Template:Use dmy dates Template:Use British English

British Rail Class 321
Northern Class 321/9 EMU No. 321903 at Doncaster

Northern Class 321/9 EMU No. 321903 at Doncaster

In service1988–current
ManufacturerBREL York
Family nameBR Second Generation (Mark 3)
Number built117 trainsets
Formation4 cars per trainset Template:Unbulleted list
Capacity321/9: 309 seats per unit[1]
OperatorTemplate:Unbulleted list
Car lengthTemplate:Convert/m[2]
Maximum speed100 mph (Template:Convert/outsep)[2]
WeightTotal - Template:Convert/t
Power outputTemplate:Convert/hp
Electric system(s)Template:25 kV 50 Hz overhead
Coupling systemTightlock coupling compatible - classes 313-322 inclusive
|3mm=3 mm (0.118 in)
|4mm=4 mm (0.157 in)
|4.5mm=4.5 mm (0.177 in)
|4.8mm=4.8 mm (0.189 in)
|6.5mm=6.5 mm (0.256 in)
|6.53mm=6.53 mm (0.257 in)
|8mm=8 mm (0.315 in)
|8.97mm=8.97 mm (0.353 in)
|9mm=9 mm (0.354 in)
|9.42mm=9.42 mm (0.371 in)
|10.5mm=10.5 mm (0.413 in)
|11.94mm=11.94 mm (0.470 in)
|12mm=12 mm (0.472 in)
|12.7mm=12.7 mm (0.5 in)
|13mm=13 mm (0.512 in)
|13.5mm=13.5 mm (0.531 in)
|14mm=14 mm (0.551 in)
|14.125mm=14.125 mm (0.556 in)
|14.2mm=14.2 mm (0.559 in)
|14.28mm=14.28 mm (0.562 in)
|14.3mm=14.3 mm (0.563 in)
|15.76mm=15.76 mm (0.620 in)

The British Rail Class 321 alternating current (AC) electric multiple units (EMU) were built by BREL York in three batches from 1988 to 1991.[3][4] The design was successful and led to the development of the similar Class 320 and Class 322 units for use by Strathclyde PTE and Stansted Express (now used by Northern) respectively. The British Rail Mark 3 bodyshell design was also used for construction of the Class 456 direct current (DC) units.

The 321s are operated by Greater Anglia and Northern.


Three sub-classes of unit were built. The first two were built for the Network SouthEast sector, whilst the final batch was built for services around Leeds. These trains have been modified by different rail companies who use them, such as Greater Anglia. The modifications include new seats, paintwork, lighting and in carriage announcement boards.

Class 321/3Edit

File:321330 Departs Stratford by Joshua Brown.jpg

The first batch of 66 EMU trains, built between 1988 and 1990[3] were classified under TOPS as Class 321/3. Units were numbered in the range 321301-366 and have a maximum speed of 100 mph (Template:Convert/outsep). Each EMU consisted of four carriages; two outer driving trailers, one of which contained first class seating; an intermediate motor coach with standard class seating only, roof mounted Brecknell Willis High Speed pantograph and four Brush TM2141C traction motors (two per bogie); and an intermediate trailer with standard class seating.[citation needed]

These EMU trains were built for outer-suburban trains on the Great Eastern Main Line, primarily from London Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria, Ipswich, Southminster, Clacton, Colchester and Braintree. They replaced the ageing slam-door Class 305, Class 308 and Class 309 units on trains to Clacton and Southend-on-Sea, and worked services on the newly electrified routes to Ipswich and Harwich. They also displaced many Class 312 slam-door units to the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. Some of the Class 309 "Clacton Express" units were retained until 1994, and 24 of the newer Class 312 units were retained long-term to work services to Walton-on-the-Naze and peak services to Clacton, Ipswich and Witham. Units carried the distinctive Network SouthEast livery from new. 321361 was named 'Phoenix' in March 2008 at Ilford depot after it was rebuilt at the disused Colchester shed to repair damage caused by an arson attack at Southend Victoria on 10 July 2007.[5]The first thirty of Greater Anglia's 321/3 stock are being refurbished as part of the Renatus project, which will modernise the stock with features such as new air conditioning and heating, seating and Wi-Fi.[6]

Class 321/4Edit

File:321401 - Rugby (8959162488).jpg

The second batch of 48 units, built between 1989–90,[3] were classified as Class 321/4. Units were numbered in the range 321401-448 and again have a maximum speed of 100 mph (Template:Convert/outsep).

These units were built for outer-suburban services on the West Coast Main Line, from London Euston to Watford, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Rugby, Coventry and Birmingham New Street. They displaced the recently cascaded Class 317 units dating from 1981 that had themselves only just been introduced to the route to replace Class 310 units.[citation needed]

Eleven units were transferred for Great Eastern Main Line services. Following this, their First Class area was reduced in size to standardise with the existing 321/3 units on that route. This involved removal of the centre partition and double doors and re-upholstering the First Class style 2+2 seats (that were retained at that time) in the de-classified area into the same fabric as the Standard Class seats. Later, the First Class 2+2 seats in this de-classified area were replaced with the standard style 2+3 seating. These 11 units were also fitted with a facility to lock out the power door operation within the unit (a basic kind of Selective Operation) to permit operation of 12-car trains on the Braintree and Southminster branch lines, where some platforms were only long enough for 8-car trains. In late 2010, First Capital Connect obtained and refurbished some Class 321/4 units from London Midland ranging from 321401 to 321410 and 321418 to 321420.[citation needed]

Class 321/9Edit


The final batch of three Class 321 were classified as Class 321/9 and were constructed in 1991,[3] as an add-on to the main batches. These units have a similar formation to the earlier units, except that there is no first class seating. They were ordered by West Yorkshire PTE for the newly electrified Doncaster-Leeds route.

Due to a quirk to the units entering traffic, five redundant Class 307 units were introduced on the route as a stop-gap measure in 1991. These elderly units continued in service until 1993, when the Class 321 units finally entered traffic. In 1994, they were joined by several Class 308 units, which were introduced on services around Leeds following electrication of the Airedale Line and Wharfedale Line routes from Leeds to Ilkley, Skipton and Bradford.[citation needed]

The Class 321/9 units were refurbished at Hunslet-Barclay, Kilmarnock from late 2006 to early 2007.[7] The refurbishment included a new livery, refurbished interiors and reliability improvements, similar to the Class 322 EMUs, that were also refurbished at Kilmarnock.[7]

Current operationsEdit


Arriva Trains Northern inherited three Class 321/9 units.[citation needed] These units operate on the Leeds - Doncaster Wakefield Line service and occasionally on the Wharfedale and Airedale lines alongside Class 333 and Class 322 units. These units then passed on to Northern Rail in 2004 and have since been refurbished. The units continue to operate on these routes in the present day. These units passed to Northern in 2016.

Template:AnchorGreater AngliaEdit

First Great Eastern inherited all 66 Class 321/3 units and 11 Class 321/4 units. The Great Eastern Main Line franchise was subsequently taken over by National Express East Anglia, initially branded 'one', and then subsequently by Greater Anglia.[citation needed]

These trains are primarily used for London Liverpool Street to Braintree, Southend Victoria, Southminster, Ipswich (extending to Norwich during peak time), Walton-on-the-Naze, Clacton-on-Sea and Colchester Town but can be seen running on any electrified route if other trains fail. These are usually formed from 4, 8 or 12 carriages on any route.

These units are due to be replaced from 2020 by Bombardier Aventra EMUs.

Former operationsEdit

Template:Anchor Silverlink/London MidlandEdit

File:321425 A A Watford Junction.JPG
File:321411 DTCO First Class Interior.jpg
File:321411 TSO Standard Class Interior.jpg
File:321411 Watford Junction E.JPG

Silverlink inherited 37 of the 48 Class 321/4 units. The remaining 11 units had been transferred to the Great Eastern Main Line region some years previously.[citation needed]

In September 2003, Silverlink's class 321 units were temporarily withdrawn following the discovery of loose bolts on brake discs in some units.[8]

In September 2004, London Euston - Birmingham local services were divided into two separate services: Silverlink retained Northampton - London, with Central Trains taking over all local services between Birmingham and Northampton. Initially, Central Trains hired in several Class 321 units from Silverlink to work their new services, but the arrival of the new Class 350 "Desiro" units meant that very few Class 321 units were then required.

To accommodate this sub-lease, three Class 321/3 units were transferred from 'one' (since rebranded National Express East Anglia) to Silverlink. These were not permitted north of Rugby due to lack of the National Radio Network system (Eastern Region units only had the Cab Secure Radio System used for Driver Only Operated Passenger services) and therefore could not be used on Central Trains services (although they occasionally appeared on services to Rugby at weekends due to the line being closed between Rugby and Birmingham New Street). This ceased in late 2005 with the introduction of Class 350 trains on the Birmingham - Liverpool route. One of these sub-leased units was involved in a low-speed derailment at Watford Yard.[9]

In May 2007, Central Trains began using Class 321 units on some morning services from Birmingham New Street to Walsall.

In November 2007, London Midland took over operation of the Class 321 fleet previously used by Silverlink and Central Trains. An order was placed by London Midland with Siemens for 37 Class 350 'Desiro' EMUs; these were intended to replace the Class 321 units.[10]

In mid 2009, London Midland stood down most of the units and reduced their fleet to just 321411 - 321417. These units were to be repainted by London Midland. They were used for peak hour workings between Northampton/Milton Keynes Central/Tring - London Euston and all day on the 'Abbey Flyer' Watford Junction - St. Albans Abbey branch line.[11][12] In 2015, it was announced that London Midland's fleet of Class 321/4s were to be transferred to Abellio ScotRail to operate on Glasgow suburban lines. The company will receive a small fleet of Class 319 EMUs in order to cover for the loss of the cascaded 321s and they will operate on the Abbey Flyer service and peak hour services out of London Euston. These Class 321s have been reformed to three-car units, by removing the TSO vehicle and reclassified as Class 320/4.[13][14][15]

Great NorthernEdit

First Capital Connect received thirteen units (321401-10/18-20) from London Midland following deliveries of the new Class 350. The units work on the Great Northern services (London Kings Cross to Peterborough and London Kings Cross to Cambridge). Since the start of the December 2010 timetable, all 13 units are now in use. They were transferred to Govia Thameslink Railway after the First Capital Connect franchise ended in September 2014.

In 2016 all Class 321/4s currently operated by Great Northern will be replaced as a result of the new operator's move to introduce Class 387s cascaded from the Thameslink route on services to Cambridge and moved to Ilford for use by Greater Anglia.[16]

Class 321 DemonstratorEdit

In December 2013, Abellio Greater Anglia in conjunction with Eversholt Rail Group refitted a 321/4 as a demonstrator to show what Abellio planned to do with their Class 321 fleet.[17] The unit number is 321448, which features a new paint job, completely re-fitted interior including two examples of sitting arrangements including 2+2 and 2+3 and a new First Class area. The demonstrator also features air conditioning, previously unseen on Class 321 trains along with fixed panel windows to replace opening windows. It was originally envisaged to have a new traction package fitted, but at the time of introduction in 2013, it was not completed. The production refurbished units will have new AC traction motors as standard after refurbishment. By the end of the franchise in October 2016, ten of the trains should have been finished, while the rest will be refurbished by Abellio at a later date.[18]

Class 321/4 fleet CascadeEdit

It was announced in January 2008 that as part of the Department for Transport's rolling stock plan, the London Midland operated EMUs would be split between two other train operating companies (TOCs) after the arrival of the 37 additional Class 350/2 'Desiro' EMUs currently on order.[19]

They were transferred as follows:

First Capital Connect received their first Class 321, No. 321404, on 5 March 2009.[20] All units transferred to First Capital Connect were internally refreshed at Hornsey E.M.U.D and re-painted into First Capital Connect livery.[citation needed] 321418 - 321420 have since also transferred to First Capital Connect.


Northern will take delivery of Class 331 trains built in Spain by CAF between 2018 and 2020.[21] They will be a mix of two and three car diesel multiple units and three and four car electric multiple units all based on the Civity UK platform. The new electric powered trains which are planned to operate in West Yorkshire to replace Class 321 and Class 322 trains and work alongside the current fleet of Class 333 units.[citation needed]

After being awarded the new East Anglia rail franchise in August 2016, Abellio Greater Anglia placed a huge order for brand new Bombardier Class 720 Aventra EMUs which will replace the Class 317 and 321 units despite the ongoing Renatus project[22] for the latter. The new trains will be 22x10-car units and 89x5-car units. The first of the new trains is due to enter service in 2019.[23] In the meantime and to support the Renatus project, GA has taken on lease additional Class 321/4's, released by Govia Thameslink Railway. These entered service in November 2016, after having the Great Northern branding removed. However, the blue and purple livery remains.

After the replacement of Class 321s, it has been suggested that this trains will be cascaded to Valley Lines following electrification.


Fleet detailsEdit

Class No. Built Cars per set Year Built Operator No. in Traffic Unit nos.
Class 321/3 66 4 1988-90 Greater Anglia 66 321301–321366
Class 321/4 48 1989-90 39 321402, 321403
Off Lease 2 321401, 321404[24]
Class 321/9 3 1991 Northern 3 321901–321903


  • The Class 321s are nicknamed "Dusty Bins". This nickname is derived from the game show 3-2-1, which featured the animated character "Dusty Bin".[25]


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Fox, Peter (2007). British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock 2007. Platform 5, Sheffield. ISBN 978-1-902336-55-8. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Class 321. TheRailwayCentre.Com. Archived from the original on 27 October 2007.
  4. Glossary — Classes of rolling stock. Competition Commission.
  5. 321361 becomes Ilford's 'Phoenix'. TheRailwayCentre.Com. Archived from the original on 5 May 2008.
  6. You must specify title = and url = when using {{cite web}}..
  7. 7.0 7.1 Template:Cite news
  8. Template:Cite news
  9. Rail Accident Investigation Branch report, Derailment at Watford Junction yard. UK Government. Retrieved on 2 December 2015.
  10. Template:Cite news
  11. London Midland’s 321 trains get a fresh coat of paint. London Midland (11 June 2009). Archived from the original on 26 November 2010.
  12. London Midland to introduce more seats for London commuters. London Midland (1 October 2009). Archived from the original on 22 January 2010.
  13. The Scottish Ministers and Abellio Scotrail Limited: Scotrail Franchise Agreement Transport Scotland 6 March 2015
  14. "ScotRail to receive LM Class 321/4s" Rail issue 766 21 January 2015 page 27
  15. "London Midland 321s Scotland Bound" Railways Illustrated September 2015 page 10
  16. "Govia to switch Class 377 Electrostars to Cambridge" (July 2014) (754). ISSN 0953-4563. 
  17. Class 321 Demonstrator launched on the Abellio Greater Anglia Network.
  18. Eversholt previews £60m Class 321 overhaul (13 August 2015).
  19. Rolling stock plan. Department for Transport. Archived from the original on 3 February 2008.
  20. 321404 in Doncaster Yard. Flickr. Retrieved on 14 February 2011.
  21. Template:Cite news
  22. Eversholt Rail.
  23. Modern Railways Magazine, September 2016 issue, pages 13-15
  24. Leicester Depot - Flickr. Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  25. Ellis, Iain (2006). Ellis' British railway Engineering Encyclopedia. ISBN 978-1-84728-643-7. 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Template:Mark 3-derived

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