Arriva Trains Northern

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This article is about Arriva's former Northern train operating company. For Arriva's current Northern train operating company, see Northern (train operating company).
Arriva Trains Northern
153304 at Doncaster.JPG
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 size: 169 until February 2004
141 after
National Rail abbreviation: AN (NS when Northern Spirit)
Parent company: Arriva

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.


Class 158ain Northern Spirit - TransPennine Express liveryt Doncaster station in July 2003
Class 158 in Northern Spirit - TransPennine Express livery at Doncaster station in 2003.

The Regional Railways North East franchise was awarded by the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising to MTL with the franchise commencing on 2 March 1997. The Northern Spirit branding was used with rolling stock painted in a base colour of turquoise with a lime green stylised italic "N" across the midsection.[2] In May 1998, 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, namely the Transpennine franchise, which is currently operated by TransPennine Express.[3] A daily Leeds to Glasgow Central via the Settle & Carlisle and West Coast Main Lines service was introduced in September 1999.[4]

Class 142 in Northern Spirit livery seen at Wakefield Kirkgate station in 2006.
Class 142 in Northern Spirit livery seen at Wakefield Kirkgate station in 2006.

On 18 February 2000, MTL was purchased by Arriva,[5][6] and on 27 April 2001, the Northern Spirit brand was re-branded as Arriva Trains Northern.[7]


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.

Arriva Trains Northern's non TransPennine Express routes were similar to Northern Rail's current routes 1-5, 7 and 8.


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.[8] A long running dispute with the RMT union lead to a prolonged period of industrial action. As a result, the Strategic Rail Authority imposed a £2 million fine.[9]

Rolling Stock[edit]

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 January 2001, the first of 16 Class 333s ordered to replace the Class 308s, entered service.[10][11][12]

A shortage of available rolling stock to meet increasing demand led Arriva Trains Northern to lease Class 37s and Mark 2 carriages from English Welsh & Scottish to top and tail a daily service from Leeds to Carlisle for 12 months from September 2003.[13]

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.[14][15]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Built
mph km/h
142 Pacer Wakefield Kirkgate 2.jpg Diesel multiple unit 75 120 6 1985-1987
144 Pacer 144001lincoln.JPG Diesel multiple unit 75 120 23 1986-1987
150 Sprinter Arriva NWalesTrain.JPG Diesel multiple unit 75 120 10 1985-1987
153 Super Sprinter 153304 at Doncaster.JPG Diesel multiple unit 75 120 20 1987-1988
155 Super Sprinter Northern-155346-02.jpg Diesel multiple unit 75 120 7 1987-1988
156 Super Sprinter 156443 at Carlisle.JPG Diesel multiple unit 75 120 46 1987-1989
158 Express Sprinter 158798 at Doncaster.JPG Diesel multiple unit 90 145 38 1989-1992
308 British Rail Class 308 at Leeds 1996.jpg Electric multiple unit 75 120 33 1961
321 321901 at Doncaster.JPG Electric multiple unit 100 160 3 1991
333 Northern-333xxx-01.jpg Electric multiple unit 100 160 16 2000
Mark 2 carriage Mk 2F TSO 6035 at Carlisle.JPG carriage 125 200 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 franchise.[16][17]

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.[18]

In July 2004, the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the Northern franchise to Serco-Abellio with the remaining services operated by Arriva Trains Northern transferring to Northern Rail on 12 December 2004.[19]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007932 Arriva Trains Northern Limited formerly Northern Spirit Limited formerly Regional Railways North East Limited
  2. ^ *"Northern Spirit os brand new name for Regional Railways North East". RAIL. No. 332 (EMAP Apex Publications). 3–16 June 1998. p. 7. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699. 
  3. ^ "Yorkshire & The Humber Transport Activist's Roundtable" (PDF). 2001. 
  4. ^ "Northern Spirit to serve Scotland from September" Rail issue 363 11 August 1999 page 10
  5. ^ Recommended Cash Offer for MTL Services Arriva 18 February 2000
  6. ^ "Arriva buys MTL for £84m" Rail issue 378 8 March 2000 page 13
  7. ^ "Name changes for Arriva TOCs" Rail issue 408 2 May 2001 page 9
  8. ^ "Arriva Northern switches to emergency timetable" The Railway Magazine issue 1209 January 2002 page 8
  9. ^ "SRA hits Arriva with £2m fine" The Railway Magazine issue 1208 1 December 2001 page 14
  10. ^ "RRNE confirms orders for 16 Class 333 EMUs for West Yorkshire" Rail issue 327 25 March 1998 page 10
  11. ^ "Arriva's Northern Spirit Class 333 EMU is delivered" Rail issue 379 22 March 2000 page 7
  12. ^ "Class 333s in service at last" The Railway Magazine issue 1199 March 2001 page 11
  13. ^ "Loco-hauled trains back on the S&C" The Railway Magazine issue 1229 1 September 2003 page 7
  14. ^ "New look for West Yorkshire units" Rail issue 344 18 November 1998 page 8
  15. ^ "West Yorkshire PTE unveils new Class 158 livery" The Railway Magazine issue 1173 January 1999 page 56
  16. ^ "TransPennine TOC to be created by SSRA puts five franchises up for sale early" The Railway Magazine issue 1189 May 2000 page 37
  17. ^ The Trans-Pennine Express rail franchise Yorkshire & The Humber Transport Activist's Roundtable Briefing Note October 2001
  18. ^ SRA Announce Preferred Bidder for TransPennine Express Franchise Strategic Rail Authority 28 July 2003
  19. ^ Serco joint venture selected as preferred bidder for Northern Rail train operating franchise Serco Group 1 July 2004

External links[edit]

Media related to Arriva Trains Northern at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Regional Railways
As part of British Rail
Operator of the Regional Railways North East franchise
1997 - 2004
Succeeded by
Northern Rail
Northern franchise
Succeeded by
First TransPennine Express
TransPennine Express franchise