Class 442 Feature - Introduction

The British Rail Class 442 Wessex Electric electrical multiple units were introduced in 1988 on the South Western main line for fast services, which operated from London Waterloo to Weymouth and semi-fast services, which operated from London Waterloo to Poole. 24 of these 5-car units were built in 1988/89 by BREL at its Derby works. Their introduction coincided with the completion of electrification from Bournemouth to Weymouth. The units use motors from the 4REPs, which meant they had to be withdrawn from service in-line with the building of the Wessex Electrics.

All vehicles are air-conditioned, and have powered internal doors and external plug doors and have a maximum permitted speed of 100mph (160 km/h). However, on 11th April 1988, the unit was permitted to run at 110mph. It managed to reach 108mph, making it the fastest 3rd rail train in the world.

During their time with Network SouthEast and South West Trains, they became among the most reliable EMUs operating in the UK. Their generous accommodation also made them some of the most luxurious long-distance commuter trains anywhere. Through the 1990s, the units began to be used on the London Waterloo to Portsmouth direct line, but with the introduction of new units in 2003, they put back to work solely on the South Western main line.

The award of a second franchise term from February 2007 for Stagecoach, the current operator of the South West Trains (SWT) franchise has involved a commitment to provide 20% extra seats during peak hours and the payment of a large premium to the Department of Transport (DfT). To accommodate this, SWT undertook a controversial major rolling stock reshuffle. The Class 458 Juniper units, originally to be dispensed with, have been retained for Waterloo-Reading, Guildford-Ascot and Farnham-Waterloo via Ascot peak duties, displacing Class 450 units to the Portsmouth line, which frees Class 444s for Weymouth duties. As a result, the Class 442 fleet was taken off lease 4th February 2007 at 02:00.

However, the DfT did not like having 24 trains in storage that were in working order, and with Southern requiring more stock, they leased the majority of the units (17 at first) for their forthcoming Victoria - Brighton Gatwick Express services which were a requirement of their new combined South-Central/Gatwick Express franchise. Units were refurbished for this and involved converting the first class compartments to standard class open accommodation and a fourth (only a third for some units) rebuilding of the motor brake buffet vehicle to remove the buffet and further increase seating accommodation. The first two units, 2412 and 2414 were taken to Wolverton on 3rd December 2007. C6 overhauls - prior to rebuilding - recommenced during February 2008 with 2417 and then 2419 being taken to Chart Leacon. For information about movements of the units, please click here or see individual unit histories.