List of companies operating trains in the United Kingdom

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There are many companies operating trains in the United Kingdom, including the operators of franchised passenger services, officially referred to as train operating companies (TOCs), as distinct from freight operating companies.

Passenger operators in Great Britain[edit]

Operator Type Franchise Parent(s) Passenger
Start date Replaced Code
Arriva Rail London (Trading as: London Overground) TfL concession London Overground Arriva UK Trains 87% 13 November 2016[2][3][4] London Overground Rail Operations LO
Avanti West Coast Franchise West Coast Partnership
84% 8 December 2019 Virgin Trains West Coast VT
c2c Essex Thameside Trenitalia 84% 26 May 1996 Network SouthEast
(London, Tilbury & Southend Division)
Caledonian Sleeper Caledonian Sleeper Scottish Rail Holdings 25 June 2023 Caledonian Sleeper (Serco) CS
Chiltern Railways Chiltern Railways Arriva UK Trains 88% 21 July 1996 Network SouthEast (Chiltern Division) CH
CrossCountry New CrossCountry 85% 11 November 2007 Central Trains
(Birmingham – Stansted), (Cardiff – Nottingham)
Virgin CrossCountry
East Midlands Railway East Midlands Transport UK Group 83% 18 August 2019
Elizabeth line TfL concession Crossrail MTR Elizabeth line 89% 31 May 2015 (as TfL Rail)
Eurostar Open access Eurostar Group 14 November 1994 ES
Govia Thameslink Railway (Trading as: Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink) Franchise Thameslink, Southern & Great Northern Govia 80% 14 September 2014 SN, TL, GN, GX
Grand Central[5] Open access Arriva UK Trains 95% 18 December 2007 GC
Greater Anglia (also operating Stansted Express) Franchise East Anglia 77% 16 October 2016[6] National Express East Anglia LE
Great Western Railway Greater Western FirstGroup 86% 1 April 2006 GW
Heathrow Express Open access Heathrow Airport Holdings 94% 23 June 1998 HX
Hull Trains FirstGroup 92% 25 September 2002 HT
London North Eastern Railway Franchise InterCity East Coast DfT OLR Holdings 91% 24 June 2018 Virgin Trains East Coast GR
Lumo Open access FirstGroup 25 October 2021 LD
Merseyrail Merseytravel contract Merseyrail Serco-Abellio 90% 20 July 2003 Arriva Trains Merseyside ME
Northern Trains Franchise Northern DfT OLR Holdings 77% 1 March 2020 Arriva Rail North NT
ScotRail ScotRail Scottish Rail Holdings 1 April 2022 Abellio ScotRail SR
Southeastern South Eastern DfT OLR Holdings 17 October 2021 Southeastern (Govia) SE
South Western Railway (also operating Island Line) South Western 75% 20 August 2017 South West Trains SW, IL
TransPennine Express TransPennine Express DfT OLR Holdings  – 28 May 2023 TransPennine Express (FirstGroup) TP
Transport for Wales Rail Wales & Borders Transport for Wales 7 February 2021 KeolisAmey Wales AW
West Midlands Trains (Trading as: West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway) West Midlands
79% 10 December 2017[7] London Midland LM

There are also a number of light rail systems.

Defunct operating companies[edit]

Operating companies have ceased to exist for various reasons, including withdrawal of the franchise, the term of the franchise has expired, bankruptcy or merger.

Operator Type Franchise Parent(s) Date started Date ceased Replaced by Code
Abellio ScotRail Franchise ScotRail Abellio 1 April 2015 31 March 2022 ScotRail (Scottish Government) SR
Anglia Railways Anglia GB Railways 5 January 1997 31 March 2004 One AR
Arriva Trains Wales Wales & Borders Arriva UK Trains 8 December 2003 13 October 2018[8] KeolisAmey Wales AW
Arriva Trains Merseyside Merseytravel contract Merseyrail February 2000 20 July 2003 Merseyrail ME
Arriva Trains Northern Franchise Regional Railways North East 2 March 1997 12 December 2004 AN
Arriva Rail North Northern 1 April 2016 29 February 2020 Northern Trains NT
Caledonian Sleeper (Serco) Caledonian Sleeper Serco 31 March 2015 24 June 2023 Caledonian Sleeper
(Scottish Rail Holdings)
Central Trains Central National Express 2 March 1997 10 November 2007 CT
Connex South Central Network SouthCentral Connex 13 October 1996 16 June 2001 Southern CX
Connex South Eastern South Eastern 26 May 1996 9 November 2003 South Eastern Trains
East Coast InterCity East Coast Directly Operated Railways 14 November 2009 28 February 2015 Virgin Trains East Coast GR
East Midlands Trains East Midlands Stagecoach 11 November 2007 17 August 2019 East Midlands Railway EM
First Capital Connect Thameslink Great Northern FirstGroup 1 April 2006 13 September 2014 Govia Thameslink Railway FC
First Great Eastern Great Eastern FirstGroup 5 January 1997 31 March 2004 National Express East Anglia GE
First Great Western Link Thames FirstGroup 1 April 2004 31 March 2006 First Great Western FK
First North Western North West Regional Railways FirstGroup 2 March 1997 12 December 2004 NW
First ScotRail Scotrail FirstGroup 17 October 2004 31 March 2015 Abellio ScotRail SR
First TransPennine Express TransPennine Express
1 February 2004 31 March 2016 TransPennine Express TP
Gatwick Express Gatwick Express National Express 28 April 1996 22 June 2008 Southern GX
Great North Eastern Railway InterCity East Coast Sea Containers 28 April 1996 8 December 2007 National Express East Coast GR
Great Western Trains Great Western Great Western Holdings 4 February 1996 March 1998 First Great Western GW
Heathrow Connect Open Access Heathrow Airport Holdings, FirstGroup 12 June 2005 19 May 2018 TfL Rail HC
Island Line Franchise Island Line Stagecoach 13 October 1996 3 February 2007 South West Trains IL
London Midland West Midlands Govia 11 November 2007 9 December 2017 West Midlands Trains LM
London Overground Rail Operations TfL concession London Overground 11 November 2007 12 November 2016[9] Arriva Rail London LO
Merseyrail Electrics Merseytravel contract Merseyrail MTL 19 January 1997 February 2000 Arriva Trains Merseyside ME
Midland Mainline Franchise Midland Main Line National Express 28 February 1996 10 November 2007 East Midlands Trains ML
National Express East Anglia Greater Anglia 1 April 2004 5 February 2012 Greater Anglia LE
National Express East Coast InterCity East Coast 9 December 2007 13 November 2009 East Coast GR
Northern Rail Northern Rail Serco-Abellio 12 December 2004 31 March 2016 Arriva Rail North NT
Northern Spirit Regional Railways North East MTL 2 March 1997 February 2000 Arriva Trains Northern NS
North Western Trains North West Regional Railways Great Western Holdings 2 March 1997 March 1998 First North Western NW
ScotRail ScotRail National Express 31 March 1997 17 October 2004 First ScotRail SR
Silverlink North London Railways 2 March 1997 10 November 2007 SS
Southeastern Integrated Kent Govia 1 April 2006 16 October 2021 Southeastern SE
South Eastern Trains South Eastern Strategic Rail Authority 9 November 2003 31 March 2006 Southeastern SE
South West Trains South Western Stagecoach 4 February 2007 19 August 2017[10] South Western Railway SW
Southern South Central Govia 26 August 2001 25 July 2015 Govia Thameslink Railway SN
Thames Trains Thames Go-Ahead Group 13 October 1996 31 March 2004 First Great Western Link TT
Thameslink Thameslink Govia 2 March 1997 31 March 2006 First Capital Connect TR
TransPennine Express TransPennine Express FirstGroup 1 April 2016 28 May 2023 TransPennine Trains
(trading as TransPennine Express)
KeolisAmey Wales Wales & Borders Keolis/Amey 14 October 2018 6 February 2021 Transport for Wales Rail AW
Valley Lines Valley Lines National Express 13 October 1996 13 October 2001 Wales & Borders VL
Virgin Trains East Coast InterCity East Coast
1 March 2015 23 June 2018 London North Eastern Railway GR
Virgin CrossCountry CrossCountry Virgin Rail Group 5 January 1997 10 November 2007 VXC
Virgin Trains West Coast InterCity West Coast 9 March 1997 7 December 2019[11] Avanti West Coast VT
West Anglia Great Northern (West Anglia Main Line and Lea Valley Lines) West Anglia Great Northern National Express 5 January 1997 31 March 2004 One WN
West Anglia Great Northern (Great Northern and Fenline routes) West Anglia Great Northern National Express 5 January 1997 31 March 2006 First Capital Connect
Wales & Borders Wales & Borders National Express 14 October 2001 7 December 2003 Arriva Trains Wales WB
Wales & West Wales & West National Express 13 October 1996 13 October 2001 WW
Wessex Trains Wessex National Express 14 October 2001 31 March 2006 First Great Western WE
Wrexham & Shropshire Open access Wrexham to London DB Regio 28 April 2008 28 January 2011 Ceased due to lack of profitability WS

Passenger operators in Northern Ireland[edit]

In Northern Ireland, passenger trains are NI/Ireland government-owned by Translink or the National Transport Authority. The following brands are used:

UK Railtour operators[edit]

Luxury railtours

  • Belmond Grand Hibernian (From August 2016)
  • Steam Dreams (Emerald Isle Explorer)

In Northern Ireland

Freight operators[edit]

Franchised passenger operator structure in Great Britain[edit]

Sector of British Rail Franchise Pre-grouping company Original privatised operator Current operator(s)
InterCity Caledonian Sleeper N/A ScotRail Caledonian Sleeper
East Midlands Midland Railway Midland Mainline East Midlands Railway
Greater Western Great Western Railway Great Western Trains Great Western Railway
InterCity East Coast Great Northern Railway Great North Eastern Railway London North Eastern Railway
New CrossCountry N/A Virgin CrossCountry CrossCountry
West Coast Partnership London & North Western Railway Virgin Trains West Coast Avanti West Coast
Network SouthEast Chiltern Great Central Railway Chiltern Railways
East Anglia Great Eastern Railway Anglia Railways Greater Anglia
Essex Thameside London, Tilbury & Southend Railway LTS Rail c2c
South Eastern South Eastern & Chatham Railway Connex South Eastern Southeastern
South Western London & South Western Railway South West Trains South Western Railway
Thameslink, Southern & Great Northern London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Thameslink
Connex South Central
West Anglia Great Northern
(Great Northern and Fenline routes)
Great Northern
(Govia Thameslink Railway)
West Midlands N/A Central Trains West Midlands Railway
London Northwestern Railway
(West Midlands Trains)
Regional Railways Wales & Borders Predominantly London & North Western Railway Wales & Borders Transport for Wales Rail
TransPennine Express North Western Trains TransPennine Express
Northern Northern Spirit Northern Trains
ScotRail Caledonian Railway, Glasgow & South Western Railway,
Great North of Scotland Railway, Highland Railway and
North British Railway
ScotRail ScotRail

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Rail Passenger Survey Spring 2020". Transport Focus. 2 July 2020. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  2. ^ Arriva wins £1.5bn London Overground contract BBC News 18 March 2016
  3. ^ Transport for London announces intention to award London Overground contract to Arriva Archived 8 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine Arriva 18 March 2016
  4. ^ TfL confirm London Overground contract with Arriva signed Railway Technology Magazine 18 April 2016
  5. ^ In May 2010 Grand Northern services began, branded Grand Central to allow a single fleet pool to be used.
  6. ^ "Railway plan puts new focus on passengers". Department for Transport. 26 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Rail franchise schedule" (PDF). Department of Transport. 19 July 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 June 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  8. ^ "ASLEF - Franchise Information". Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  9. ^ Transport for London. "Media".
  10. ^ [dead link]
  11. ^ "FirstGroup replaces Virgin to run West Coast route". BBC Sport. 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.

External links[edit]