser. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  18. ^ Clinnick, Richard (1 May 2013). "Angel Trains to withdraw all its Class 142 Pacers by 2020".  
  19. ^
  20. ^ "DMU FORMATIONS". AbRail. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  21. ^ "Train driver averts disaster". BBC News. 23 June 1999. A train driver has prevented a major disaster by braking seconds before his express ploughed into another train. 
  22. ^ "Safety fears over commuter trains". BBC News. 2 July 1999. Retrieved 4 July 2008. The railway inspectors say lightweight rail-bus trains do not meet current safety standards and they are concerned that some of them are now being used on the same tracks as conventional heavyweight inter-city and freight trains. 
  23. ^ RAIB Investigation Bulletin 09/2009
  24. ^ Dozens flee derailed train in Liverpool, Liverpool Echo, 12 June 2009.
  25. ^ "MP says trains in area are 'unsafe'", Lancashire Evening Post, 17 February 2009.
  26. ^ "Northern Rail told to improve its services after announcing ticket price hikes", Southport Visiter, 2 January 2009.
  27. ^ An incident at Durham station, 10 April 2011, RAIB, 10 April 2011.
  28. ^ "Landslide derails Northern Rail passenger train in Clarborough". BBC News. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  29. ^ a b "Nottinghamshire train derailment prompts national review". BBC News. 13 August 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
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