British Rail Class 144

British Rail Class 144 Pacer

Northern Rail/WYPTE Metro Class 144 Pacer No. 144001, recently reliveried, is seen at Sheffield

The interior of a Northern Rail/SYPTE Metro Class 144
In service 1986present
Manufacturer BREL Derby and Walter Alexander
Order number
  • 31015 (DMS)
  • 31016 (DMSL)
  • 31037 (MS)[1]
Family name Pacer
Constructed 1986-1987[1]
Entered service 1986
Refurbishment 2002 - 2004 and 2010
Number built 23 trainsets
Formation DMS(+MS)+DMSL
  • DP240 (DMS)
  • DP241 (DMSL)
  • DR205 (MS)[1][2]
Fleet numbers
  • 144001-144023 (sets)[3]
  • 55801-55823 (DMS)
  • 55850-55859 (MS)
  • 55824-55846 (DMSL)[1]
Capacity 99 or 157 seats per unit[4]
Operator(s) Northern)
Depot(s) Neville Hill[1]
Line(s) served
Car body construction Steel underframe. Aluminium alloy body and roof.
Car length
  • 15.093 m (49 ft 6.2 in) (DMS, DMSL)
  • 15.186 m (49 ft 9.9 in) (MS)[2]
Width 2.695 m (8 ft 10.1 in)[2]
Height 3.725 m (12 ft 2.7 in)[2]
Floor height 1.288 m (4 ft 2.7 in)[2]
Doors Twin leaf pivot[3]
Articulated sections
  • 3 (144001-013)
  • 2 (144014-023)
Wheelbase 9 m (29 ft 6 in)[2]
Maximum speed 75 mph (121 km/h)[3]
  • 24.17 t (23.79 long tons; 26.64 short tons) (DMS)
  • 25.04 t (24.64 long tons; 27.60 short tons) (DMSL)
  • 23.5 t (23.1 long tons; 25.9 short tons) (MS)[2]
Prime mover(s)
Engine type 10-litre[5]
Cylinder count 6[5]
Power output
  • Cummins: 225 hp (168 kW) at 2100 rpm[5]
  • Originally Leyland: 205 hp (153 kW)[1] at 1950 rpm
Transmission Mechanical, self-changing gears[1]
Train heating
  • Engine waste heat
  • Ducted warm air[2]
Braking system(s) Air[2]
Safety system(s)
Coupling system
Multiple working Class 14x, 15x and 170[3]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 144 Pacer diesel multiple units (DMUs) were built by BREL Derby from 1986 to 1987. A total of 23 units were built,[7] replacing many of the earlier first-generation "Heritage" DMUs.


At the beginning of the 1980s British Rail (BR) had a large fleet of ageing "Heritage" DMUs, built to many different designs in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Some of the more reliable types were retained and refurbished. However, BR decided to replace many of the non-standard or unreliable types with new second generation units, built to modern standards. Two different types were pursued; low-cost "Pacers" built using bus parts and used on short-distance services; and "Sprinters" built for longer-distance services.

Twenty-three Class 144 units were built.[7] The units have a maximum speed of 75 mph (121 km/h) and are externally similar to the earlier Class 143 Pacers (they have a Walter Alexander body like the Class 143), built in 1985–1986. The first thirteen of the class, No. 144001-013 are 2-car units.[7] The remaining ten, No. 144014-023 are all 3-car units,[7] although all were originally built as 2-car units, the centre vehicle being added later. These ten Pacers are the only Pacers to contain intermediate vehicles.

Units are formed of two driving motors, one of which contains a toilet. The 3-car units have an additional intermediate motor. All vehicles have standard-class seating only. The technical description of the formation is DMS+(MS)+DMSL. Individual vehicles are numbered as follows.

The Class 144 units have BSI couplers. This allows them to work in multiple with Class 142, Class 150, Class 153 and Class 155 units, as well as units of the same class.


The class were built specifically for local services sponsored by West Yorkshire PTE (since rebranded as Metro). As such, the fleet was painted in the crimson/cream West Yorkshire Metro livery, although three units (nos. 144011-013) were later repainted into Regional Railways livery. Units are used on services such as:

They can also be found operating the Leeds-Morecambe services, services between Scunthorpe and Adwick to Sheffield and Lincoln. More recently from 2008, they have been working between Manchester Victoria and Leeds (usually via Brighouse) amongst others. Prior to 1994, they were also used on Leeds/Bradford-Ilkley and Leeds/Bradford-Skipton services. These lines were electrified in 1994, and passenger services were operated by Class 308 electric multiple units. Due to their similarities, services booked for a Class 144 can often be replaced by a Class 142, and vice versa.

Since privatisation, the fleet has been operated by several franchises. The first operator was Northern Spirit, which was later taken over by Arriva Trains Northern who refurbished the fleet between 2002 and 2004, with units emerging in a new silver and red Metro livery complete with refurbished interior. In December 2004, the fleet was transferred to the new Northern rail franchise. Northern Rail has started to replace the silver and red Metro livery with Northern Purple and Blue. During 2009, 144001-013 were all repainted. As of April 2010, all Class 144s have been repainted.[7]

Northern Rail carried out a refurbishment programme to their fleet of Class 144 trains. 144006 was the first unit to be so treated and this was also the first one to be refurbished in the joint Arriva Trains Northern/WYPTE Metro programme in 2002.

The refurbishment features the following enhancements:[8][9]

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008[10] require that all public passenger trains must be accessible by 1 January 2020. No Pacer trains (except the prototype Class 144e) currently meet this requirement. Porterbrook has proposed an extensive refurbishment of the Class 143 and 144 units in an attempt to meet this requirement, although this would reduce the number of seats.[11][12] Bidders for the next Northern rail franchise 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 Sprinter and Turbostar units released by other franchises.[13] 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.[14]

Class 144e

The Class 144e (Evolution) is a proposed refurbished variant of the Class 144 which will bring it up to the requirements of the Persons with reduced mobility-Technical Specifications for Interoperability accessibility regulations.[12] The demonstrator Class 144e unit (144012) features a number of upgrades such as the addition of new 2+2 style seating, a fully accessible toilet, two wheelchair spaces and spaces for bicycles and luggage.[12][15] as well as Wi-Fi and media screens.[12] The demonstrator unit was expected to re-enter traffic in April 2015,[16] but this was delayed until later in the year.[12] This unit is expected to have its life expectancy increased and could last up to 2032 instead of 2020 when all the un-refurbished units are withdrawn.


A Northern Rail 3-car Class 144 unit caught fire near Smithy Bridge in Rochdale on 21 November 2013.[17][18]

Fleet details

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Set Unit nos.
Class 144 Northern 23 1986–1987 2 144001 - 144013[7]
3 144014 - 144023[7]

Named units

One unit has received a name :[19]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Fox 1987, p. 42
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Vehicle Diagram Book No. 220 for Diesel Multiple Unit Trains (Railcars) (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. Derby: British Railways Board. 1982. DP240, DP241, DR205.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Class 144". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 9 March 2005.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Diesel Multiple Units 2010. Platform 5. 2010. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-902336-75-6.
  6. "System Data for Mechanical and Electrical Coupling of Rail Vehicles". Rail Safety and Standards Board. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "The Junction Fleet List". Retrieved 19 April 2010.
  8. "Interior of refurbished Class 144 No. 144006". Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  9. "Interior of refurbished Class 144 No. 144006". Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  10. Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008
  11. "Class 143 & 144 Diesel Multiple Units" (PDF). Porterbrook Leasing Co.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 "Porterbrook unveils Pacer DMU life-extension demonstrator". Railway Gazette International. 29 June 2015.
  13. "Northern Invitation to Tender" (PDF). Department for Transport.
  14. "More rolling stock needed as passenger growth rises again". Railnews. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  15. "Class 144 Evolution" (PDF). Porterbrook. Porterbrook. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  16. "Porterbrook's rebuilt Pacer set to enter traffic in April". Rail Magazine. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  17. "Manchester to Leeds train catches fire in Rochdale". BBC News. BBC. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  18. "Commuters evacuated from train after it catches fire in Rochdale". Manchester Evening News. Trinity Mirror. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  19. "DMU FORMATIONS". AbRail. Retrieved 27 March 2015.


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