British Rail Class 91

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British Rail Class 91
Virgin Trains East Coast Class 91 Locomotive
Type and origin
Power type Electric
Builder BREL Crewe Works
Build date 1988–1991
Total produced 31
UIC class Bo'Bo'
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Length 19.400 m (63 ft 7.8 in)[1]
Loco weight 81.5 tonnes (80.2 long tons; 89.8 short tons)
Electric system(s) 25 kV AC Catenary
Current collection Pantograph
Traction motors GEC G426 (1.175 MW or 1,576 hp peak/1.135 MW or 1,522 hp continuous)
Loco brake Primary, rheostatic (140–30 mph or 225–48 km/h); secondary friction (pneumatic single-cardan shaft-mounted disc and tread brakes; 30–0 mph or 48–0 km/h)
Train brakes Air (axle-mounted triple-disc brakes; 140–0 mph or 225–0 km/h)
Performance figures
Maximum speed Design: 225 km/h (140 mph)
Service: 125 mph (201 km/h)
Blunt-end first: 110 mph (177 km/h)
Lok: 240 km/h (149 mph)[1]
Power output 4,830 kW (6,480 hp)[1]
Tractive effort max 190 kN (43,000 lbf)[1]
continuous 107 kN (24,000 lbf) @ 153 km/h (95 mph)[1]
Loco brakeforce Dynamic braking:
83 kN (19,000 lbf) max @100 to 200 km/h (62 to 124 mph)[1]
50 kN (11,000 lbf) max @200 to 240 km/h (120 to 150 mph)[1]
Operators Virgin Trains East Coast
Numbers 91001–91031
later 91101–91122, 91124–91132
Axle load class Route availability 7

The British Rail Class 91 is a class of 225 km/h (140 mph), 4,830 kW (6,480 hp) electric locomotives ordered as a component of the East Coast Main Line modernisation and electrification programme of the late 1980s. The Class 91s were given the auxiliary name of InterCity 225 to indicate their envisaged top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph). The other end of the InterCity 225 train set is formed of a Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer, built with a similar body shell to the Class 91 locomotives. The locomotive body shells are of all-steel construction. Unusually, the motors are body mounted and drive bogie mounted gearboxes via cardan shafts. This reduces the unsprung mass and hence track wear at high speeds. The locomotive also features an under-slung transformer so that the body is relatively empty compared to contemporary electric locomotives. Much of the engineering was derived from the research and operational experience of the APT-P.[1][2][3]


In 1985, ASEA, Brush and GEC tendered for the design and construction of the Class 91s.[4] GEC subsequently won the bid and the fleet was built by sub-contractors BREL in Crewe between 1988 and 1991.

The Class 91s began passenger service on 3 March 1989 when 91001 worked 1P26 17.36 London Kings Cross to Peterborough train. This train was formed of InterCity 125 Mark 3 coaches and a Class 43 power car converted for use as a DVT as the Mark 4 coaches were not yet ready. The Class 91s then began service on King's Cross to Leeds trains on 11 March 1989 when 91008 with a rake of Intercity 125 Mark 3 coaches and power car 43068 worked the 1D32 06:50 Kings Cross to Leeds service. The set then worked 1A12, the 10:00 Leeds to London Kings Cross service.

In the early 1990s, after the cancellation of InterCity 250, British Rail examined the option of ordering a further set of ten Class 91s to operate on the West Coast Main Line with UK Treasury support, however the business case for these failed to prove sufficiently worthwhile.[5] Limited funding meant that the procurement of the Class 365, Class 465 and Class 466 EMU Networker stock was taken forward instead of these.

File:91115 at Kings Cross 4.jpg
91115 running flat end first at London King's Cross

The asymmetric body style is streamlined at one end to allow high-speed operation with the fixed sets of Mark 4 coaches in normal push-pull passenger operation. An additional requirement of the design was that they could operate as normal locomotives. This led to a second cab being incorporated into the unstreamlined 'blunt end'; operating with the blunt end first limits the maximum speed of the locomotive to 110 mph (180 km/h) due to aerodynamic forces affecting the uplift of the pantograph.

The fleet, previously operated by InterCity and then GNER, National Express East Coast and East Coast, it is currently run by Virgin Trains East Coast. Since privatisation, the fleet has been owned by Eversholt Rail Group who lease it to the operators. Between 2000 and 2003, the whole fleet underwent a refit (Project Delta) to improve reliability. This has resulted in the renumbering of the fleet from 910xx to 911xx. During this time, GNER hired in Class 90 locomotives to provide cover.[6]

A Class 91, 91010 (now 91110) holds the British locomotive speed record at 161.7 mph (260.2 km/h), set on 17 September 1989, just south of Little Bytham on a test run down Stoke Bank with the DVT leading. Although both Class 370s and Class 373s have run faster, both types are EMUs, which means that the Electra is officially the fastest locomotive in Britain. Another loco (91031, now 91131), hauling five Mk4s and a DVT on a test run, once ran between London King's Cross and Edinburgh Waverley in 3 hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds, still the current record. The set covered the route in an average speed of 112.5 mph (181.1 km/h), and reached the full 140 mph (225 km/h) several times during the run.


File:91118 'Bradford Film Festival' at Peterborough.JPG
Class 91/1, no. 91118 "Bradford Film Festival" at Peterborough on 27 July 2003. This locomotive is painted in GNER blue livery

When British Rail was privatised, the Intercity livery was progressively removed. New operator GNER applied their corporate livery of blue and red. When GNER lost their franchise in 2007, the red stripe was replaced by a white stripe containing the words National Express and East Coast. National Express East Coast originally planned to repaint all of their InterCity 225 sets in the white and silver NXEC corporate livery within two years. However, the collapse of NXEC in 2009 and its replacement with East Coast saw this repainting programme cancelled. As a result, 91111 was the only Locomotive to receive the full National Express livery.[7]

In June 2010, a new silver livery with purple stripe was unveiled by East Coast.[8] As of February 2011, locomotives 91101,[9] 91106, 91107 and 91109 being the first to carry this livery. Locomotive 91101 has since been given maroon vinyls, with Flying Scotsman branding. Locomotive 91107 was given James Bond theme vinyls as 'Skyfall' for promotional purposes but this has since been removed and the locomotive returned to conventional EC silver livery, with the name still intact.[citation needed] Locomotive 91110 carries 'BBMF' Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight livery. All locomotives now carry the standard East Coast livery of silver/grey with a purple stripe. 91118 the last locomotive to carry GNER/NXEC livery has now been repainted. All Mark 4 coaches and DVTs have since been repainted. On 14 October 2014 at Newcastle Central Station, locomotive 91111 was unveiled in a commemorative World War One livery and named 'For The Fallen'.[10]

The Class 91 fleet has carried various nameplates applied in various batches and themes. Immediately after repainting into GNER colours in the late 1990s, all locomotives were briefly nameless. Having initially been applied to only a few locomotives in the early 1990s using cast-iron plates, eventually the whole fleet was named, many multiple times, until all were removed in 2008. In 2011, in response to customer requests, East Coast resumed the practice. It began by naming No. 91109 as Sir Bobby Robson with cast-iron plates, unveiled in a ceremony at Newcastle Central Station on 29 March by his widow Elsie and Alan Shearer.[11][12]

Locomotive 91023 was involved in both the Hatfield rail crash and the Great Heck rail crash. After refurbishment in 2001 it was renumbered 91132 (rather than 91123).

In November 2012, unit 91114 had a second pantograph added as a pilot project operated jointly by Eversholt Rail Group, East Coast, ESG, Wabtec Rail and Brecknell-Willis. The new design uses the same mounting positions as a conventional pantograph but pairs two pantograph arms in an opposing configuration. If there is an ADD (Automatic Dropping Device) activation or the pantograph becomes detached, the train can keep going, so the system provides redundancy in the event of a pantograph/OLE failure.[13][14]

Subclass Number built (year) TOPS number range Operators Comments
91/1 31 (1988–1991) 91101–91122
Virgin Trains East Coast Originally classed as 91/0

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Jean-Marc Allenbach, "BoBo BR 91 (Spec Sheet)" (PDF), (in French)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "The Design and Development of the Class 91 Locomotive", P J Donnison and G R West, Main Line Railway Electrification Conference 1989 - Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, 1989.
  3. "The design, manufacture and assembly of the British Rail Class 91, 25 kV 225km/h locomotive", M L Broom and G W Smart, Proceedings of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers Vol. 205, 1990.
  4. Ford, Roger (April 1988). "Managing Electra". Modern Railways. ISSN 0026-8356.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Vincent, Mike (2013). InterCity Story 1964-2012. Oxford Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0860936527.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Pritchard, Fox & Hall (2007). British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock 2007. Sheffield, UK: Platform 5 Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-902336-55-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 91111 East Coast Newcastle Central. Flickr. Retrieved 5 November 2010
  8. Cover, Ron (9 August 2010). Tuplin, Richard (ed.). "East Coast goes silver and purple!" (PDF). Railway Herald (223): 3. ISSN 1751-8091. Retrieved 12 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "91101 at Leeds". 5 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "East Coast unveils tribute "For the Fallen"" (Press release). East Coast. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Sir Bobby Robson name given to train". BBC News. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "East Coast Names Train Sir Bobby Robson" (Press release). East Coast. 29 March 2011. Archived from the original on 29 March 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Second pantograph fitted to '91' in bid to cut failures". Rail. Peterborough. 28 November 2012. p. 6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Duplex pantograph prototype unveiled",, 1 February 2013, retrieved 12 November 2013<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links