Central Citylink

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For other uses of "City Link", see City Link (disambiguation).
170518 at Peterborough.JPG
Franchise(s) Part of the Central Franchise
1997 – November 2007
Main Region(s) Midlands
Other Region(s) North West, East Anglia
Fleet size 100 (see below)
Stations called at 32
National Rail abbreviation CT
Parent company Central Trains (National Express Group)

Central Citylink was the brand name used from 2003 by Central Trains for their long distance services across the Midlands rail network. Citylink services were clearly distinguished in station announcements and timetables. Citylink also had a separate logo (right) and had a section of the Central Trains website.

The brand was very similar to British Rail's "Alphaline" brand, both in the type of services (expresses, but not "InterCity") and in the level of on-board service. The "Citylink" brand was axed during 2007, in preparation for the ending of the Central Trains franchise in November 2007.

Commencement of services[edit]

Central Trains long distance services were re-branded as "Central Citylink" services in 2003. This was part of the re-franchising agreement that extended the Central franchise from 2003 to 2006. The plan was to operate fast and frequent express services operated by air-conditioned, modern trains, as opposed to the local commuter trains in the Birmingham area- these would remain just as "Central Trains" services. To give the service more of an "Intercity" feel, it was decided that seats would be reservable in advance, and most services would offer at-seat catering.[1][2][3] Central created a logo, unique adverts and a section of the Central Trains website for the brand. Announcements started distinguishing Citylink services soon after. Central Trains' Guide 1 timetable was designated for all Citylink services, and highlight the special features of the brand.[4]


A map of the 4 Citylink routes

The four Central Citylink routes [3] were:

  1. Birmingham - Liverpool
  2. Liverpool - Norwich
  3. Birmingham - Stansted Airport
  4. Nottingham - Cardiff

There was also one evening peak service from Birmingham to Preston, but with no equivalent Southbound service.

End of services[edit]

It was announced that the Central franchise would end in November 2007, as part of a programme to reduce the number of franchises in the Midlands. The Central Trains franchise was to be split into three parts, with each amalgamated with another existing franchise. The Citylink services were affected in the following way:

  • Cross Country Franchise - this took the Nottingham / Cardiff and the Birmingham / Stansted Central Citylink services. Arriva took over the franchise under the name "CrossCountry."
  • East Midlands Franchise - this took the Norwich / Liverpool service. Stagecoach took over operation of the services under the name "East Midlands Trains."
  • West Midlands Franchise - this took the Liverpool / Birmingham service. Govia took over operation of these services under the name "London Midland."
A Class 350 Desiro of the type used by Central Citylink
A Class 158 of the type used by Central Citylink, seen at Cambridge.


Due to the length of many of the routes (Liverpool to Norwich = 5 hours), services were prone to delays later on in the day, when delays had built up. This was not helped by the fact that Central Citylink operated on certain East-West cross country lines, which are slow and poorly maintained when compared to the higher speed North-South lines from London. They also competed with other rail companies on some routes, restricting flexibility of the timetable. They played second fiddle to the InterCity operators – if a Virgin train (for example) was to be running late, it would get priority over a Citylink Train. This normally meant sitting idle on a stretch of track, waiting for that Virgin Train to go past. Many Citylink trains started off on time, but ended up delayed, purely as a result of giving way to an InterCity train.


Class 350 Desiro units were used on the electrified route between Birmingham and Liverpool. Class 170 Turbostar units and Class 158 Express Sprinter units were used on other non-electrified routes. These were all used in conjunction with other Central Trains services.

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 170 Turbostar Cambridge-170507-02.jpg diesel multiple unit 100 160 53 The non-electrified routes (2-4) 1999
Class 158 Express Sprinter 158788 at Cambridge.jpg diesel multiple unit 90 145 21 The non-electrified routes (2-4) 1989–1992
Class 350 Desiro 350120 kingsthorpe 220407 d adkins.jpg electric multiple units 100 160 30 The electrified route (1) 2004–2005
Preceded by
Regional Railways
As part of British Rail
Part of Central franchise
1997 - 2007
Succeeded by
Cross-Country franchise
From 11 November 2007
Succeeded by
London Midland
West Midlands franchise
From 11 November 2007
Succeeded by
East Midlands Trains
East Midlands franchise
From 11 November 2007

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Express Group Archived 24 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ BBC News
  3. ^ Central Trains' timetables Archived 22 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]