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British Rail Class 423

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Title: British Rail Class 423  
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Subject: List of British Rail electric multiple unit classes, British Rail Class 418, SR Class 4DD, Mersey Railway electric units, British Rail Class 402
Collection: British Rail Electric Multiple Units
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

British Rail Class 423

Class 423/1, no. 3810 arriving at London Waterloo on 15 August 2003. This unit was one of the last to carry Network SouthEast livery. It was nicknamed the "Great Escape" after it was exported to Germany for a while for testing. After a failed attempt to preserve it, the unit was scrapped.

The British Rail Class 423 (or 4Vep (Vestibuled Electro-Pneumatic brake)) electrical multiple units were built by British Rail (BR) at York Works from 1967 to 1974, although the MBSOs and TSOs of the first 20, 7701-7720, were constructed at Derby Works. They feature manually opening doors next to every seating row and were the last coaching stock built in this pattern for BR. They were mostly found working outer suburban services in South London, and rural services in Kent and Sussex, up to 2005 when they were finally replaced by Electrostar and Desiro units. The fleet had a lifespan of 38 years.


  • Description 1
    • Standard units 1.1
    • 8Vab unit 1.2
    • 4Veg units 1.3
    • Vehicle numbering 1.4
  • Final operations 2
    • South Eastern Trains 2.1
    • South Central/Southern 2.2
    • South West Trains 2.3


Standard units

194 standard four-car units were built between 1967 and 1974, numbered 7701-7894. They were subsequently renumbered in the 1980s into the 30xx and 31xx series, in order to make numbers TOPS compliant. Between 1988 and 1990 the units were internally facelifted. The work involved fitting fluorescent lighting and public address equipment, and also rebuilding the MBS vehicles with an additional two bays of seating in space formerly used for luggage. On refurbishment only the first twenty units were renumbered in order, in the 34xx series. All other units were renumbered from 3421 onwards, in the order they were refurbished. All units ended up swapping motor vehicles on refurbishment - the additional work on these cars made the work take longer than that carried out on trailer vehicles.

8Vab unit

In 1968, due to a shortage of suitable stock for the Bournemouth electrification scheme, BR formed an eight-carriage 8Vab unit, no. 8001. The unit was formed of carriages from three standard sets, nos. 7739/41/42, plus a conventional locomotive-hauled buffet carriage. Three MBSOs were required within the make-up as the standard 'TRB' was not through-wired for traction power distribution. In view of this the two MBSOs in the 5-car portion had collector shoes fitted to one bogie on each. The unit worked on occasions with a 4-TC; this usually had a Class 33 attached to provide ETH & train lighting etc. in the TC unit as the 8-VAB was not fitted with ETH jumper cables on the unit ends. Its normal running formation was with another 4-VEP to make a 12-car set. The 'TRB' vehicle retained its gas-powered appliances so, unlike 4-REP buffet cars, was able to provide hot food and beverages while on diversions away from third-rail areas. Adjacent MBSO 62203 had most of its doors locked out of use and tables fitted across them for the service of meals on a 2-and-2 basis (across seats intended for 5 persons normally); this vehicle also had most of its luggage racks removed. The unit was later reclassified as Class 480 following the introduction of TOPS.

The numbering of individual vehicles are shown in the table below.
8001 76375 62203 1759 62200 76376 76373 62202 76374

The unit was disbanded in 1974, following deliveries of 4Rep stock, but at least one of the original units was not reformed, as spare vehicles from the unit had replaced crash-damaged Vep vehicles in the meantime.

4Veg units

In 1978 twelve units, nos. 7788-7799, were fitted with extra luggage racks (by removing the squabs and backs from certain seats) and reclassified as Class 427 4Veg units. The units were renumbered into the range 7901-7912. These units were dedicated to the Gatwick Express services from London Victoria to Gatwick Airport. Externally these units were marked by an orange/yellow (dayglo) coloured band at cantrail level with lettering 'London-Gatwick express service'. They normally ran only with other 4-VEG units.

In 1984 they were replaced on this service by Class 73 electro-diesel locomotives operating in push-pull with Class 488 coaching sets and Class 489 luggage vans. The twelve units were then converted back to standard sets, and regained their original unit numbers.

Vehicle numbering

The numbering of individual vehicles and details of when units were built are shown in the table below.
Unit Nos. Years Built DTCsoL MBSO TSO DTCsoL
7701-7720 1967 76231-76269 (odd) 62121-62140 70781-70800 76230-76268 (even)
7721-7755 1967-68 76333-76401 (odd) 62182-62216 70872-70906 76334-76402 (even)
7756-7805 1968-69 76441-76539 (odd) 62217-62266 70907-70956 76442-76540 (even)
7806-7815 1970 76541-76559 (odd) 62267-62276 70957-70966 76542-76560 (even)
7816-7854 1970-73 76641-76715 (odd) 62317-62354 70997-71034 76642-76716 (even)
7855-7894 1973-74 76861-76941 (odd) 62435-62475 71115-71155 76862-76942 (even)

Final operations

Following the privatisation of British Rail the three southern train operators all inherited large fleets of Vep units. The fleet of each franchise is described below.

Class 423/1, no. 3445 at Waterloo East on 8 February 2003, with a service to Charing Cross. This unit is painted in Connex livery.

South Eastern Trains

South Eastern Trains operated the largest fleet of 4Vep units. The franchise was originally operated as Connex South Eastern, which lost the franchise in 2003. The fleet contained several unusual units, included no. 3473, which contained a driving trailer with the compartments removed, and no. 3582, which contained former 4TC driving trailer 76275.

Many units survived into 2005 because of the closure of the Folkestone—Dover section of railway for tunnel refurbishment. This ended in September 2005. The final passenger service was operated on 7 October 2005, using units 3565, 3545 and 3568. Incidentally unit 3545 contained 62121, the first 4Vep MBSO built.

All the South Eastern Trains 4Vep units have now been withdrawn. One driving trailer from unit 3568, and another from 4Vep 3545, have been claimed by the National Railway Museum, and the former 4TC driving trailer from unit 3582 have been preserved.

Class 423/1, no. 3514 at London Victoria on 29 March 2003. This was the only unit to be painted in Southern's green livery and was one of the last units still in traffic with Southern.

South Central/Southern

The South Central division inherited a fleet of 50 standard Class 423/1 units. The franchise was originally won by Connex South Central, which soon applied its yellow and white livery to the fleet. However, following poor levels of service, the franchise was transferred to South Central Trains in 2000, which was later renamed as Southern in 2004. Only one unit, no. 3514, was ever repainted in Southern's green livery.

In 1998-1999, whilst still under the control of Connex, 19 units were modified to operate inner suburban South London "Metro" services. The work involved removal of internal compartments and declassification of 1st class seating. The units were reclassified as Class 423/9 (or 4Vop) and renumbered in the range 3901-3919. Due to the lack of first class seating and toilets, these units were generally not used on long-distance services.

In 2003, with the general run-down of slam-door trains, it was decided to reform some of the 4Vop units by swapping one driving trailer with that from a standard unit. The new hybrid units were reclassified as Class 423/8 (or 4Vip) and renumbered in the range 3813-3844. This was to give all units some 1st-class seating, thus making diagramming of units easier. But in the event only eight units were reformed, namely nos. 3813/14/21/22/41-44.

By 2004 Southern had started to introduce Class 377 "Electrostar" units into service. Although first introduced in 2002, this did not initially affect the Class 423 as the older 'Phase 1' Class 421 units were withdrawn first, due to their age and lower seating capacity. However, as more new units entered traffic, the first Class 423 units were withdrawn. Units selected for withdrawal were usually those with high mileage or in poor condition. By mid-2005 only a handful of units remained in traffic. The final diagrammed passenger service out of London was the 17:17 London Victoria to Eastbourne and Seaford on 19 August 2005, formed of units 3486 and 3535, plus 4Cig 1866. Six units were subsequently retained for emergency cover. Unit 3514 was used on the Sussex Slammer railtour on Saturday 19 November 2005. The following Saturday saw the final slam door trains on Southern, when units 3490, 3505 and 3535 formed the 09:19 Brighton to London Victoria and 11:06 London Victoria to Brighton services, following which all the units were withdrawn from service.

One complete 4Vip unit has been preserved, and two 4Vop units remained in departmental use until March 2013.

Class 423/1, nos. 3414 and 3419 at London Waterloo on 19 July 2003. These units are painted in South West Trains livery. They have both since been withdrawn and scrapped.

South West Trains

South West Trains (SWT) inherited the second-largest number of units, with an initial fleet size of 62 units. The entire fleet was composed of standard Class 423/1 units. Later, a further four units (nos. 3809-3812) were transferred from Connex South Eastern. These were also standard units, but were numbered in the 38xx series to denote they were leased from Porterbrook rather than HSBC Rail.

SWT quickly repainted its fleet of units into a new livery, based on the previous Network SouthEast (NSE) livery, but with the addition of an orange stripe and the absence of the grey band. All but four units (3415 and 3809-3811) were repainted. These four units were deliberately retained in NSE livery, meaning that in the final days of slam-door trains they attained "celebrity" status among rail enthusiasts.

In 2001 SWT placed an order for 785 new carriages with Siemens AG to allow it to replace its fleet of slam-door trains. To assist Siemens in the design of third rail units, 4Vep no. 3810 was transferred to a test site in Germany to undergo tests. Following its return to Britain it became popularly known as the "Great Escape".

South West Trains started to replace its slam-door fleet from early 2004, with the introduction of the first Class 444 and Class 450 Desiro units. Around this time SWT repainted one unit, no. 3417, into its original BR Blue livery to commemorate the final months in traffic of the slam-door fleet. This unit was chosen because it was one of the last to receive major works attention, and therefore had the longest life-expectancy. It was named Gordon Pettitt after a former manager of the [[Southern Region of British

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