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The Alphaline brand

Alphaline was a 1990s brand used by British Rail to differentiate certain provincial express trains with enhanced passenger accommodation from general regional and middle-distance services operated by older rolling stock.


The Alphaline brand was introduced for express services operated by Regional Railways in the Midlands, Wales and the South West. These services linked various provincial towns and cities, complementing and connecting with the more prestigious InterCity network.

Branding was applied specifically to services scheduled for operation by British Rail's recently built Express Sprinter or 'Class 158' units. The association of a passenger-facing brand with a specific model of train was unusual, but reflected the significantly improved passenger facilities such trains provided when compared with the mainstay of the Regional Railways fleet.

Timetables[1][2] advertised Alphaline services as providing:

  • Reserved seats available
  • At-seat trolley service of cold snacks, sandwiches and hot and cold drinks available for all or part of the journey
  • British Telecom card phone
  • Air-conditioning

Within the Regional Railways fleet of the early to mid-1990s, the latter two facilities were a rarity and available solely on Class 158 Express Sprinters.


Although initially retained unchanged by Central Trains, Wales & West, Wales & Borders and Wessex Trains, the Alphaline brand has, since 2006, effectively died out. Despite no longer being used to brand services, Alphaline appeared in the key to symbols in the National Rail Timetable as recently as December 2008 - and even in the winter 2014 timetable, the guide to reserving seats includes the Alphaline symbol in the list of symbols denoting a train with reservable seats.

Central Trains[edit]

In the early days of the franchise, Central Trains continued to mark express services as Alphaline within its timetables. By 2001 however, the brand had disappeared from timetables[3] and the company went on to develop its own Citylink brand.

A Class 158 in Wessex Alphaline livery

Wales & West[edit]

Wales & West used the Alphaline brand throughout its existence and went as far as applying the brand to the livery of their trains. Originally adding a vinyl logo to the Express Sprinter colour scheme of their Class 158, the company later introduced a silver livery that included a full-height Alphaline logo on the side of the carriage.

Wales & Borders[edit]

In 2001, Wales & West was divided into two as part of the creation of an all-Wales rail franchise; the company that took on services in Wales became known as Wales & Borders. As well as retaining Alphaline branding on existing routes, it also re-introduced the brand to the Cambrian Line services that it took over from Central Trains. This lasted until 2003, when the new franchise became known as Arriva Trains Wales and Alphaline branding was quickly removed.

Wessex Trains[edit]

Upon its creation from the South West England services of Wales & West in 2001, Wessex Trains also retained the Alphaline brand. The company also continued to repaint newly acquired Class 158 units in the silver Alphaline livery - although it changed the colour of the passenger entrance doors from navy to either maroon or purple in an attempt to distinguish itself from Wales & Borders.

By late 2003, Wessex Trains was the only company continuing to use the Alphaline brand. The brand was finally dropped after the company was absorbed into the enlarged First Great Western franchise in 2006.


  1. ^ "National Rail Timetable 28 May to 23 September 2000". London: Railtrack plc. 2000. ISSN 1367-0352.
  2. ^ Regional Railways Central: "Cambrian Coaster Train Times", September 1995
  3. ^ Central Trains Ltd.: "Timetable J", May 2001