What’s that train?

Can’t tell your Sprinters from your Pacers? Struggling to separate a 153 from a 158? Don’t know if it’s better to be on a 125 or a 175? Fishguard Trains help is at hand.

Why would you want to know? If you’re an ordinary rail user, and not a railway specialist, we admit the discussions here on Fishguard Trains can get baffling. Too much jargon, too many acronyms. It probably all means something,  but does it mean anything to you?

While we’d prefer everyone to comment in plain language, and explain technical points as they arise for us lesser mortals, that’s not likely to happen overnight. Until then, here is a handy look-up guide to the different trains you’re likely to find running between west and east Wales. We don’t claim this is thorough and comprehensive. In fact, we’d like our expert commentators to correct and extend these notes as required. This is just a start, so over to you.

Does all the jargon make any real difference to daily rail users, or is it just for enthusiasts? We think it does. If you are travelling from Fishguard to Cardiff on a 143 Pacer, you’ll arrive shaken up and exhausted. Thirsty too – no catering trolleys are allowed on 143s. On the other hand, if you’re on a 158 or 175, you’ll be comfortable, rested and hopefully well-fed. So read on …


142 Pacer in the valleys

142 Pacer

142 Pacer

Commonly used on the Cardiff Valley lines, but known to escape the valleys and serve longer routes. Fine for a few stops, gruelling for long journey.


143 Pacer

143 Pacer





143 Pacer

A slightly smarter version of the 142, with the same bouncy ride. The reason is simple – like the 142, it’s a bus on rails, with one wheel at each corner. Due to disappear as not wheelchair-friendly, but electrification will in any case eliminate Pacers.


150 Sprinter

150 Sprinter



150 Sprinter

A common train in Arriva’s Welsh franchise. Built as a proper train, with a bogie at each end instead of a wheel at each corner, but still pretty basic inside. Used too often for the lunchtime Fishguard boat train.


153 Super Sprinter

153 Super Sprinter



153 Super Sprinter

Less doors and more seats than the 150, and usually run on quiet routes as a single unit.


158 Express Sprinter

158 Express Sprinter





158 Express Sprinter

One of two designs of long-distance trains used by Arriva that seems fit for purpose.


175 Coradia

175 Coradia



175 Coradia

Arriva’s highest-spec long-distance unit.

And finally –





Inter City 125

Otherwise IC125, or HST = High Speed Train. The trains used for diesel-hauled high-speed routes thoughout the UK, and reaching as far west as Carmarthen (all year) and Pembroke Dock in summer.

Due to disappear after electrification.

So now you know! (E&OE)

141 Pacer now in Iran

141 Pacer

UPDATE: 141 Pacer

Spad wanted to add this one before anyone else mentions it: it’s a 141 Pacer, one of the first of the bus-on-rails experiment, and even older than the 143 and 142 (see above). Still carrying passengers in Iran,  where most of the 141 fleet was sent a decade ago. Built in 1984, meant to last 20 years.


142 Alzarian16

143 JohnLord

150 mattbuck

153 Elganthomas

158 mattbuck

175 mattbuck

125 Oxyman


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19 Responses to What’s that train?

  1. Rhydgaled

    Well done for publishing this, although two of the liveries pictured (Arriva class 158 and ValleyLines class 142) are now extinct.

    A little additional information:

    Classes 142 and 143 – There are about 15 of each, at the disposal of Arriva Trains Wales, the total fleet size being 30. Despite being two different classes, they are operated as a single fleet by Arriva Trains Wales.

    Class 153 – As near as makes no difference to us, this is the only class of single-car unit (there are some older slam-door ones, but only one of these is in Wales and then only on Cardiff Queen Street to Cardiff Bay). Arriva Trains Wales uses a fleet of eight of these.

    Class 150 – The wide doors are not positioned at the ends in seperate vestibiles and, like the doors on Pacers, open directly into the passenger saloon. The purpose of this design is to create more standing room and speed boarding/unloading for suburban stopping trains. They are the most numerous class of Arriva Trains Wales unit, numbering 36 sets. The Fishguard boat train is booked for a class 150 (this means that is the class of unit ATW plan to use on the service normally, special occasions and train failures can result in services booked for one type of train being operated by something else).

    Class 158 – There is another name, besides ‘Express Sprinter’ that I sometimes use when refering to 158s. That name is ‘Alphaline’, a brand invented by British Rail and later applied to the livery of Wales&West class 158 units and their successor TOCs (Train Operating Companies). However, Wales&West’s successors have since been succeeded again, by ATW (Arriva Trains Wales) and First Great Western, and the brand is no longer carried. Only a few of these excelent 90mph 2-car regional-express units (of which ATW have 24) are used in south Wales since they are the only ATW units fitted with the new-fangled computerised ERTMS signalling system used on the Cambrian Lines (Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli) so most of them are tied up on services that traverse that route.

    Class 175 – These regional express units can supposedly get up to 100mph and come in two flavors, class 175/0 2-car units (of which there are 11) and class 175/1 3-car units (numbering 16). Unlike the Welsh examples of the Sprinter family, the class 175s do not have a corridor connection on the end, meaning that passengers, guard and catering trolley are unable to move between coupled units on the move (although 175s are rarely coupled in service anyway). In my experience 175s also seem to have a habit of their air-conditioning remaining on even when it’s cold outside, I had a dose of freese from one only yesterday.

    Intercity 125 – These are ‘propper trains’, none of this underfloor-diesel engine lark. The Great Western fleet is (or soon will be) made up of eight-coach trains with a class 43 locomotive on each end. The coaches in an IC125 are of the British Rail mark3 design. The 125 in their name refers to their maximum permitted service speed, 125mph. While in theroy they will disappear when the line to Swansea is electrified, the IEP (Intercity Express Programme) trains, also known occasionly as SET (Super Express Trains) that have been ordered to replace them are Incredibly Expensive and despite the electrification are planned to have diesel engines under the floors of some coaches weighing them down. Additionally, these widely disliked IEP trains will have coaches three metres longer than most current trains. Due perhaps to a tight curve in a tunnel near Narberth station and these long coaches, the £30m programme to make room next to the line for IEP’s longer coaches will not include the Pembroke & Tenby railway (Whitland to Pembroke Dock). This means the IC125 might not disapear from Wales altogether after all, they might still turn up in the summer on the Pembroke Dock trains.

  2. Rhydgaled

    I would also like to add some additional types of stock which may be relevant, not because they are likely to be seen in south west Wales but because I mention them quite a bit and the explanations might be useful.

    Intercity 225 – The IC225 is an electric train, capable of 225kilometers per hour (140mph) but presently limited to 125mph due to signal sighting issues. They consist of a class 91 electric locomotive, nine British Rail mark4 coaches and a mark4 DVT (Driving Van Trailer) (an unpowered luggage van with a driving cab, that looks a bit like the class 91 on the other end and can control the class 91 via a TDM (Time Division Multiplex) link).

    Mark 3 coach – As well as being used in the Intercity 125, the mark3 coach was built in a version for use with other kinds of locomotive (with a different electrical system to the IC125). Several have recently been refurbished for ATW with funding from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG). These normally only see use on weekdays, and only one train per day each way (Holyhead to Cardiff and return) although they are sometimes used to provide a Holyhead -> Cardiff and return rugby special when there is an international in Cardiff. Like with mark4 coaches, there are mark3 DVTs, and three of these are in the ATW fleet, to allow the Holyhead – Cardiff mark3 service to operate via Wrexham (which requires the train to reverse direction at Chester station).

    Mark2 coach – an older design of British Rail coach, of which ATW own a fleet of at least 16 vehicles (a rare suituation, most rolling stock is leased). Like the mark3s and mark4s these were designed for Intercity work, so despite their age are more suitable for long-distance and express services than class 150s (in my opinion at least). Despite owning them outright, ATW haven’t used most of their mark2s in a long while. Six however received a repaint and light refurbishment for use on the weekdays only Holyhead – Cardiff and return mentioned above (along with a lone mark3 buffet car), but they were unable to operate with DVTs with a diesel locomotive providing power so the service had to be routed via Crewe to avoid the reversal. The additional mark3s mentioned above, and the DVTs, were then introduced to allow the service to operate via Wrexham, and the mark2s were withdrawn. All ATW’s mark2s are therefore now spare, and there’s not much else out there in the way of spare rolling stock.

  3. Swansea Jack

    You could also have mentioned the class 67 and mark III coach operated hauled set which operates ATW’s only train with a first class section and restaurant vehicle which operates Y Gwrallt Cymro on weekdays between Holyhead and Cardiff in the morning and returns in the evening.

    It could be used in the middle of the day to work the daytime boat train, which has the benefit of not needing to reverse in Swansea, or at Carmarthen on the outward journey. The timings work out well too……

    • Rhydgaled

      The thing with that idea is that, if the 150 has sufficent capacity (despite being woefully unsuitable in a whole array of other respects) for use on the boat train normally, the cost of running a 6 vehicle LHCS (loco-hauled coaching stock) train wouldn’t stack up, would it?

      ATW’s Manchester services (either from north or south Wales) on the other hand frequently are crowded, sometimes even with 3-car class 175s. Therefore, in my opinion putting LHCS on some Manchesters and cascading stock around so most of the Manchesters which aren’t LHCS are 3-car 175s with a 2-car 175 or a 158 being freed up for the boat train is a more realistic prospect than using LHCS on the Fishguard boat train all year round.

      • Swansea Jack

        No, using LHCS wouldn’t stack up financially on the boat train, but then it doesn’t stack up for a Cardiff- Manchester service either unfortunately. The only Manchester service it could work in between its Gerallt Cymro duties would be the 10:50 off Cardiff, which is the 08:04 off Fishguard and the 14:30 Manchester – Cardiff, which is the crowded 17:39 Cardiff to Milford train which gets regularly mentioned on here. Breaking a through journey at Cardiff is a negative point at any time, trying to do that in the middle of the evening peak at the busy Cardiff Central is highly unlikely.

        I realise that the hauled boat trains in the Summer season of the years 2002-2004 and 2006 gave a wonderfully comfortable journey that I enjoyed on many occasions, but it didn’t really pay its way unfortunately.

        • Rhydgaled

          Yeah, that would be the only Manchester working the CURRENT LHCS diagram could work, and since it doesn’t have time to reach Swansea on the 14:30 MAN departure is sadly also unhelpful (at a guess that’s one of the quieter CDF – MAN – CDF legs). (CDF = Cardiff Central, MAN = Manchester Piccadilliy)

          I was refering to introducing other LHCS (the mrk2s, since ATW own them, are probably the only option available for increasing ATW’s operational fleet during the current franchise) which could be used on either Holyhead – Manchester, Llandudno – Manchester or Swansea – Manchester. Some of these services are surely busy enough to justify extra stock, but I agree nothing the mrk3 diagram could work during it’s long layover in Cardiff is likely to be busy enough to warrant it, sadly (unless it shuttles to Swansea and back a few times maybe).

  4. Irishman

    A class 175 or a class 158 (or alternating between them) is probably the best option for the daytime boat train. If I had my way an unit (but not the windows) would be emblazoned with targeted advertising promoting SailRail and North Pembrokeshire and this unit would insofar as possible be deployed on the boat trains. The loco-hauled stock could be used on occasions to handle traffic peaks.

    I like this piece on the types of trains. A family member (who enjoys rail travel but has no interest in rail) remarked to me unprompted “this is like a bus” when we were on a Pacer in the Cardiff area.

    Anyone travelling across to Rosslare will encounter two particular types of trains:
    * 22000 class inter city railcars (ICRs) work most services. They have On the Rosslare line these are invariably 3-car. I understand 6 cars cannot be used due to the restricted shorter platform nature of Rathdrum station (tunnel one end, viaduct the other) and issues with selective door operation.
    Details of their features and spec can be found at (first entry):
    Approaching Rosslare Europort there’s an automated announcement which is audible and also scrolled on end of carriage screens advising passengers to change for ferry services.

    * 29000 class commuter trains appear on a few services e.g. on the 05.35 ex Rosslare. They sometimes replace ICRs at times of high demand (e.g. bank holiday weekends).
    Details of their features and spec can be found at (first entry):

  5. DBJ

    If I think back to the late 80’s/early 90’s, when the 108 DMU’s were still in service in West Wales and everyone was complaining how ‘ancient’ they were. By my calculations they were about 25 years old then, and BR had all these new Sprinter and Pacer units on trial and being brought into service. If we look at today, those same Sprinter and Pacer units are now 25-30 years old, so just as ‘ancient’, what is the replacement plan from Arriva or the Government for those type of trains? The Valley lines are going to get flashy new EMU’s at some point, but where does that leave us west of Swansea?

    • Rhydgaled

      Flashy new EMUs? I have suggested 3-car class 377 units (fairly new, and flashy, outer-suburban EMUs currently used by Southern and First Capital Connect) on various websites in the past, but I don’t make the policy. Class 313 units (suburban EMUs from the mid 1970s) are probably not going to be much different to class 150s. They should be an improvement on Pacers though (and I hope rid Pembs of the occasional Pacer appearances).

      The rest of Wales will (sadly) probably be stuck with class 150s cascaded from the valleys by electrification. With the valleys electrified, class 150s would be woefully inappropriate for most Welsh services. Personally, I hope most of the 150s will be exchanged for a mixture of class 158s and either class 156s or class 155s. New diesel stock doesn’t look likely, due to the leasing companies not wanting to risk the assets becoming redundant due to expanding electrification. Of course DaFT (Department For Transport) are trying to order diesel trains (albeit with the ability to get power from the overhead wires) for the Intercity lines they have already anounced electrification of!

      And the explanation for those who don’t know what I’m on about:
      A class 155 is a 2-car version of a class 153 (in fact the class 153s were built as class 153s and later had a second cab added on each coach to make them into single car units)
      A class 156 is a 2-car unit similar in many respects to a class 155 (the main visible difference being different looking doors)
      There are no 155s or 156s at ATW’s disposal at present.

      Oh, and EMU is Electric Multiple Unit, DMU is Diesel Multiple Unit.

      A good trick to find out about UK rolling stock classes that haven’t been described here is to take a URL like this:
      and replace the class number at the end with the one your interested in (I have to do that sometimes, I don’t instantly know about many of the classes that aren’t found in Wales)

  6. Graham

    Hi all,

    Does anyone know what train Arriva is using for the ‘Boat’ train to/from Cardiff to Fishguard for the afternoon Fishguard sailing to Rosslare and the Morning Rosslare-Fishguard-Cardiff service.
    Yast year when I used it they had a 2 carriage 150, and although these are great trains, it wasnt suitable for the long distance and flat out non-stop speeds along the south Wales mainline. IT also lacks luggage space. A 158 on that route would be far better, or even 2x 153s. As they have more large luggage space.

    • Rhydgaled

      The Fishguard Boat Train has been booked for a (woefully inappropriate) class 150 for several years sadly. I agree that it should be an Alphaline (class 158) or failing that a 175 or an array of 153s. Last summer it was booked for a class 158 on weekdays only (no respite from 150s/Pacers at weekends), but due to 175002’s mishap it initially ran as 150 vice 158 (with an extra 158 being needed to cover the 175 shortage). It did finally become a 158 when the 175 returned, but come the September timetable ATW took the 158 away again and the weekday boat train returned to 150 operation.

      I’ve found a recent picture which shows a 150, although one picture doesn’t prove what is booked.

      Another thing making the 150 operation of the boat train so frustrating is that some workings between Maesteg and Cardiff, and latterly others between Cardiff and Ebbw Vale Parkway, are booked for 158s. Aren’t these two routes, with lots of stops, are the kind of route 150s should be used on? When we get the wires, I hope they don’t send the 150s from the valleys west, get us some class 156s (or something like them, ie. 153s and 155s) instead for west of Swansea and 158s for Pembrokeshire/Carmarthen to Cardiff/Bristol/Portsmouth. There is no current service west of Swansea, in my opinion, where a 150 would be suitable.

      • Swansea Jack

        I agree a 158 would be a better option for the boat train, but appreciate that some of the busier services to Ebbw Vale and Maesteg probably justify the larger capacity 158 over a 150 some trains on those routes. There is very unlikely to be a spare class 175 available while ATW would be unlikely to introduce (or even get hold of) any class 156s or any of the remaining 155s which are the West Yorkshire ones.

        Regarding 150s in West Wales I’d say they are probably better than 142/143s – I still recall a pacer being rather lively through Letterston Junction last year, and 150s rather than 142/3s would be an improvement on the Pembroke Dock route.

        • Rhydgaled

          Regarding 156s, I did say WHEN WE GET WIRES which is 2017/18, which means ATW’s franchise will be coming to an end. Ideally whatever body runs Welsh railways after ATW’s franchise expires should be allocated fit-for-purpose stock. Outside the valleys, there are very few ATW routes suitable for 150s. Do you know when the TransPennine Express (TPE) electrification is scheduled? Could they spare some 156 up-north after that?

          As for 150s in S.W. Wales, I agree they are probably better than Pacers. However that still doesn’t make them suitable, just a slightly less bad option. There are only things they could be fit for west of Swansea:

          a. New stopping services from Swansea to the lower part of the HOWL, perhaps Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, perhaps via Gorseinon (I do wonder whether it’d be worth keeping a few Pacers to run a trial service of this nature, with better stock (and perhaps electrification) brought in if the trial is successful).
          b. The Pembroke Dock services if run as a shuttle to Whitland/Carmarthen (which connections to Swansea on nicer trains)
          c. All-stations shuttles between Carmarthen and Swansea

          • Swansea Jack

            When TPE gets electrification I’d expect Northern to get most of the displaced stuff especially 156s. A lot will depend on making pacers DDA compliant beyond 2020, if they aren’t then 150s from the Valley lines will displace pacers from ATW services while North west and Trans-Pennine wiring will allow a similar cascade to remove pacers. There are enough financial worries around leasing units to give an hourly service on the Cambrian main line for much consideration of uplift elsewhere unfortunately.

            I agree with your comments about the use of 150s on the daytime boat train, but struggle to see what else is available at present, especially as any spare 158s will be prioritised for use on the Cambrian and routes such as Birmingham / Cardiff to Holhead etc.

  7. Graham

    Thanks for that info.
    Well im travelling on the ‘Boat Train’ next week, so lets hope they put on a 158.
    The 150 last year from Cardiff to Fishguard was so inapproprate for the journey. Nearly non-stop for 1 hour, at 75mph in a 150 is quiet noisy, and there is no room what so ever for luggage on those trains, it has to be dumped in the isles and doorways, where the 158 have large end of carriage space for luggage and bikes.
    At least is not a fGW 150 with the old fashioned rows of 3 seats.

  8. Graham

    Hi all,
    Well travelled on the Daytime Boat train both ways during the last week, an both ways it was a 150.
    With the hot weather, and it running non-stop for an hour after leaving Cardiff, its pritty uncomfortable and very noisy.
    The return 1329hrs from Fishguard runs all the way to Cheltenham. Thats an awfal long journey running at near on flat out 75mph for a 150.
    Anyhow, cant moan, as its a superb service and superb value to be able to get a connection of trains to Cardiff then a dedicated Boat train to Fishguard along with a ferry ticket to Rosslare for £34 each way. Pritty amazing, and long do I hope it continues.

    Remember the class 37s or the HST to Fishguard?? Well I suppose in theory it doesnt pay. The comfort would be well sought after, but obviously not cost effective.

    The 150 from Fishguard was well loaded, Id say nearly half full, and the other half luggage.

  9. Swansea Jack

    The one advantage of a 150 is its ability to cope with large volumes of luggage in comparison with 153s or even 158s, but the noise is certainly an issue as is the top speed of 75mph on the long run to/ from Cheltenham/ Cardiff. The class 37 hauled trains did have a really good space for luggage with a half brake vehicle as well as storage space behind the seats and in luggage racks in the middle of the coaches – ideal solution really!

  10. John Hughes

    4 August 2016 and a 150 is still providing the Gloucester-Fishguard Harbour Service. Today’s effort was a cobbled-together set, with an interior door missing from one carriage, built-up grime around all the floor fittings and grubby walls. It kept good time, at a cost to passengers’ hearing, but not a good advertisement for the fifty or so people travelling to Fishguard and Goodwick.

    • Rhydgaled

      As far as I know, both the Gloucester-Fishguard service and the boat train are supposed to be worked by a class 158 now (the unit off the Gloucester-Fishguard being the one that does the boat train the next day I believe) but it appears that these are the first to have a 150 stand-in when ATW are short of 158s.

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