British Rail Mark 4

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British Rail Mark 4
East Coast Mark 4s at York in January 2012
In service 1989-present
Manufacturer Metro Cammell/GEC-Alsthom
Washwood Heath
Constructed 1989-1992
Number built 314
Number in service 302
Number scrapped 12
Formation 9 carriage sets
Operator(s) Virgin Trains East Coast
Line(s) served East Coast Main Line
Car body construction Fully Integral, steel monocoque
Car length 23 m (75 ft 6 in) over buffers (23.4 m (76 ft 9 in) over couplings)
Width 2.73 m (8 ft 11 in) (over body)
Height 3.79 m (12 ft 5 in) (rail to roof)
Doors Hinged Plug, pneumatically operated
Maximum speed 140 mph (225 km/h)
Weight 39.9–43.5 tonnes (39–43 long tons; 44–48 short tons)
Bogies SIG BT41A[1]
Braking system(s) Triple Axle Mounted Discs, pneumatically operated
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

British Rail's fourth design of passenger carriages was designated Mark 4, built for use in InterCity 225 sets on the East Coast Main Line between King's Cross, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

History and construction

File:BR Mk4 SO.JPG
GNER Mark 4 at Leeds in 2006
File:4 Mark IV RSM.JPG
Standard class interior after Mallard refurbishment

A small build compared with the Mark 2 and Mark 3 designs, 314 Mark 4s were built between 1989 and 1992 by Metro Cammell/GEC-Alsthom's Washwood Heath factory to operate services on the newly electrified East Coast Main Line.[2][3] Today they are operated by Virgin Trains East Coast in 30 fixed formations of nine coaches with a Class 91 locomotive and Driving Van Trailer.

The Mark 4 is an all-steel coach incorporating a number of improvements over the Mark 3 stock - notably the inclusion of automatic push-button operated plug-type doors, in place of manually operated slam-doors, fully sealed gangways and Closed Emission Toilets (CET). After a period of evaluation in 1988, Swiss SIG type BT41A[4] bogies were selected rather than BREL type T4 bogies when BREL could not provide commercial guarantees on the demanding lateral ride comfort required for 140 mph running (BT41B/C refer to the bogie types used on the Mk4 DVT).[5] However, during the first year of operation in 1989 complaints were made about the "lively" ride of the coaches. This required modifications to the damper and spring rates of the bogies and the fitting of inter-coach "car coupler dampers" to improve damping between the vehicles.[6] Disabled access was another priority of the design, so the door vestibules were enlarged to allow a more generous turning circle for a wheelchair. With ever-increasing levels of overcrowding the so-called 'gangway passenger' had become an important consideration, so the vestibule environment was improved with carpeted walls, better lighting, sealed gangways and carriage doors, and four flip-down seats per vestibule (since removed).

Many of these innovations came courtesy of the abandoned Advanced Passenger Train, upon which the Mark 4 was heavily based. This influence was most obvious with the profiled sides, intended to allow the retrofitting of tilt-equipped bogies derived from the APT. This would have allowed up to 6° of tilt; modified coaches would have been designated "Mark 4 T" but this plan was abandoned in January 1986. The business case for the Mark 4 anticipated them also being operated on the West Coast Main Line as a follow-on order after the East Coast Main Line electrification, but after the failure of the InterCity 250 project to gain Treasury support, British Rail ordered a small number of Class 90 locomotives to supplement existing locomotives on the West Coast Main Line.

The Mark 4 has gained widespread praise for its exceptional crashworthiness, something that was proven in the Hatfield and Selby crashes, where experts identified the integral construction of the vehicles as being a key factor in restricting the death toll.

The Class 158 and Class 159 diesel multiple units, although superficially similar, are not based on the Mark 4 bodyshell: the Mark 4 is derived from the Class 156.[5]

The Iarnród Éireann Mark 4 push-pull carriages introduced on the Irish railway system in mid-2006 are of a different design, manufactured by the Spanish manufacturer CAF.

The Mark 4 was the first British Rail vehicle not to use the iconic Rail Alphabet typeface for interior signage and operating notices.

Via Rail Canada's Renaissance fleet of inter-city and sleeper coaches are derived from British Rail's Mark 4. They were built for the abortive Nightstar services to Europe, and adapted by Bombardier Transportation to meet Canadian requirements.

Project Mallard

Between late 2003 and April 2006, Bombardier Transportation rebuilt and refurbished the carriages under Project Mallard. Trains with rebuilt coaches became known as Mallards to distinguish them from unrefurbished sets during the upgrade programme, named after the Mallard steam locomotive, built in the 1930s by the London & North Eastern Railway and holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives.

The Mallard refit gave the coaches all-new interiors with new seats, carpeting and power points at every seat. The vestibule areas lost their flip-down seats near the entrances with perch-type seats being put in their place. The buffet coach was turned around with first class seating converted to standard. Wheelchair-width doors were fitted and the seating capacity was increased by fitting airline-style seats in place of the previous groupings of pairs of seats facing each other across a table.

GNER introduced WiFi Internet connectivity as a trial from December 2003 and into service from April 2004, making it the first service of its kind in the United Kingdom. Prior to National Express East Coast taking over the franchise on 9 December 2007, WiFi was free in first class and chargeable in standard class; under the new franchise access it became free for all passengers. In October 2010, under East Coast operation, charges for standard class passengers was reintroduced.[7]


The Mark 4s are scheduled to be replaced on the East Coast Main Line by Class 801s.[8][9] They may be redeployed to Great Eastern Main Line or Midland Main Line services.[10] Virgin Trains East Coast intend to retain six to eight nine-carriage sets should its application to operate a half-hourly service to Edinburgh be successful.[11][12]


  1. "New bogie for German ICE (Intercity Express) based on BT41", C. Freitag and S. Karch, SIG Swiss Industrial Company, Proceedings of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Vol 208, 1994.
  2. Marsden, Colin (November 1989). Peter, Peter (ed.). "Lid Comes Off Mk IV Stock". Railway Magazine. Cheam: Prospect Magazines. 135 (1063): V. ISSN 0033-8923.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Pritchard, Robert; Fox, Peter; Hall, Peter (2010). British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock 2010. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. pp. 118, 121–3, 125. ISBN 978-1-902336-78-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "New bogie for German ICE (Intercity Express) based on BT41", C. Freitag and S. Karch, SIG Swiss Industrial Company, Proceedings of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Vol 208, 1994.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Mark IV Passenger Vehicles For East Coast Main Line Electrification, P H Watts and M S Hawkridge, Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, 1989.
  6. "The Mk 4 and Mk 5 coaches for British Rail Intercity Part 2 : testing, commissioning and service experience with the Mk 4 coach and development of the Mk 5 specification", J A Higton and D R Temple, Proceedings of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Vol 206, 1992.
  8. Government gives green light for more state-of-the-art intercity trains Department for Transport 18 July 2013
  9. "IEP order to replace Mark 4s" Today's Railways issue 141 September 2013 page 8
  10. ROSCO disappointed by IEP order Global Rail News 19 July 2013
  11. "Stagecoach/Virgin bid wins East Coast franchise" The Railway Magazine issue 1366 January 2015 page 6
  12. "Review delays ORR decision on ECML train paths" Rail issue 778 8 July 2015 page 10

External links

Media related to British Rail Mk4 coaches at Wikimedia Commons