Northern (train operating company)

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158752 at Manchester Victoria.jpg
A Northern Class 158 at Manchester Victoria Station
Franchise(s) Northern
1 April 2016 – 31 March 2025
Main Region(s) North West
North East
Yorkshire and the Humber
Other Region(s) East Midlands
Fleet size 379 units[nb 1]
Stations called at 528
Stations operated 476
Parent company Arriva UK Trains

Northern, the trading name of Arriva Rail North,[1] is a train operating company in Northern England. A subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains, it began operating the Northern franchise on 1 April 2016 and inherited units from the previous operator Northern Rail.


Passenger journeys on Northern, 2010/11 to Q1 2017/18 (in millions, annual rolling average)[2][3]

In August 2014, the Department for Transport announced that Abellio, Arriva and Govia had been shortlisted to bid for the next Northern franchise.[4][5] The franchise was awarded to Arriva in December 2015.[6]

In May 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into the transport department's decision to award the Northern Rail network to Arriva.[7] This was because Arriva also operated the CrossCountry franchise and owned many bus companies in the Northern trains operating area in which 'a significant overlap occurs without competition from other service providers.'[8]

In May 2018 the Mayor of Greater Manchester publicly contacted Transport for the North (TfN) asking for an investigation into the service and passenger conditions since the franchise was taken over.[9] The franchise was widely criticised for implementing a new timetable in May 2018 which resulted in widespread delays and cancellations.[10][11]

Northern Rail and Network Rail subsequently announced an independent report to learn lessons and identify any route alterations in readiness for the next timetable change in December 2018.[12] In an attempt to counter operational problems, Northern implemented an emergency timetable on 4 June 2018[13] - this stemmed some delays and cancellations but was still high compared with performance before the timetable change.


Northern Rail performance from commencement of franchise in April 2016 to April 2018. Graph generated from published period performance data by Arriva Rail North.[14]

Northern took over all the services operated by Northern Rail (also branded Northern) on 1 April 2016[15] and on the same date, services between Manchester Airport and Blackpool North, Manchester Airport and Barrow in Furness and Oxenholme to Windermere from First TransPennine Express.[16]

Northern took over responsibility for all the stations managed by Northern Rail, as well as Arnside, Barrow-in-Furness, Birchwood, Burneside, Carnforth, Grange-over-Sands, Kendal, Staveley, Ulverston, Warrington Central and Windermere from First TransPennine Express.[16] Northern will staff some currently unstaffed stations. The first stations to be staffed will be Baildon and Ben Rhydding,[17] both in West Yorkshire.

Northern has committed to introducing free Wi-Fi on trains, and new ticketing options including the ability for customers to print their own tickets.[18] Arriva will provide new services across the North of England.[19]

In October 2017, the Cleethorpes to Barton-on-Humber service will transfer to East Midlands Trains. The transfer will include Barrow Haven, Barton upon Humber, Goxhill, Great Coates, Grimsby Docks, Habrough, Healing, New Clee, New Holland, Stallingborough, Thornton Abbey and Ulceby stations. However, as of May 2018, this has not taken place.[16][needs update]

On 1 July 2016, the business was divided into four regions, each headed up by a regional director:[20]

  • Central – regional director based in Manchester
  • East – regional director based in Leeds
  • North East – regional director based in Newcastle upon Tyne
  • West – regional director based in Preston

Northern Connect[edit]

Northern Connect logo
The logo for future Northern Connect express services

By December 2019, Northern plans to operate a network of twelve Northern Connect inter-urban express services – a franchise requirement. Most of these will be operated by brand-new Class 195 Civity diesel multiple units and Class 331 Civity electric multiple units, whilst the Middlesbrough to Carlisle via Newcastle route will be operated by refurbished Class 158 units. Electrification of the line between Oxenholme and Windermere was cancelled by the Government in 2017,[21] so the Manchester Airport to Windermere route will be operated initially by Class 769 Flex trains instead, with Class 195 Civity trains taking over by the end of 2019.[21]

Places that will be served by Northern Connect routes include Bradford, Chester, Halifax, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Nottingham, Newcastle, Preston, Sheffield, Barnsley, Lincoln, Wakefield, Wigan and York.

Northern Connect planned routes

Colour Route [22] Rolling Stock
Blackpool North - Preston - Chorley - Bolton - Salford Crescent - Manchester Piccadilly - Manchester Airport Class 331
Blackpool North - Preston - Blackburn - Halifax - Bradford Interchange - Leeds - York Class 195
Liverpool Lime Street - Manchester Victoria - Rochdale - Halifax - Bradford Interchange - Leeds Class 195
Chester - Warrington Bank Quay - Manchester Victoria - Rochdale - Halifax - Bradford Interchange - Leeds Class 195
Liverpool Lime Street - Warrington Central - Manchester Piccadilly - Manchester Airport Class 195
Barrow-in-Furness & Windermere - Lancaster - Preston - Wigan North Western - Manchester Piccadilly - Manchester Airport Class 195
Manchester Airport - Manchester Piccadilly - Manchester Victoria - Rochdale - Halifax - Bradford Interchange Class 195
Carlisle - Hexham - MetroCentre - Newcastle - Middlesbrough Class 158
Leeds - Wakefield Kirkgate - Barnsley - Meadowhall Interchange - Sheffield - Lincoln Class 195
Sheffield - Doncaster - Hull Class 158 and Class 195[23]
Bradford Interchange - Leeds - Wakefield Westgate - Sheffield - Chesterfield - Nottingham Class 158 and Class 195[23]

Rolling stock[edit]

Northern inherited the rolling stock operated by Northern Rail, namely Class 142, 144, 150, 153, 155, 156 and 158 diesel multiple units and Class 319, 321, 322, 323 and 333 electric multiple units. To operate services transferred from the TransPennine Express franchise, four Class 185 units are sublet from that franchise to Northern. To provide additional peak time capacity on the Calder Valley Line, one Class 180 unit is sublet from Grand Central to Northern per weekday.

Class 37/4 locomotives and Mark 2 carriages are hired from Direct Rail Services until for Cumbrian Coast line services.[16] Class 142 and 144 withdrawals are scheduled to commence in November 2018 with the last to be removed from traffic in October 2019.[24]

Current fleet[edit]

Class Image Type Top speed Carriages Number Routes Built
mph km/h
Locomotive hauled stock
37 Crewe DRS - 37423.JPG Loco 80 130 2 Cumbrian Coast line (Monday to Saturday only)[25]

(Locos are provided by DRS with Northern providing drivers and conductors)[26]

68 68018 and 68 number 005 Canterbury West to Leeds 1Z70 The Retro Canterbury Belle (27917071290).jpg Loco 100 160 2[27] 2013–17
Mark 2 BR Mk.IIf TSO No.M6046 (7169853702).jpg Coach 100 160 6 1972–75
Carlisle - DRS Mk2 DBSO 9704 (37403).JPG DBSO 2 1979
Diesel multiple units
142 Pacer Northern Rail Class 142, 142001, platform 3, Earlestown railway station (geograph 4531142).jpg DMU 75 121 2 79 Local and commuter services across the North 1985–87
144 Pacer 144015 at York (27763261890).jpg 75 121 2 13 Local and commuter services in Yorkshire 1986–87
3 10
150/1 & 150/2 Sprinter Northern 150275 at Buxton, April 2017.jpg 75 121 2 73 Local services across the North 1985–87
153 Super Sprinter 153358 Castleton East Junction.jpg 75 121 1 23 Local and commuter services across the North
Also used to boost capacity on peak time services
155 Super Sprinter 155345 Castleton East Junction (1).jpg 75 121 2 7
  • Manchester Victoria–Leeds
  • Local and commuter services across Yorkshire

156 Super Sprinter 156489 in NR white.jpg 75 121 2 42 Local, commuter and regional services across the North 1987–89
158/0 & 158/9
Express Sprinter
158752 at Manchester Victoria.jpg 90 140 2 39
  • Regional express and commuter services in West Yorkshire
  • Northern Connect services in the North East (from 2018)
3 8
170/4 Turbostar Northern Class 170.png 100 161 3 4
  • Leeds–York via Harrogate
180 Adelante Zephyr Class 180 180112 A A KGX.JPG 125 201 5 1 Calder Valley Line peak time services[nb 2]
(Unit is subleased from Grand Central)[28]
185 Desiro Doncaster - TPE 185106 Manchester AIrport servce.JPG 100 161 3 4 Services transferred from TransPennine Express[nb 3]
(Four units are subleased from TransPennine Express)
Electric multiple units
319/3 & 319/4 319375 Liverpool Lime Street.jpg EMU 100 161 4 35[nb 4]
  • Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester and Merseyside
  • Electrified commuter services from Blackpool (from May 2018)[29]
Class 319 Northern 2016 Diagram.png
321/9 Hugh llewelyn 321 901 (6400797337).jpg 100 161 4 3 Electrified commuter services in West Yorkshire 1991
322 Leeds railway station MMB 38 322482.jpg 100 161 4 5 Electrified commuter services in West Yorkshire 1990
323 Northern Rail Class 323, 323224, Alderley Edge railway station (geograph 4524576).jpg 90 140 3 17 Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Derbyshire 1992–93
333 333002 A Leeds.JPG 100 161 4 16 Electrified commuter services in West Yorkshire 2000

Future fleet[edit]

Arriva Rail North Franchise Agreement Capacity Requirements[30]
City December 2017 Peak Capacity
(07:59-10:00, seats + standing)
December 2019 Peak Capacity
(07:59-10:00, seats + standing)
Leeds 26,034 35,000
Liverpool 7,819 9,500
Manchester 45,840 52,200
Newcastle 2,440 3,100
Sheffield 6,420 10,000

Additional rolling stock will be required to enable the phasing out of the unpopular Pacer trains and to increase capacity during peak times as stipulated in the franchise agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT). Future rolling stock will consist of a combination of new-build and "cascaded" trains from other franchises. These cascaded trains will enable existing DMU rolling stock to supplant the Pacer trains operating on existing routes. The first new-build trains are expected to enter service in December 2018 while the phasing out of Pacer trains will commence in October 2018 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019.

Northern will take delivery of 55 Class 195 and 43 Class 331 trains built in Spain by CAF between 2017 and 2020.[31] They will be a mix of two and three car diesel multiple units and three and four car electric multiple units all based on the Civity UK platform. The units will primarily be deployed on Northern Connect regional express services.[32][33]

A total of 47 DMUs will be cascaded to Northern, 27 from Abellio ScotRail, three from West Midlands Trains and seventeen from Great Western Railway train operating companies, after the Edinburgh-Glasgow and Great Western Main Line electrification works are completed respectively. The first of these units entered service for Northern in late 2017.

Eight of Northern's Class 319/4 units are to be converted from pure electric multiple units into bi-mode multiple units, classified as Class 769, by early 2018, with an additional three units due to be converted for Northern from units currently in storage at Long Marston.

The Class 323 units will be returned to leasing company Porterbrook at the end of 2018 when the lease expires, with the Class 321 and Class 322 units due to be returned to their owner. An additional eighteen two-car DMUs are due to join the fleet by December 2022.

From July 2016 until December 2017, Northern operated a peak morning working from Bradford to Leeds using a Class 180 Adelante set hired from fellow Arriva UK Trains subsidiary company Grand Central releasing other DMUs to cover the reduction in the number of units available to hire from TransPennine Express.[34]

From December 2018, the first of the Class 195 and Class 331 will begin to enter passenger service on the network, with the phased introduction of both classes scheduled to be completed at the end of 2019. It has been confirmed that there is an option for further carriages in the future, although as of February 2018, it has not been confirmed how many or what type these carriages would be.[35]

Class Image Type Top speed Carriages Number Routes Built In Service
mph km/h
Diesel multiple units
150/1 Sprinter Sprey Point - FGW 150128.jpg DMU 75 121 2 5[36] Commuter services across The North 1984–85[37] 2017–19
150/9 Sprinter 150927 FGW Bristol.JPG DMU 75 121 3 12[nb 5] Services including:
  • Huddersfield–Sheffield
  • Leeds–Goole[38]
1984–85[39] 2019
156 Super Sprinter Class 156.jpg DMU 75 121 2 5 Services to be confirmed 1987 2019
158/0 Express Sprinter 158871Musselburgh.jpg DMU 90 140 2 6 Services to be confirmed 1990–92 2018
170/4 Turbostar 170396 at Inverkeithing, 08 May 2013.JPG DMU 100 161 3 12[40]
  • Leeds–Southport via Manchester Victoria (From December 2018)
  • Leeds–York via Harrogate
2003–05 2018
195/0 & 195/1 Civity DMU 100 161 2 25 Northern Connect services 2017–19 2018–19
3 30
TBC[nb 6] DMU 100 161 2 18 Services to be confirmed TBC TBC
Electric multiple units
331/0 & 331/1 Civity EMU 100 161 3 31
  • Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire
  • Electrified Northern Connect services in the North West
2017–19 2018–19
4 12
Bi-mode multiple units
769 Flex BMU TBC TBC 4 11
  • Wigan–Alderley Edge via Manchester Piccadilly
  • Wigan–Stalybridge via Manchester Victoria[41]
  • Manchester Airport–Windermere (TBC 2018–December 2019 only)[42]
2017–18[nb 7] 2018


Northern's fleet is maintained at Allerton, Blackpool, Heaton, Newton Heath and Neville Hill depots.

In 2017, a new stabling depot opened at Blackburn King Street, with space for up to thirty diesel multiple units.[43]

A new depot will open in Wigan in December 2019, with space for 32 trains. The depot will be adapted from a freight yard at Springs Branch railway sidings in Ince-in-Makerfield and will cost £46 million.[44]

Northern currently has depots for its train crew at Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool North, Buxton, Carlisle, Darlington (drivers), Doncaster, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Hull, Ilkley, Liverpool Lime Street, Leeds, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria, Middlesbrough (guards), Newcastle, Sheffield, Skipton, Wigan Wallgate, Workington and York.

Driver Controlled Operation[edit]

The Department of Transport and Rail North have specified that the franchise must ensure that at least 50% of the aggregate Train Mileage of Passenger Services provided in each Reporting Period is operated as Driver Controlled Operation (DCO). DCO is defined as "a Passenger Service is operated as Driver Controlled Operation the Franchisee shall, in preparing the train crew diagram relating to such Passenger Service plan for an additional Franchise Employee (that is, in addition to the driver) to be present on such Passenger Service for the purposes of customer service and/or revenue control."[38] The RMT are unhappy about this change, as roles currently undertaken by guards would instead by undertaken by drivers (such as releasing the doors once the train has stopped at a station) and have called industrial action over the change.[45]


  1. ^ Four units are leased from TransPennine Express and one unit is leased from Grand Central
  2. ^ One morning peak time service from Hebden Bridge to Leeds, and one return trip in the evening peak, from Monday to Friday
  3. ^ The three services which transferred to the Northern franchise are Manchester Airport to Blackpool North, Manchester Airport to Barrow-in-Furness and the Oxenholme to Windermere shuttle
  4. ^ The Class 319/4 units are to be converted to Class 769 bi-mode units
  5. ^ Eighteen units are to be converted into twelve three car Class 150/9 units
  6. ^ These must be DMUs which are at least an equivalent in performance and quality to 2-car Class 170 units
  7. ^ Class 319/4 units were initially built between 1987 and 1988


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 4337712 Arriva Rail North Limited
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Shortlist for Northern and TransPennine operators revealed Department for Transport 19 August 2014
  5. ^ Transformation of rail in the north Northern 27 February 2015
  6. ^
  7. ^ Lea, Robert (21 May 2016). "Arriva faces northern exposure amid franchise victory enquiry". The Times (71916). p. 51. 
  8. ^ Clinnick, Richard (17 May 2015). "Arriva faces possible investigation over competition concerns". Rail. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  9. ^ Pilling, Kim (2018-05-16). "Andy Burnham calls for investigation into Northern Rail". men. Retrieved 2018-05-21. 
  10. ^ Calder, Simon (21 May 2018). "Passenger fury at Northern Rail as train chaos hits Blackpool, Bolton and Manchester Airport on first day of new timetable". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-05-21. 
  11. ^ "'Unacceptable #NorthernFail' - the travel chaos passengers faced on first working day of new Northern timetable". Manchester Evening News. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 2018-05-21. 
  12. ^ "Northern rail to commission independent report into train disruption". BBC News. 25 May 2018. 
  13. ^ "Temporary timetables | Northern". Retrieved 2018-06-03. 
  14. ^ "Northern Rail - Performance". Arriva Rail North. Retrieved 23 May 2018. 
  15. ^ Transformation of rail travel in the north Department for Transport 27 February 2015
  16. ^ a b c d Stakeholder Briefing Document and Consultation Response Department for Transport 27 February 2015
  17. ^ "Proud to be Northern – April 2016". 
  18. ^ "Arriva chosen to run and expand Northern franchise from next year". Rail Technology Magazine. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  19. ^ "Massive boost to rail services brings Northern Powerhouse to life". 
  20. ^ "Northern launches new business regions – Northern". 
  21. ^ a b "Bi-mode Class 319s for Lakes Line". RailStaff. Coalville: Rail Media. 21 July 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^ "Northern announces dates for rundown of Pacer fleet" Rail Express issue 244 September 2016 page 11
  25. ^ "Loco-hauled services to return to the Cumbrian coast". Railway Herald. 8 January 2015. 
  26. ^ "Bigger Trains and Changes Ahead For Cumbria's Coastal Rail Route" (Press release). Northern Rail. 18 May 2015. 
  27. ^ "Class 68 is coming to Cumbria thanks to Northern and DRS". Northern. Northern. Retrieved 8 March 2018. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Electrification in the North – Network Rail". 
  30. ^ "Northern 2015: Train Service Requirements". Department for Transport (DfT). Retrieved 2018-06-15. 
  31. ^ "Arriva signs £490m rolling stock contract to replace Northern's Pacers". Rail Technology Magazine. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  32. ^ Barrow, Keith (22 January 2016). "CAF to supply 98 trains for Britain's Northern franchise". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  33. ^ Barrow, Keith (11 December 2015). "Arriva confirms Northern rolling stock plans". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  34. ^ "Network Rail – Page not found" (PDF). 
  35. ^ Fender, Keith. "CAF presents first Civity EMU for Northern". International Railway Journal. International Railway Journal. Retrieved 11 February 2018. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ "Regional Passenger Trains | Angel Trains". Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  38. ^ a b "Northern Franchise Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  39. ^ "Regional Passenger Trains". Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  40. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Northern opens £23m Blackburn depot as part of Great North Rail Project". Rail Technology Magazine. Rail Technology Magazine. Retrieved 29 December 2017. 
  44. ^
  45. ^

External links[edit]

Media related to Arriva Rail North at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Northern Rail (Serco-Abellio)
Northern franchise
Operator of Northern franchise
2016 - 2025
Succeeded by