List of companies operating trains in the United Kingdom

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This article only covers companies operating trains on Network Rail lines. For other companies, see List of British heritage and private railways.

There are many companies operating trains in the United Kingdom, including the 23 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]

Current passenger operators[edit]

The following operate the National Rail network.

Operator Type Franchise Parent(s) Passenger satisfaction[1] Start date Expiry date Replaced Code
Abellio ScotRail Franchise ScotRail Abellio 85% 1 April 2015 31 March 2025 First ScotRail SR
Arriva Rail London TfL concession London Overground Arriva UK Trains 97% 13 November 2016[2][3][4] 26 May 2024 London Overground Rail Operations LO
Arriva Trains Wales Franchise Wales & Borders Arriva UK Trains 79% 8 December 2003 13 October 2018[5] Wales & Borders AW
c2c Franchise Essex Thameside Trenitalia 90% 26 May 1996 10 November 2029 Network SouthEast
(London, Tilbury & Southend Division)
Caledonian Sleeper Franchise Caledonian Sleeper Serco 31 March 2015 31 March 2030 First ScotRail CS
Chiltern Railways Franchise Chiltern Railways Arriva UK Trains 88% 21 July 1996 21 December 2021[5] Network SouthEast (Chiltern Division) CH
CrossCountry Franchise New CrossCountry Arriva UK Trains 83% 11 November 2007 December 2019[6] Central Trains (Birmingham – Stansted & Cardiff – Nottingham route)
Virgin CrossCountry
East Midlands Trains Franchise East Midlands Stagecoach 85% 11 November 2007 August 2019[6] Central Trains (Liverpool – Norwich & East Midlands routes)
Midland Mainline
Eurostar Open access Eurostar International Limited 14 November 1994 ES
Govia Thameslink Railway (branded as: Thameslink / Southern / Great Northern / Gatwick Express) Franchise Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern Govia 72% 14 September 2014 September 2021[6] First Capital Connect, Southern SN, TL, GN, GX
Grand Central[7] Open access Arriva UK Trains 96% 18 December 2007 December 2026[8] GC
Greater Anglia Franchise East Anglia Abellio (60%)
Mitsui (40%)
81% 16 October 2016[9] October 2025[6] National Express East Anglia LE
Great Western Railway Franchise Greater Western FirstGroup 79% 1 April 2006 April 2020[6] First Great Western
First Great Western Link
Wessex Trains
Heathrow Express Open access Heathrow Airport Holdings 91% 23 June 1998 HX
Hull Trains Open access FirstGroup 95% 25 September 2002 December 2029[10] HT
London North Eastern Railway Franchise InterCity East Coast Operator of Last Resort 92% 24 June 2018 2020 Virgin Trains East Coast GR
Merseyrail Merseytravel contract Merseyrail Serco-Abellio 89% 20 July 2003 19 July 2028[5] Arriva Trains Merseyside ME
Northern Franchise Northern Arriva UK Trains 81% 1 April 2016 31 March 2025[11] Northern Rail NT
Southeastern Franchise Integrated Kent Govia 80% 1 April 2006 9 December 2018[6] South Eastern Trains SE
South Western Railway Franchise South Western FirstGroup (70%)
MTR Corporation (30%)
75% 20 August 2017 18 August 2024[6] South West Trains SW
TfL Rail TfL concession Crossrail MTR Corporation 75% 31 May 2015 30 May 2023 Greater Anglia (Liverpool Street – Shenfield)

Heathrow Connect Heathrow Express (Heathrow Central – Heathrow T4 shuttle)

TransPennine Express Franchise TransPennine Express FirstGroup 81% 1 April 2016 31 March 2023[6] First TransPennine Express TP
Virgin Trains Franchise InterCity West Coast Virgin Rail Group 91% 9 March 1997 31 March 2020[12] InterCity (West Coast Division) VT
West Midlands Trains Franchise West Midlands Abellio (70%)
JR East (15%)
Mitsui (15%)
10 December 2017[6] April 2026[6] 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
Anglia Railways Franchise Anglia GB Railways 5 January 1997 31 March 2004 One
Arriva Trains
Merseytravel contract Merseyrail Arriva UK Trains February 2000 20 July 2003 Merseyrail
Arriva Trains Northern Franchise Regional Railways North East Arriva UK Trains February 2000 12 December 2004 First TransPennine Express
Northern Rail
Central Trains Franchise Central National Express 2 March 1997 11 November 2007 CrossCountry
East Midlands Trains
London Midland
Connex South Central Franchise Network SouthCentral Connex 13 October 1996 16 June 2001 Southern
Connex South Eastern Franchise South Eastern Connex 26 May 1996 9 November 2003 South Eastern Trains
East Coast Franchise InterCity East Coast Directly Operated Railways 14 November 2009 28 February 2015 Virgin Trains East Coast
First Capital Connect Franchise Thameslink Great Northern FirstGroup 1 April 2006 13 September 2014 Thameslink and Great Northern
First Great Eastern Franchise Great Eastern FirstGroup 5 January 1997 31 March 2004 One
First Great Western Link Franchise Thames FirstGroup 1 April 2004 31 March 2006 First Great Western
First North Western Franchise North West Regional Railways FirstGroup 2 March 1997 12 December 2004 Arriva Trains Wales
First TransPennine Express
Northern Rail
First ScotRail Franchise Scotrail FirstGroup 17 October 2004 31 March 2015 Abellio ScotRail
First TransPennine Express Franchise TransPennine Express FirstGroup (55%)
Keolis (45%)
1 February 2004 31 March 2016 TransPennine Express
Gatwick Express Franchise Gatwick Express National Express 28 April 1996 22 June 2008 Southern
Great North Eastern Railway Franchise InterCity East Coast Sea Containers 28 April 1996 8 December 2007 National Express East Coast
Great Western Trains Franchise Great Western Great Western Holdings 4 February 1996 March 1998 First Great Western
Heathrow Connect Open Access Heathrow Airport Holdings, FirstGroup 12 June 2005 19 May 2018 TfL Rail
Island Line Franchise Island Line Stagecoach 13 October 1996 3 February 2007 South West Trains
London Midland Franchise West Midlands Govia 11 November 2007 9 December 2017 West Midlands Trains
London Overground Rail Operations TfL concession London Overground Arriva UK Trains (50%)
MTR Corporation (50%)
11 November 2007 12 November 2016[13] Arriva Rail London
Merseyrail Electrics Merseytravel contract Merseyrail MTL 19 January 1997 February 2000 Arriva Trains Merseyside
Midland Mainline Franchise Midland Main Line National Express 28 February 1996 11 November 2007 East Midlands Trains
National Express East Anglia Franchise Greater Anglia National Express 1 April 2004 5 February 2012 Greater Anglia
National Express East Coast Franchise InterCity East Coast National Express 9 December 2007 13 November 2009 East Coast
Northern Rail Franchise Northern Serco-Abellio 12 December 2004 31 March 2016 Northern
Northern Spirit Franchise Regional Railways North East MTL 2 March 1997 February 2000 Arriva Trains Northern
North Western Trains Franchise North West Regional Railways Great Western Holdings 2 March 1997 March 1998 First North Western
ScotRail Franchise ScotRail National Express 31 March 1997 17 October 2004 First ScotRail
Silverlink Franchise North London Railways National Express 2 March 1997 11 November 2007 London Midland
London Overground Rail Operations
South Eastern Trains Franchise South Eastern Strategic Rail Authority 9 November 2003 31 March 2006 Southeastern
South West Trains Franchise South West Stagecoach 4 February 2007 19 August 2017[14] South Western Railway
Southern Franchise South Central Govia 26 August 2001 25 July 2015 Connex South Central
Thames Trains Franchise Thames Go-Ahead Group 13 October 1996 31 March 2004 First Great Western Link
Thameslink Franchise Thameslink Govia 2 March 1997 31 March 2006 First Capital Connect
Valley Lines Franchise Valley Lines National Express 13 October 1996 13 October 2001 Wales & Borders
Virgin Trains East Coast Franchise InterCity East Coast Virgin Group (10%)
Stagecoach (90%)
1 March 2015 23 June 2018 London North Eastern Railway
Virgin CrossCountry Franchise CrossCountry Virgin Rail Group 5 January 1997 11 November 2007 CrossCountry
First TransPennine Express
Virgin Trains West Coast
West Anglia Great Northern
(West Anglia Main Line and Lea Valley Lines)
Franchise West Anglia Great Northern National Express 5 January 1997 31 March 2004 One
West Anglia Great Northern
(Great Northern and Fenline routes)
Franchise West Anglia Great Northern National Express 5 January 1997 31 March 2006 First Capital Connect
Wales & Borders Franchise Wales & Borders National Express 14 October 2001 7 December 2003 Arriva Trains Wales
Wales & West Franchise Wales & West National Express 13 October 1996 13 October 2001 Wales & Borders
Wessex Trains
Wessex Trains Franchise Wessex National Express 14 October 2001 31 March 2006 First Great Western
Wrexham & Shropshire Open access Wrexham to London DB Regio 28 April 2008 28 January 2011 Ceased due to lack of profitability

Future operators[edit]

Passenger operators in Northern Ireland[edit]

In Northern Ireland, most passenger trains are government-owned by Translink. The following brands are used:

The only exception is that Iarnród Éireann operate one early morning cross-border commuter service from Newry to Dublin Pearse every weekday, as part of its Dublin Suburban Rail operations.

Railtour operators[edit]

In Northern Ireland

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

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 InterCity East Coast Great Northern Railway Great North Eastern Railway London North Eastern Railway
(Department for Transport)
InterCity West Coast London & North Western Railway Virgin Trains West Coast Virgin Trains West Coast
Great Eastern Great Eastern Railway Anglia Railways Greater Anglia
Great Western Great Western Railway Great Western Trains Great Western Railway
Midland Midland Railway Midland Mainline East Midlands Trains
CrossCountry N/A Virgin CrossCountry CrossCountry
Network SouthEast Essex Thameside London, Tilbury & Southend Railway LTS Rail c2c
Chiltern Great Central Railway Chiltern Railways Chiltern Railways
Gatwick Express N/A Gatwick Express Govia Thameslink Railway
Great Eastern Great Eastern Railway First Great Eastern Greater Anglia
TfL Rail
Thames Great Western Railway Thames Trains Great Western Railway
Island Line Isle of Wight Railway Island Line Trains South Western Railway
North London North London Railway Silverlink Arriva Rail London
London Midland
Network SouthEastern South Eastern & Chatham Railway Connex South Eastern Southeastern
Network SouthCentral London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Connex South Central Govia Thameslink Railway
South Western London & South Western Railway South West Trains South Western Railway
Thameslink N/A Thameslink Govia Thameslink Railway
West Anglia Great Northern West Anglia Great Northern Govia Thameslink Railway (services to King's Cross & Moorgate)
Greater Anglia and London Overground (services to Liverpool Street)
Regional Railways North West Predominantly London & North Western Railway North Western Trains Arriva Trains Wales
TransPennine Express
North East Northern Spirit
Scotland Caledonian Railway, Glasgow & South Western Railway,
Great North of Scotland Railway, Highland Railway and
North British Railway
ScotRail Abellio ScotRail
South Wales & West Cambrian Railways, Great Western Railway Wales & West Arriva Trains Wales

Great Western Railway

Valley Lines Barry Railway, Cardiff Railway, Great Western Railway, Rhymney Railway, Taff Vale Railway Valley Lines Arriva Trains Wales
Merseyrail Electrics N/A Merseyrail Electrics Merseyrail
Central Central Trains CrossCountry
East Midlands Trains
London Midland

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Rail Passenger Survey Autumn 2017". Transport Focus. Retrieved 2 February 2018. 
  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 Arriva 18 March 2016
  4. ^ TfL confirm London Overground contract with Arriva signed Railway Technology Magazine 18 April 2016
  5. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Rail franchise schedule" (PDF). Department of Transport. 19 July 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2017. 
  7. ^ In May 2010 Grand Northern services began, branded Grand Central to allow a single fleet pool to be used.
  8. ^ "10-year contract extension". 
  9. ^ "Railway plan puts new focus on passengers". Department for Transport. 26 March 2013. 
  10. ^ £60m Hull Trains electro-diesel train deal signed Railway Gazette International 2 November 2016
  11. ^ [1] Department for Transport 9 December 2015
  12. ^ "Stagecoach to lose East Coast Mainline rail franchise". BBC News. 5 February 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018. 
  13. ^ Transport for London. "Media". 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "London Reconnections: TfL Board Meeting Summary: DLR, Overground and Other Ways of Travelling". 
  16. ^ "Glasgow Trains". Renaissance Trains. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  17. ^ "04/05/12 – Alliance Rail Press Release". Alliance Rail Holdings. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  18. ^ Alliance drops Pendolino plan as Southampton paths identified Railway Gazette International 19 July 2017
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ [3]
  21. ^ Applications for the East Coast Main Line Office of Rail and Road 12 May 2016
  22. ^ First Group to run Edinburgh to London budget rail service BBC News 12 May 2016
  23. ^ VTEC and FirstGroup granted East Coast Main Line paths Railway Gazette International 12 May 2016

External links[edit]