British Rail Class 508

British Rail Class 508
British Rail Class 508

Class 508 at Liverpool Lime Street

Class 508 interior
In service 1979 - Current
Manufacturer BREL York
Family name BREL 1972 "PEP"
Refurbishment 27 Merseyrail sets 2002 - 2004
Alstom Eastleigh Works
Number built 43 trainsets
Formation 3 cars per trainset (originally 4 cars)
Capacity 320 seats (as-built)
234 seats (508/1)
222 seats (508/1 modified, 508/2 & 508/3)
192 seats (Merseyrail refurbished)
Operator Merseyrail
Car length 19.8 m (65 ft)
Width 2.82 m (9.3 ft)
Height 3.58 m (11.7 ft)
Maximum speed 75 mph (121 km/h)
Weight 104.5 tonnes (102.8 long tons)
Power output 656 kW (880 hp)
Electric system(s) 750 V DC Third rail
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) Standard gauge

The British Rail Class 508 electric multiple units ("EMUs") were built by BREL at York works in 1979-80. They were the fourth variety of BR's then-standard 1972 design for suburban EMUs, eventually encompassing 755 vehicles and five classes (313/314/315/507/508). They have mostly worked on the Merseyrail network since 1983, and continue to do so, now refurbished by Alstom's Eastleigh Works.



The Class 508 EMUs were developed for Merseyside following extensive trials and testing of the 4Pep/2Pep stock built in the early 1970s. Testing of Class 313 stock took place on Merseyside, using 313003 and 313005. However, following planning and building, British Rail decided to divert the 508s to work alongside much older first-generation 4Sub EMUs in the London Waterloo area. Based at Strawberry Hill depot, they soon became very unpopular in the Southern region due to their being non-standard. Once a new build of Class 455 EMUs were complete the 508s were slowly sent to their originally intended home on the Merseyrail network, to work alongside the already well-established fleet of Class 507 EMUs working there since 1978.

All 43 508s are now formed of three cars, although they were four-car sets on the Southern Region. When sent to Merseyside one of the trailer cars was removed and incorporated into the 455/7 build of EMUs. The individual passenger door controls, which had been a feature of these units, were plated over before the units were sent north. Original plans were drawn up for 58 508s to be constructed, although costing issues limited the eventual number to 43. Carriage numbering is as follows:

  • 64649-64691 - DMSO
  • 71483-71525 - TSO
  • 64692-64734 - BDMSO

Current operations

Merseyrail operates 27 508s, which are used interchangeably between the Northern Line and the Wirral Line. They commonly work the following services:

Past operations

Connex South Eastern leased 12 508s which were freed up by controversially cutting back Merseyrail's Wirral services in 1996 (508101/105/106/107/109/113/116/119/121/129/132/133), for operation on specific Kent services. This fleet was used due to lack of Networkers (Class 466s), particularly on the Medway Valley Line and the Isle of Sheppey Line. In September 2006 new operator Southeastern announced that a cascade of rolling stock would see Class 466 units replace the 508s on the Sheerness and Medway Valley lines in the December 2006 timetable. Following this timetable change there were only six units left in Southeastern operation based at Gillingham Depot. [1] There were five units in 'warm store' at Ashford Chart Leacon, and one unit, 508212, was heavily robbed to keep the surviving service units in operation, including the swap of its TSO coach with one from a service unit that ran into a tree on the Redhill-Tonbridge line. With the transfer of the Tonbridge to London via Redhill services to Southern, Southeastern placed its remaining fleet of Class 508s in store in December 2008.

Silverlink leased three 508s from Angel Trains in 2003 for operation on the Watford DC Line to assist its fleet of Class 313 EMUs. These were withdrawn following the delivery of new Class 378 Capitalstar units.

Fleet information

  • Originally the 508s were numbered 508001-508043.
  • When they moved to Merseyside they were renumbered 508101-508143 to avoid confusion with the Class 507s.
  • The Merseyrail 508s were refurbished in 2003/04, the first unit to re-enter service being 508110. The final unit to leave for the works for refurbishment was formerly black-striped 508137.
  • SET units were renumbered as 508/2 when they were refurbished in 1996. A refurbushment by Wabtec is under way, 508205 being the first to receive this.
  • Silverlink units were renumbered as 508/3 when they were refurbished in 2003.
  • Both Southeastern and London Overground have withdrawn their fleets for replacement - Southeastern have been able to cascade existing rolling stock to the Sheerness and Medway lines, while the London Bridge via Redhill service has been transferred to Southern; London Overground have fully introduced their new Class 378 units.
Class Operator No. in service Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos. Notes
Class 508/1 Merseyrail 27 1979-1980 3 508103 - 508104, 508108, 508110 - 508112, 508114 - 508115, 508117, 508120, 508122 - 508128, 508130 - 508131, 508134, 508136 - 508141, 508143 Converted from 508/0
Class 508/2 Stored 12 508201 - 508212
Class 508/3 3 508301 - 508303
Class 508/1 diagram

Network Rail's Route Utilisation Strategy for the Merseyside region has called for an expansion to Merseyrail's current fleet to allow for both additional services and lengthening of trains to six cars. In December 2009 it was reported by various sources that the former Southeastern and London Overground units would be transferred to Merseyrail.[1][2] Two ex-Overground units were moved to Warrington Arpley yard in November 2009,[3] but returned south soon after. Meanwhile the ex-Southeastern 508s have moved to Telford Railfreight Terminal for storage.[4] On 21 July 2011 2 Ex-Southeastern 508s 508208 & 508211 were moved to Eastleigh For warm storage. The rest of Southeastern's 508s will be moved there. It is yet unclear as to whether the 508s are being moved there to be refurbished back into serviceable condition for Southern or Southeastern.


London Overground unit 508301, now withdrawn from service, stands at London Euston in Silverlink Metro livery.

508s have appeared in many colours over their lifetimes, more so than any EMU of similar type.

  • BR Blue and Grey (1979—1994): the initial livery stood the test of time, lasting until well into their careers on Merseyside. The units also carried the MPTE "69" logo and Merseyrail branding on the driver's side of the outer ends of the driving vehicles.
  • Merseyrail Original (1993—2001; repaints 2001—2004): the original yellow livery was exclusive to Merseyside EMUs; this was a yellow basecoat with white around the windows and black and grey stripes.
  • Merseyrail Revised (1999—2004): a simple variation of the original Merseyrail livery - no black stripe, and a lighter base yellow.
  • Merseyrail Refurbished (2003—): radically different from the others, it involves a silver basecoat, with addition of yellow stripes which resemble those of a tiger. Additional 'M' branding appears on the front ends and on the sides, as does a 'Merseyrail' vinyl. Because the vinyl was purchased without graffiti protection, it does not wear well if vandalised; several sets are therefore running round the network with their 'M' logos missing or worn away.
  • Connex Yellow and White (1996—2006): a white basecoat with some yellow effects down the sides.
  • South Eastern Trains (2005—2006): A white background, with yellow and black side stripes. Unit 508208 was one of the first to receive this, in May 2005.
  • Southeastern (April 2006—December 2008): A change is under way, with the doors being painted in the corporate lilac, the body sides will be the white, black and grey carried by the 465/466 fleet.
  • Silverlink Metro (2004—): Silverlink's 508s' purple, green and silver livery was applied when they were modified in 2003.
  • Capital of Culture advertising livery (2008—2009): one of the four sets in the promotional Capital of Culture liveries is a 508. This set, 508134, showed off the theme of creativity with a purple background. Photographs depicted focus on some of the weird and wonderful innovations from Liverpool, such as the SuperLambBanana. The colourful liveries met with mixed reactions from travellers. The purple train could most often be found working the Southport—Hunts Cross line.


  • 508136 - "Capital of Culture"

In late 2004, to mark Liverpool's success in being named European Capital of Culture 2008, Merseyrail named 508136 'Capital of Culture'. This name was affixed using vinyl transfers as opposed to cast metal nameplates.


Crowhurst derailment

On 6 March 2007 a Class 508 (set 508210), forming the 0500 Tonbridge to Gatwick Airport service, derailed near Crowhurst, Surrey, after hitting a fallen tree on the line. None of the eight people on board were hurt.[5]

Liverpool Central derailment

On 26 October 2005 a Class 508 (set 508124), forming the 2W43 17:06 West Kirby return via Liverpool Lime Street, derailed 200m short of Liverpool Central, caused by track gauge widening due to poor track condition. There were no serious injuries. The RAIB report[6] cited incompatibility between Class 508 (and 507) EMUs and the Liverpool Loop track as a causal factor, along with maintenance and other track design concerns.

See also


  1. ^ "Merseyside RUS addresses serious growth issues journal". Rail (Bauer Media) (607): 10–11. December 2008. ISSN 9770953456155. 
  2. ^ "North Wales Coast Railway Noticeboard". Charlie Hulme. 2009-12-04. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  3. ^ "508 302 @ Warrington Arpley Yard, 241109". M.Barber. 2009-11-24. Retrieved 2010-06-06. 
  4. ^ "508 205 & 508 2** at Telford International Railfreight Depot 22/05/10". M.Barber. 2010-05-22. Retrieved 2010-06-06. 
  5. ^ "Train derails after hitting tree". BBC News. 2007-03-06. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  6. ^ "Derailment near Liverpool Central underground station 26 October 2005". RAIB. 2006-08-11. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 

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