British Rail Class 331

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British Rail Class 331 Civity
331001 approaching Crewe platform 1.jpg
331001 on test at Crewe on 30 October 2018
Class331 Interior.jpg
In service1 July 2019–present
Built atZaragoza, Spain[1]
Newport, Wales
Family nameCivity
ReplacedClass 321
Class 322
Class 319
Number under construction43 units to be built
Formation31 x 3-car units
12 x 4-car units
Fleet numbers331001–331031 (331/0)
331101–331112 (331/1)
Capacity204 seats (331/0)
284 seats (331/1)[2]
Train length71.4 m (234 ft 3 in) (331/0)
94.75 m (310 ft 10 in) (331/1)
Maximum speed100 mph (160 km/h)
Accelerationmax. 1.3 m/s/s (4.7 km/(h⋅s); 2.9 mph/s)[3]
Multiple workingWithin class
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The Class 331 Civity[4] is a class of electric multiple unit being constructed for Eversholt Rail Group for lease to Northern by Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF. A total of 43 units are to be built: 31 three-car units and 12 four-car units. Construction started in July 2017 and the trains started to be phased into service from 1 July 2019.


The announcement of the new trains was made by Arriva UK Trains when it was confirmed that it would become the next operator of the Northern franchise from 1 April 2016.[5] CAF were selected by Arriva as they were the only manufacturer able to produce both new diesel (Class 195) and electric multiple units from the same platform, the Civity, thus increasing familiarity for drivers and reducing maintenance costs once in operation.[6] Bombardier made a bid to produce electric Aventra units but was unable to offer a sister diesel unit which Arriva required.[7] Furthermore, Bombardier already had a long order book for Aventra units and Arriva believed CAF were in a stronger position to guarantee on-time delivery of the units.[7]

Construction started in July 2017,[8] with the first completed unit being unveiled on 31 January 2018.[9] Testing began in the UK in September 2018,[8][10] and in March 2019, a four-car Class 331 unit (331111) became the first train to be completed at CAF's Llanwern factory.[11]

On 28 June 2019, the new trains were launched by a special service for the media. Regular passenger service of the Class 331 (along with its diesel counterpart, the Class 195) started on 1 July 2019.[12]


Arriva stated its aim for a "step-change in quality" for the new trains when compared with older trains in the Northern fleet such as the Pacers and Sprinters.[13] The interior, layout and driver cab of the Class 331 (EMU) are completely identical to their sister units, the Class 195 (DMU) with the only difference being power generation and drivetrain.[14]

The 331s have a ⅓-⅔ door arrangement, and a top speed limited to 100 mph. The units have air conditioning, power sockets, one toilet per vehicle, open gangways between individual carriages, passenger compartment CCTV, provision for wheelchair passengers and wi-fi system. All trains fitted with an automated audio information system, as well as display screens - six in each carriage ensuring all passengers have an unobstructed view to at least one. These screens convey a variety of information from station arrival times and informing alighting passengers when they need to be in a different carriage due to platforms being too short to accommodate the train.[15]

Northern selected a "wide and spacious" vestibule area to allow for quicker passenger flows when boarding and disembarking to minimise dwell times which can result in delays.[16] These large spaces around the doors also a high degree of flexibility as to how this space can be used with flip-down seats and ample standing space in times of overcrowding where the objective is ensuring all passengers can board.[17] The units are not fitted with fixed luggage racks as these often reduce capacity on peak-time commuter trains - space is provided around the flip-down seats adjacent to the doors to store luggage and prams - thus not impacting on the capacity of the train or safety for passengers wishing to alight or board. In maintaining an objective for the interior to be spacious, seats are cantilevered off the body frame and there are no internal doors with open gangways between carriages.[18]

The 331 electric units are noted for their quick acceleration putting them among the fastest accelerating EMUs in the United Kingdom with a rate of 1.3 m/s.[19] This allows the units to accelerate from 0 to 125 km/h (77 mph) in 45 seconds - by comparison the trains they are replacing, the Class 319/320/321, have an acceleration rate of 0.55 m/s and which takes them over 2 minutes to attain the same speed.[20][21] It is envisaged this improved acceleration result in efficiencies and improved punctuality on commuter routes with multiple stops across the Northern network.

The units are designed with a projected lifespan of 35 years and it is planned they will operate beyond 2050 with maintenance and refurbishment.[22] Other features included are digital seat reservation system however these are to future-proof the train and Northern do not envisage using these on many, if any routes. Although the vast majority of services will operate as 3 or 4 car formations - some will 3-car units will be doubled up to form 6 car services. As a result, they are fitted with Automatic Selective Door Operation (ASDO) on routes where station platform lengths are not sufficient to fully accommodate the train. This ASDO is linked to an automated system which informs the passengers through both announcements and the passenger information screens located in each saloon.


Class 331 at Doncaster railway station

In West Yorkshire, the Class 331 units will replace the eight Class 321 and Class 322 trains and work alongside the current fleet of Class 333 units. In the North West, the 331s will be deployed on inter-city electrified Northern Connect services from Blackpool North to Manchester Airport. The 331s will be introduced on the Liverpool Lime Street to Blackpool North route and the Liverpool Lime Street to Crewe via Manchester Airport - the longest service in Northern's network with 29 stops. Introduction of 331s on these three routes is expected to commence by the end of 2020.

Surplus 331s will remain and it is envisaged they will operate all electrified commuter services between Hazel Grove and Blackpool North, Manchester and Glossop/Hadfield and Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent. Introductions on these lines are expected in 2020.


Table correct as of September 2019. Under the Franchise Agreement, Northern Connect services are operated by Class 331 units. Most commuter services are timetabled to use Class 331 units but may be used in combination with other units.
Northern Class 331 Services
Northern Connect routes
Route Via Notes
Blackpool North to Manchester Airport[24] Poulton-le-Fylde, Preston, Leyland, Buckshaw Parkway, Chorley, Horwich Parkway, Lostock (southbound), Bolton, Salford Crescent, Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Piccadilly, Mauldeth Road (irregular), Burnage (northbound), Gatley (northbound) and Heald Green 331s to be introduced by end of 2019
Commuter routes
Leeds to Bradford Forster Square Kirkstall Forge, Apperley Bridge, Shipley and Frizinghall 331 operation commenced July 2019
Leeds to Ilkley Guiseley, Menston, Burley-in-Wharfedale and Ben Rhydding
Leeds to Skipton Kirkstall Forge (limited), Apperley Bridge (limited), Shipley, Saltaire, Bingley, Crossflatts, Keighley, Steeton & Silsden, Cononley
Leeds to Doncaster Outwood, Wakefield Westgate, Sandal & Agbrigg, Fitzwilliam, South Elmsall, Adwick and Bentley
Liverpool Lime Street to Blackpool North Huyton, St Helens Central, Wigan North Western, Euxton, Leyland, Preston, Kirkham & Wesham, Poulton-le-Fylde 331 operation commenced September 2019
Future routes
Liverpool Lime Street to Crewe Edge Hill, Wavertree Technology Park, Broad Green, Roby, Huyton, Whiston, Rainhill, Lea Green, St Helens Junction, Earlestown, Newton-le-Willows, Patricroft, Eccles, Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Piccadilly, Mauldeth Road, Burnage, East Didsbury, Gatley, Heald Green, Manchester Airport, Styal, Wilmslow, Alderley Edge, Holmes Chapel and Sandbach 331s to be introduced by end of 2019
Liverpool Lime Street to Wigan Edge Hill, Wavertree Technology Park, Broad Green, Roby, Huyton, Prescot, Eccleston Park, Thatto Heath, St Helens Central, Garswood and Bryn
Manchester Piccadilly to Hadfield Ashburys, Guide Bridge, Flowery Field, Newton for Hyde, Godley, Hattersley, Broadbottom, Dinting and Glossop Routes previously outlined for 331 operation (TBC)
Manchester Piccadilly to Stoke-on-Trent Stockport, Cheadle Hulme, Bramhall, Poynton, Adlington, Prestbury, Macclesfield, Congleton and Kidsgrove
Hazel Grove to Blackpool North Woodsmoor, Davenport, Stockport, Heaton Chapel, Levenshulme, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Deansgate, Salford Crescent, Bolton, Lostock (northbound only), Horwich Parkway, Chorley, Buckshaw Parkway, Leyland, Preston, Kirkham and Wesham, Poulton-le-Fylde and Layton
Monday-Saturday only.

Named units[edit]

  • 331106 – Proud To Be Northern[25]
  • 331110 – Proud To Be Northern[25]

Fleet details[edit]

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Unit Unit nos.
Class 331/0 Northern 31 2017- 3 331001–331031
Class 331/1 12 4 331101–331112
Northern Class 331/0
Northern Class 331/1

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clinnick, Richard. "Northern unveils its first new CAF-built train". Rail Magazine. Rail Magazine. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Northern Franchise Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  3. ^ "Class 331". Eversholt Rail. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Long Term Passenger Rolling Stock Strategy for the Rail Industry, Fourth Edition, March 2016". Rail Delivery Group. Rail Delivery Group. Retrieved 22 March 2016.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Intention to award Northern franchise to Arriva". Arriva Rail North. Archived from the original on 17 March 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  6. ^ Shirres, David (3 April 2018). "Northern's trains from Spain". Railway Engineer. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  7. ^ a b Lea, Robert (23 January 2016). "Spain wins £490m race to replace unloved Pacer". The Times of London. Retrieved 15 September 2018. However, the Arriva order needed a substantial number of diesel trains, too, because so much of the network in the north is not electrified. It is understood that Bombardier declined to bid for the diesel train sets. The Spanish acquisition is likely to have been determined by CAF’s ability to deliver the trains more quickly than rivals.
  8. ^ a b "CAF begins production of new trains for Northern".
  9. ^ "CAF presents first Civity EMU for Northern". International Railway Journal. 31 January 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Milner, Chris (August 2019). "CAF Class 195 DMUs and Class 331 EMUs". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 165 no. 1, 421. Horncastle: Mortons Media. p. 31. ISSN 0033-8923.
  12. ^ "New trains launch 'genuine transformation' of Northern services". 1 July 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  13. ^ "Arriva signs rolling stock contract for new Northern rail franchise". Northern. 1 April 2019. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  14. ^ Shires, David (3 April 2018). "Northern's trains from Spain". Rail Engineer. Retrieved 2 November 2019. Other than their power source and drive train, the Class 195 and 331 units are virtually identical.
  15. ^ Clinnick, Richard (9 September 2019). "FROM THE ARCHIVES: On their way to Northern". Rail Magazine. Retrieved 2 November 2019. Customer Information Screens are being fitted. Hyde says these will display live information supplied by the Darwin system, enabling passengers to access the latest travel details not just for the service they are on, but also elsewhere on the network (should that be required)
  16. ^ Shires, David (3 April 2018). "Northern's trains from Spain". Rail Engineer. Retrieved 2 November 2019. The electrically powered double-leaf sliding plug doors are at 1/3 and 2/3 car door positions and have large vestibules to provide good movement within the coach to minimise dwell times
  17. ^ "New trains in 2019 6: Northern's Class 195 and 331". busandtrainuser. 10 July 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2019. Aside from the seats and tables one noticeable feature as you board are the wide doorway vestibule areas leading into the saloon but the area is also useful to store over-sized suitcases passengers now wheel around especially on the Airport run as well as prams. It’s a good idea and works well on Thameslink where there’s a very wide area around each set of doors.
  18. ^ Bigland, Paul (28 June 2019). "Rolling blog: New trains for Northern". Retrieved 2 November 2019. Looking through the gangway into the next car. There are no internal doors, giving a feeling of spaciousness
  19. ^ "Class 331". Eversholt. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  20. ^ "Class 321". Eversholt. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  21. ^ "Class 322". Eversholt. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  22. ^ Shires, David (3 April 2018). "Northern's trains from Spain". Rail Engineer. Retrieved 2 November 2019. They have a 35-year design life.
  23. ^ CAF to supply 98 trains for Britain's Northern franchise International Railway Journal 22 January 2016
  24. ^ "Northern Connect". Northern. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  25. ^ a b Bendall, Simon; Nicholls, Mark (September 2019). "Fleet Review". Railways Illustrated. No. 199. p. 18.