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Arriva Trains Northern

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Arriva Trains Northern
Franchise(s)Regional Railways North East
2 March 1997 – 11 December 2004
Main region(s)North East
Other region(s)North West
North Midlands
Fleet size169 until February 2004
141 after February 2004
Parent companyArriva
Reporting markAN (NS when Northern Spirit)
PredecessorRegional Railways
Websitearrivatrainsnorthern.co.uk at the Wayback Machine (archived 2004-12-05)

Arriva Trains Northern[1] was a train operating company in England owned by Arriva that operated the Regional Railways North East franchise from March 1997 until December 2004. Arriva resumed operating Northern train services again on 1 April 2016 under the Northern brand but ceased again on 29 February 2020.


Northern Spirit liveried 156483 at Hull, 2006
158774 in Trans Pennine Express livery at Stockport

As part of the privatisation of British Rail, the Regional Railways North East franchise was awarded by the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising to MTL after it won the contest from a field of Connex, FirstBus, Grand Central, a management/Via-GTI consortium, National Express, Prism Rail and Stagecoach.[2][3] The franchise commenced on 2 March 1997.[4]

In May 1998, the franchise was rebranded as Northern Spirit with a livery of turquoise with a lime green stylised italic N across the midsection introduced.[5][6][7]

At the same time, the long distance regional services connecting Sunderland, Newcastle, Scarborough and Hull with Manchester, Liverpool and Blackpool were sub-branded under the TransPennine Express banner with rolling stock painted in a base colour of maroon with a gold stylised italic N across the midsection. These services would later become a franchise in their own right from 2004, which is currently operated by TransPennine Express.[8]

On 18 February 2000, MTL was purchased by Arriva,[9][10][11] and on 27 April 2001 the franchise was rebranded as Arriva Trains Northern.[12][13] The Arriva corporate turquoise and stone livery was introduced on refurbished 153352 in July 2001.[14][15]



Arriva Trains Northern operated a mix of long distance regional, local urban and rural passenger services in the North of England and Yorkshire and the Humber extending across the Pennines.

The network extended from Carlisle and Chathill in the north to Sunderland, Scarborough, Hull and Cleethorpes on the east coast down to Sheffield and across to Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool and Morecambe on the West Coast.

A daily Leeds to Glasgow Central via the Settle & Carlisle and West Coast Main Lines service was introduced in September 1999, the first time such a service had operated since 1982.[16][17]



A long-running dispute with the RMT union lead to a prolonged period of industrial action. As a result, in 2001, the Strategic Rail Authority imposed a £2 million fine.[18][19][20] Throughout its life, the franchise suffered a shortage of drivers and rolling stock which led to many cancellations on a daily basis. An emergency timetable was later brought in which cancelled many services on a permanent basis rather than random as before.[21]

Rolling stock


Arriva Trains Northern inherited a fleet of Class 142, Class 144, Class 150, Class 155, Class 156, Class 158, Class 308 and Class 321s from Regional Railways.

In September 1998, Northern Spirit traded seven of its Class 142s (142085-091) to Valley Lines in exchange for seven Class 150s (150268-274),[22] although between October and December 2002 these were swapped for unrefurbished units 142072-77 and 142080-083, as 142086-091 had only recently been refurbished by Northern Spirit and Valley Lines wished to start their own refurbishment from scratch. In January 2001, the first of 16 Class 333s ordered to replace the Class 308s, entered service.[23][24][25]

A shortage of available rolling stock to meet increasing demand led Arriva Trains Northern to lease Class 37s and ex Virgin CrossCountry Mark 2 carriages from English Welsh & Scottish to top and tail a daily service from Leeds to Carlisle for 12 months from September 2003.[26][27][28] It also operated a peak hour Knaresborough to Leeds service.[29]

Some of the rolling stock was owned by the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and these were repainted red and silver with the Metro logos of the passenger transport executive.[30][31]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Built
mph km/h
142 Pacer Diesel multiple unit 75 120 6 1985–1987
144 Pacer 23 1986–1987
150 Sprinter 10 1985–1987
153 Super Sprinter 20 1987–1988
155 Super Sprinter 7
156 Super Sprinter 46 1987–1989
158 Express Sprinter 90 145 38 1989–1992
308 Electric multiple unit 75 120 33 1961
321 100 160 3 1991
333 16 2000–2003
Mark 2 carriage carriage 6 1969–1974



Arriva Trains Northern's fleet was maintained at Heaton depot in Newcastle upon Tyne and Neville Hill depot in Leeds.



In 2000, the Strategic Rail Authority announced that it planned to create a new TransPennine Express franchise transferring Arriva Train Northern's long distance regional services with the remainder to be combined with those of the Regional Railways North West franchise to form a new Northern Rail franchise.[32][33]

In July 2003, the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the TransPennine franchise to FirstGroup/Keolis with services operated by Arriva Trains Northern transferring to First TransPennine Express on 1 February 2004.[34][35][36][37]

In July 2004, the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the Northern Rail franchise to Serco-Abellio with the remaining services operated by Arriva Trains Northern transferring to Northern Rail on 12 December 2004.[38][39]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007932 Arriva Trains Northern Limited formerly Northern Spirit Limited formerly Regional Railways North East Limited
  2. ^ "RRNE franchise process revealed" Rail Privatisation News issue 45 9 January 1997 page 1
  3. ^ "MTL nets RRNE" Rail Privatisation News issue 48 20 February 1997 page 4
  4. ^ "MTL lands a second franchise with RRNE". The Railway Magazine. No. 1152. April 1997. p. 8.
  5. ^ "Northern Spirit is brand new name for Regional Railways North East". Rail Magazine. No. 332. 3 June 1998. p. 7.
  6. ^ "Regional Railways North East rebranded as Northern Spirit". Rail Express. No. 26 July 1998. p. 6.
  7. ^ "Regional Railways North East renamed Northern Spirit". The Railway Magazine. No. 1167. July 1998. p. 55.
  8. ^ "Yorkshire & The Humber Transport Activist's Roundtable" (PDF). 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2004.
  9. ^ Recommended Cash Offer for MTL Services Archived 14 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine Arriva 18 February 2000
  10. ^ "Arriva buys MTL for £84m". Rail Magazine. No. 378. 8 March 2000. p. 13.
  11. ^ "Arriva to take over MTL's two franchises". Rail Express. No. 46. March 2000. p. 6.
  12. ^ "Name changes for Arriva TOCs". Rail Magazine. No. 408. 2 May 2001. p. 9.
  13. ^ "End for Northern Spirit as two TOCs get new names". The Railway Magazine. No. 1203. July 2001. p. 12.
  14. ^ "Arriva launches refurbished Class 153". Rail Magazine. No. 415. 8 August 2001. p. 12.
  15. ^ "Arriva Northern unveils new branding". The Railway Magazine. No. 1206. October 2001. p. 72.
  16. ^ "Northern Spirit to serve Scotland from September". Rail Magazine. No. 363. 11 August 1999. p. 10.
  17. ^ "New Northern Spirit Anglo-Scottish service starts". Rail Magazine. No. 369. 3 November 1999. p. 11.
  18. ^ "SRA hits Arriva with £2m fine". The Railway Magazine. No. 1208. 3 December 2001. p. 14.
  19. ^ "Arriva fined £2m as 1,000 services a week cancelled". Rail Express. No. 67. December 2001. p. 10.
  20. ^ "Strategic Rail Authority confirms Arriva Trains Northern £2m fine". Rail Magazine. No. 433. 17 April 2002. p. 4.
  21. ^ "Arriva Northern switches to emergency timetable". The Railway Magazine. No. 1209. January 2002. p. 8.
  22. ^ "Northern Spirit and Cardiff swap DMUs". Rail Magazine. No. 340. 23 September 1998. p. 9.
  23. ^ "RRNE confirms orders for 16 Class 333 EMUs for West Yorkshire". Rail Magazine. No. 327. 25 March 1998. p. 10.
  24. ^ "Arriva's Northern Spirit Class 333 EMU is delivered". Rail Magazine. No. 379. 22 March 2000. p. 7.
  25. ^ "Class 333s in service at last". The Railway Magazine. No. 1199. March 2001. p. 11.
  26. ^ "EWS 37s for Leeds-Carlisle Arriva trains". Rail Magazine. No. 466. 23 July 2003. p. 16.
  27. ^ "Arriva Trains Northern to run loco-hauled service over S&C". Rail Express. No. 87. August 2003. p. 5.
  28. ^ "Loco-hauled trains back on the S&C". The Railway Magazine. No. 1229. September 2003. p. 7.
  29. ^ "Arriva settles with EWS". Rail Magazine. No. 480. 4 February 2004. p. 40.
  30. ^ "New look for West Yorkshire units". Rail Magazine. No. 344. 18 November 1998. p. 8.
  31. ^ "West Yorkshire PTE unveils new Class 158 livery". The Railway Magazine. No. 1173. January 1999. p. 56.
  32. ^ "TransPennine TOC to be created by SSRA puts five franchises up for sale early". The Railway Magazine. No. 1189. May 2000. p. 37.
  33. ^ The Trans-Pennine Express rail franchise Archived 20 October 2004 at the Wayback Machine Yorkshire & The Humber Transport Activist's Roundtable Briefing Note October 2001
  34. ^ SRA Announce Preferred Bidder for TransPennine Express Franchise Strategic Rail Authority 28 July 2003
  35. ^ "First wins TranPennine Express and promises new 100mph trains". Rail Magazine. No. 468. 20 August 2003. p. 10.
  36. ^ "First Group to operate Trans-Pennine Express". Rail Express. No. 88. September 2003. p. 7.
  37. ^ "Trans Pennine DMU order follows franchise victory for First Group/Keolis joint bid". The Railway Magazine. No. 1230. October 2003. p. 35.
  38. ^ Serco joint venture selected as preferred bidder for Northern Rail train operating franchise Archived 27 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine Serco Group 1 July 2004
  39. ^ "Serco and NedRailways joint bid secures new Northern franchise". Rail Express. No. 99. August 2004. p. 5.

Media related to Arriva Trains Northern at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by Operator of the Regional Railways North East franchise
Succeeded by
Northern Rail
Northern Rail franchise
Succeeded by
First TransPennine Express
TransPennine Express franchise