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Farewell 508s - The Final Months - Introduction

These pages reflect the final months of operation of their second incarnation in the south, but not before a potted history and associated photographs!

Of similar body style and construction to contemporary class 313, 315 and 507 units, forty three class 508 four car units were introduced in 1979 and 1980 for inner suburban services from Waterloo. Excepting the experimental 2/4 Pep units used between 1971 and 1976, from which their design originates, they were the first above ground EMUs on the Southern Region to have sliding doors. They were totally incompatible with other Southern Region EMUs so they lacked the necessary operational flexibility and they were not popular. As such they were regarded as a temporary stock allocation until the more compatible class 455s entered service in 1983. In 1981 the first two 508s were despatched north to the Wirral lines to work alongside the similar class 507s there, with the remainder leaving the Southern Region from 1983. However the Wirral requirement was for 3 car trains so one trailer from each unit was retained to be incorporated into new build class 455/7 formations.

By 1999 the Wirral lines - now Merseyrail - had a large quantity of surplus 508 units. Connex South Eastern leased 12 of them from Angel Trains to replace slam door stock. They were first refreshed, including installing 2+2 seating in the centre of the trailer car and wheel-in cycle racks in one driving car and then assigned to Gillingham (Kent) depot. These units were renumbered into the 508/2 sub-class. They were re-introduced to Southern Region service on 3 August 1998 and were initially used on Sittingbourne-Sheerness, Strood-Maidstone West, Maidstone West-Gatwick Airport and London Bridge-Tunbridge Wells services.


Unit re-numbering details
BR(S) SWD Merseyrail Connex   BR(S) SWD Merseyrail Connex
508001 508101 508201   508016 508116 508207
508005 508105 508202   508019 508119 508208
508006 508106 508203   508021 508121 508209
508007 508107 508204   508029 508129 508210
508009 508109 508205   508032 508132 508211
508013 508113 508206   508033 508133 508212


From the December 10th 2006 timetable change the number of diagrams for Southeastern class 508 units reduced from nine to just four diagrams, GI391- GI394. As a result half of the former Southeastern fleet of twelve was being placed into "warm" store.  508202, 508206 and 508209 moved to Chart Leacon for store on 14th December 2006 and on 19th December 508204 piloted 508201 and 508205 from Gillingham to Chart.  508212 remained in storage at Gillingham Depot. This unit has been out of service for many months and its Track Safety Certificate had expired.  Additionally, it had been used as the depot's "Christmas Tree" (ready source of spare parts).  508204 was legendarily unreliable and it was subsequently exchanged with the stored, previously better performing, 508205. So the remaining fleet of six comprised 508203, 508205, 508207, 508208, 508210 and 508211, though 508210 was for a time out of service and exchanged a trailer with 508212. It was confidently expected that these would also be withdrawn in the near to medium term future, however despite this from 1st June 2007 these six units had C3/C4 exams plus interior and exterior refurbishment done at Wabtec Doncaster.

Class 508 ended its second association with the south with the new timetable commencing on December 15th 2008. For coverage of their final day of operation, Friday 12th December, please click here.

All but units 201, 202, 204 and 212 are currently pictured somewhere in this feature.