A Class 158 Express Sprinter in an EMR Regional livery standing in Grantham working a service to Norwich.
A Class 158 Express Sprinter working a service from Liverpool Lime Street to Norwich © To The Trains

The EMR Class 158 "Express Sprinter"

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The Class 158 is a feat of engineering. Constructed during the era of British Rail, it continued to operate throughout the privatisation of the railways and still serves passengers up and down the country today.


Known otherwise as the Express Sprinter, the Class 158 was built by British Rail Engineering Limited from 1989 to 1992. They were brought in as part of a plan to replace British Rail’s ageing first-generation diesel multiple units. They have certainly stood the test of time and are still being operated by a healthy number of TOCs today.

An EMR Class 158 Express Sprinter at Peterborough
An EMR Class 158 Express Sprinter at Peterborough

The footage in the video is from a service to Norwich from Liverpool Lime Street, operated by East Midlands Railway. This service in particular is a testament to the Class 158’s passenger-hauling power, with the full trip taking just over five and a half hours and stopping at fifteen intermediary stations along the way.  The Sprinter family of trains were constructed to cover all sorts of routes across the country.

The majority of the Express Sprinter fleet still in service today is formed of 2-car units, though some TOCs, such as GWR, do operate a handful of 3-car units for added capacity. The trains have a maximum speed of 90 miles per hour, and can accelerate at a maximum of 0.8 metres per second squared.

The 2+2 seating arrangement on board a Class 158 Express Sprinter service
The 2+2 seating arrangement on board an EMR Class 158

Now, let’s take a look at what this DMU has to offer on board. Immediately at the ends of each carriage is a luggage rack to fit a few larger items that won’t fit in the overhead luggage racks or beneath your seat. Capacity is maximised with a 2+2 seating arrangement with a mix of airline-style and table seats. That leaves a particularly narrow walkway down the train.

There are bins throughout the train and space for two bicycles on board, too. A toilet and accessible area can be found; a wheelchair ramp will be required to board the train, though. Level boarding tends to be more of a newer consideration in rolling stock design. Dotted throughout the carriage are digital PIS displays with general journey information. The text is particularly high-contrast with the yellow font on a blue background.

A Class 158 at speed on a service to Norwich from Liverpool Lime Street
The interior of an EMR Class 158 - there is a mix of airline-style and table seating

There are a couple priority seats allocated on the train for those who need them, which is always a good thing. All seats have pull-down armrests and the airline-style seats have seatback tables with enough space for a few items.

Keep in mind, though, that these units will have seen various refurbishments from different TOCs over the years. So, with that said, you’re likely to see a variety of interiors depending on where you are in the country.

Seb J.

Seb J.

Seb is documenting Britain's railways, one train trip at a time. Since starting the To The Trains channel in 2020, he's been producing content on the railways - articles, videos, and podcasts.