This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "British Rail Class 323" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (May 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
British Rail Class 323
West Midlands Trains 323214 at Aston in March 2019
The interior of a class 323 unit, as refurbished by Arriva Rail North in 2019.
In service7 February 1994[1] – present
ManufacturerHunslet Transportation Projects Limited (HTPL)[2]
Order no.
  • 31112 (DMSO A)
  • 31113 (TSOL)
  • 31114 (DMSO B)[3]
Built atLeeds[4]
Refurbished2011-2013, 2018-2021
Number built43 sets[2]
SuccessorClass 730 (West Midlands Trains)
Formation3 cars per set: DMS(A)-TS-DMS(B)[2][6]
  • EA272 (DMSO A)
  • EH296 (TSOL)
  • EA272 (DMSO B)[3]
Fleet numbers
  • 323201-323243[6][4]
  • 64001-64043 (DMSO A)
  • 72201-72239, 72340-72343 (TSOL)
  • 65001-65043 (DMSO B)[4]
  • As built: 284 (DMS 98, TS 88)
  • Units 323 223–5: 244 (DMS 82, TS 80)
  • Refurbished: 275 (DMS 97, TS 81)
Line(s) servedCross-City Line
Chase Line
Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford Line
Glossop Line
Crewe to Manchester Line
Stafford to Manchester Line
Styal Line
Car body constructionAluminium alloy[3]
Car length
  • DMSO: 23.37 m (76 ft 8 in)
  • TSOL: 23.44 m (76 ft 11 in)[4]
Width2.80 m (9 ft 2 in)[4]
Height3.78 m (12 ft 5 in)[citation needed]
DoorsBi-parting sliding plug[4][6]
Maximum speed90 mph (145 km/h)[4][6]
Traction motors4 × Holec DMKT 52/24[4]
Power output1,168 kW (1,566 hp)[4]
Electric system(s)25 kV 50 Hz AC Overhead
Current collection methodBrecknell Willis High Speed Pantograph[6]
  • Powered - RFS BP62
  • Trailer - RFS BT52[4]
Braking system(s)Regenerative, Air Brake (Westcode)[6]
Safety system(s)AWS
Coupling system
Multiple workingWithin-class only (in service); other units with Tightlock autocouplers (rescue purposes only)[6]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 323 are electric multiple unit (EMU) passenger trains built by Hunslet Transportation Projects. All 43 units were built from 1992 through to 1996, although mock-ups and prototypes were built and tested in 1990 and 1991.[5]

Entering service in 1994, the 323s were among the last trains to enter service with British Rail before its privatisation in the mid-1990s. The units were designed to operate on inner-suburban commuter lines in and around Birmingham and Manchester with swift acceleration and high reliability. Of the 43 sets built, 26 are in operation with West Midlands Trains and 17 with Northern Trains. By late 2022 to early 2023,[9] the West Midlands Trains sets will start to be replaced by the Class 730 EMUs[10] and 34 sets will be operated by Northern Trains.

The units are known for the distinctive sounds that can be heard during acceleration or deceleration. These sounds are generated by the traction electronics.[citation needed]


In the early 1990s the Regional Railways sector of British Rail placed an order for new EMUs both to replace older electric units around Birmingham and Manchester, and to work services on the newly electrified Birmingham Cross-City Line. In June 1990, the contract was awarded to Hunslet Transportation Projects of Birmingham, a new company set up by a team of engineers and managers who had left Metro Cammell. Metro Cammell was at the time a Birmingham-based train builder. It won the contract in competition with six other European train builders. The trains were designed in Birmingham, but built and fitted out at the Hunslet works in Leeds.[11]

Initially 37 units were ordered, with the option for fourteen more. Eighteen would be needed for the Cross-City Line, while the remainder would replace older units (such as the Class 304 and Class 310) in the event a total of 43 three-car units were actually built.[11] When the electrification of the Leeds/Bradford - Skipton/Ilkley Airedale/Wharfedale Lines was confirmed in the early 1990s, Regional Railways and West Yorkshire PTE applied to the government for 14 units to add to those already on order.[12] At the time, government spending on the railways was restricted due to the looming privatisation and eventually, when funding was not forthcoming, the order was cancelled, and 21 second-hand 308s from Network SouthEast were used in the interim before the Class 333s entered service in 2001.[13]

The units are known for a distinctive whine made during acceleration or deceleration, rising/falling through multiple phases falsely suggestive of a motor connected to a gearbox with a great many ratios, caused by use of a gate turn-off thyristor-based inverter as part of the traction control circuitry that drives the 3-phase AC motors, a common setup in the early to mid 1990s which is notably also present in the Networker family of electric multiple units. The "gear-changing" effect is produced by the simplification of the PWM pulse pattern so as not to overload the thyristor, which switches at lower frequencies than later implementations of the variable-frequency drive and hence produces a lower-pitched sound.[14]

Service history

British Rail service

The Class 323s were initially beset with a number of technical problems related to their traction motors, doors, traction converters, gearbox and vibration at high speed which took several years to resolve, preventing them from entering service. The first set finally entered revenue-earning service on 7 February 1994.[1] A mixed fleet of elderly diesels which the 323s had been intended to replace as well as some elderly Class 304, Class 308 and Class 310 electric units were drafted in to operate Cross-City Line services until the problems were resolved. Electric services began on 26 November 1992 on the northern section of the Cross-City Line, before the entire route was energised in June the following year. The 323s became reliable enough to operate a full service in 1995.[11][15]

Post-privatisation service

As part of the privatisation of British Rail, all 43 were sold to Porterbrook in 1994 and allocated to the Central Trains and North West Regional Railways shadow franchises.[16][17]

West Midlands

Central Trains 323209 at Birmingham New Street in September 2003
Central Trains 323209 at Birmingham New Street in September 2003
London Midland 323241 at Birmingham New Street in September 2014
London Midland 323241 at Birmingham New Street in September 2014
West Midlands Trains 323221 at Sutton Coldfield in April 2021
West Midlands Trains 323221 at Sutton Coldfield in April 2021

Central Trains inherited a fleet of 26 units from British Rail: sets 323201-222 and 323240-243. In November 2007, these passed to London Midland when it took over the franchise.

In December 2017, West Midlands Trains took over the West Midlands franchise, and the 323s passed to that company. However, they will be replaced by new Class 730 trains on the Cross-City Line in 2022.[10]

Northern Trains

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (July 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
323225 in debranded First North Western livery at Manchester Piccadilly in August 2007
323225 in debranded First North Western livery at Manchester Piccadilly in August 2007
Northern Rail 323235 at Stockport in May 2014
Northern Rail 323235 at Stockport in May 2014

The units were used to replace older stock of Classes Class 304 and Class 305, although some of the latter were retained in reserve until 2000. They are used on the Manchester electrified network, primarily to the south of the city.

At the time of the privatisation of British Rail, the Regional Railways North West franchise was re-branded North Western Trains, and it inherited 17 of these units (323223-323239). North Western Trains became First North Western in 1998 and its operations were taken over by Northern Rail in 2004. All passed to Arriva Rail North with the franchise in April 2016, and then to current operator Northern Trains on 1 March 2020.

The fleet is maintained at Allerton TMD, with units terminating in Manchester stabled at Stockport Edgeley carriage sidings where they receive overnight cleaning as well as Ardwick TMD operated by Siemens, where they are washed alongside the class 185 Transpennine fleet. The 323s were formerly maintained at Longsight Electric TMD.[2]

Current services
Route Usage Notes Other Units Used
Liverpool Lime Street to Crewe via Manchester Airport Monday to Saturday (Daytime) Hourly service,

Introduced in May 2018. Combination of previous Liverpool to Manchester and Manchester to Crewe services.

319, 331
Liverpool Lime Street to Wilmslow via Manchester Airport Monday to Saturday (Evenings),


Hourly service, introduced in May 2018. 319, 331
Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria Monday to Friday (Peak Periods) Peak-only service, previously hourly service (Monday to Saturday) before May 2018 319
Liverpool Lime Street to Warrington Bank Quay Monday to Saturday (Daytime) Hourly service, combines with Liverpool to Crewe service to provide 2tph service between Liverpool and Earlestown. 319
Manchester Piccadilly to Glossop/Hadfield Monday to Sunday Half-Hourly service. Extra services in Peak Periods. 331
Manchester Piccadilly to Stoke-on-Trent Monday to Sunday Hourly service Monday - Saturday,

6 services on Sunday in both directions

Manchester Piccadilly to Crewe via Stockport Monday to Sunday Hourly service calling at all stations. 331
Manchester Piccadilly to Crewe via Manchester Airport Monday to Friday

(Peak Periods)

Peak-time service only. Previously hourly service (Monday to Saturday) extended to Liverpool Lime Street in May 2018. 319, 331
Previous Services
Route Usage Notes
Manchester Oxford Road to Wilmslow Monday to Saturday Previously, there was an evenings only service via Manchester Airport. After May 2018, the Liverpool-Crewe route serves this line.
Manchester Piccadilly to Alderley Edge Sunday Before May 2018 on Weekdays, Class 323s terminated at Alderley Edge. After May 2018, Diesel units now operate with the line extended to Wigan North Western.
Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Airport Monday to Sunday An hourly service previously terminated between both stations. Today, all services that terminate at the airport are extended beyond Manchester.
Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester United Football Ground Matchdays only (suspended since 2018) Mixture of 3- or 6-car services

Accidents and incidents

On 18 December 2008, unit 323231 collided with a Nissan 4x4 which had rolled down the embankment from a delivery company car park at North Rode, Congleton.[18] The unit spent 16 months out of service to undergo repair as a result.

On 17 December 2019, unit 323234 derailed in the Ardwick depot. The train rolled approximately 4 feet away from the railhead and where it had ended up. No one was hurt in the accident as it occurred at a low speed.[19]


The 323s were expected to leave Arriva Rail North in December 2018 when replaced by the Class 331;[20][21][22] however, this did not take effect.

The Northern Trains 323 fleet will be retained, replacing the older Class 319s, and being joined by 17 units cascaded from West Midlands Trains.[8]

Class 323s operated by both Northern Trains and West Midlands Trains received a full refurbishment between 2018 and 2021, with the first refurbished units delivered to West Midlands Trains in February 2019,[23] and the first Arriva Rail North unit (323234) returning on 22 October 2019. The rest of fleet was refurbished to the same standard over the following years.[24]

These works involved the replacement of seat covers, interior and exterior repainting (into the new livery of their respective operators), the installation of a new passenger information system and wheelchair call-for-aid buttons, and the addition of an accessible toilet in place of the original small toilet cubicles, among other modifications.[25] The last Class 323 unit to be refurbished (323224) returned to Northern Trains on 23 January 2021, while the last West Midlands Trains 323 unit (323226) was returned in 2020.[26]

Many of these changes were a requirement of the PRM (Persons with Restricted Mobility) TSI, with which all UK trains had to be compliant to continue running beyond the end of 2019.[27]

Fleet details

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos.
Class 323 West Midlands Trains 26 1992–96 3 323201–222, 323240–243
Northern Trains 17 323223–239

Named units

Unit 323241 is named Dave Pomroy 323 Fleet Engineer 40 Years Service.[28]


  1. ^ a b Webber 1999, p. 49.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Class 323". Modern Locomotives Illustrated. No. 228. December 2017. p. 49-53.
  3. ^ a b c d Fox, Peter (1994). Electric Multiple Units. British Railways Pocket Book No.4 (7th ed.). Platform 5. pp. 38–39. ISBN 9781872524603.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Class 323". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b "323 Data Sheets". Porterbrook. Archived from the original on 10 November 2018. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Class 323 Drivers Manual" (PDF). ttweb. Northern Rail. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  7. ^ Pritchard, Robert (2020). British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock 2020. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. p. 283. ISBN 978-1-909431-58-4.
  8. ^ a b "Class 323 EMUs to remain in traffic with Northern". Rail. No. 886. August 2019. p. 30.
  9. ^ "New British train fleets to enter service two years late". International Railway Journal. 9 November 2021. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  10. ^ a b "Class 730 Fleet". West Midlands Railway. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  11. ^ a b c Boynton, John (1993). Rails Across The City, The Story of The Birmingham Cross City Line. Mid England Books. ISBN 0-9522248-0-1.
  12. ^ "A Brief History of the Hunslet Engine Co". Leeds Engine Builders. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Electric Multiple Unit Class 333, UK". Siemens. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Electric Traction Control". The Railway Technical Website. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  15. ^ Boynton, John (1999). A Century of Railways around Birmingham and the West Midlands, Volume Three 1973 - 1999. Mid England Books. ISBN 0-9522248-6-0.
  16. ^ "Class 323 - London Midland". Porterbrook. Archived from the original on 29 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Class 323 - Northern". Porterbrook. Archived from the original on 29 August 2017.
  18. ^ "Collision and derailment of a passenger train at North Rode, between Macclesfield and Congleton, 18 December 2008" (PDF). Rail Accident Investigation Branch. December 2009. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 February 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  19. ^ "Manchester Piccadilly rail services face severe disruption after train derails at Ardwick". Manchester Evening News. 17 December 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  20. ^ "CAF to supply 98 trains for Britain's Northern franchise". International Railway Journal. 22 January 2016.
  21. ^ "Northern: franchise agreement" (PDF). Gov.UK. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 July 2019. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  22. ^ "Likely removal of North West '323s' angers user group". Rail. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  23. ^ "Class 323 Overhaul". Gemini Rail Group.
  24. ^ "The first in fleet refurb makes its way back to Allerton". Gemini Rail Group. 22 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  25. ^ "A range of improvements are being made to trains on the Cross City line" (Press release). West Midlands Railway. 22 February 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  26. ^ Gemini Rail Group (23 January 2021). "Last class 323 PRM refurbished unit returned to Northern Trains". Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  27. ^ "Heavy rail fleets: 2020 targeted accessibility compliance". GOV.UK. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  28. ^ Pritchard, Robert (2021). British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock 2021. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. p. 278. ISBN 978-1-909431-86-7.


Webber, B. (1 January 1999). "Class 323 Electric Multiple Units". Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit. 213: 49–62. doi:10.1243/0954409991531029. S2CID 109704714. Retrieved 10 November 2020.

Further reading