The use of the British Rail Class 43’s better known to most as Intercity 125’s is coming to an end.
By far the best trains I have ever used as a passenger. I remember moving from Essex to the East Midlands in the 2000’s – still commuting to London and dreading the longer journey times. But the first morning was a revelation – a proper train, big windows, comfortable seats, air conditioning, a buffet car etc. In my head the journey time halved!
The trains on my previous commuter line seemed like cattle trucks in comparison. The HST’s ran on diesel as the line was not fully electrified. In those days that was a bonus as electrified lines were constantly having problems with overhead wires coming down. Of course, their carbon footprint is appalling. together with all the accessibility problems of a train designed in the 1970’s. There had to come a time when they needed to be replaced.
Unfortunately, the replacements have been terrible. Uncomfortable, formulaic, plastic monstrosities although I have not yet tried the new Hitachi Class 810 Aurora trainsets on my line (more on that in future perhaps – if I ever travel on trains regularly again after Covid!). But things do not look good. The life of the HST’s has been extended time and time again because they are so well designed. It looks like their life may be extended for a little bit longer as the replacement Hitachi Class 800 trains have been found to have cracks causing huge disruption on the lines using them: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57042384
It has been rumoured that some of the last HST’s available have been pulled out of storage and are being used on the Great Western Line to alleviate the problems:
Some would say the last ‘hurrah’ of British engineering at it’s best is being lost. There’s no denying they were well engineered to have lasted this long. Now it seems we have engineering that only last 10 years before something breaks.
This reminded me of a recent conversation with my water company who wanted to replace my water meter. When I enquired as to why they needed to replace it they quoted that the life expectancy of a water meter is 10 years and mine was 22 years’ old. Why on earth are we building things that only last 10 years that have to be replaced by digging up peoples drive-ways!
At best this is just bad engineering at worst it’s built in obsolescence that makes lots of money for a few people.
So it looks like the HSTs may be around for a little bit longer but many have now been mothballed, cut up for scrap or have made their way to a museum or heritage line. The future of rail travel will never be the same and certainly not as good.
EMR tribute to the HST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRWtvMFSYX4