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313101 at Kilburn High Road.jpg
Franchise(s)North London Railways
2 March 1997 – 10 November 2007
Main region(s)Greater London
Other region(s)Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire,
Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire
Fleet size67
Stations called at88
National Rail abbreviationSS
Parent companyNational Express

Silverlink[1] was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by National Express that operated the North London Railways franchise from March 1997 until November 2007. At the end of 2007 Silverlink Metro services were taken over by London Overground and Silverlink County services were taken over by London Midland.


The North London Railways franchise was awarded to National Express on 7 February 1997.[2] National Express commenced operating the franchise on 3 March 1997.

After initially trading as North London Railways, in September 1997 the franchise was rebranded as Silverlink.[3]

The franchise was due to finish on 15 October 2006, but on 11 August 2006 the Department for Transport granted an extension until 10 November 2007.[4]


Silverlink had two sub-brands:

Silverlink Metro was used for services primarily within Greater London:

Silverlink County was used for services beyond Greater London:

Silverlink Metro[edit]

Silverlink Metro operated these services.

Note: Changes during the franchise period are noted but changes to the lines before and after the franchise are not.

North London Line[edit]

  Richmond (interchange for District line)
  Kew Gardens (interchange for District line)
  Gunnersbury (interchange for District line)
  South Acton
  Acton Central
  Willesden Junction (interchange for Bakerloo line, West London Line and Watford DC Line)
  Kensal Rise
  Brondesbury Park
  West Hampstead (interchange for Jubilee line and First Capital Connect)
  Finchley Road & Frognal
  Hampstead Heath
  Gospel Oak (interchange for Gospel Oak - Barking Line)
  Kentish Town West
  Camden Road
  Caledonian Road & Barnsbury
  Highbury & Islington (interchange for Victoria line)
  Dalston Kingsland
  Hackney Central
  Hackney Wick
  Stratford (interchange for Central line, Jubilee line, Docklands Light Railway, c2c (limited services - early morning, late night and during engineering works only) and National Express East Anglia)
  West Ham
  Canning Town
  Custom House
  North Woolwich

† At the end of service on Saturday 9 December 2006 the line between Stratford and North Woolwich closed, as much of the route was duplicated by the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee line, leaving Stratford as the eastern terminus of the North London Line.[5]

West London Line[edit]

  Willesden Junction (interchange for North London Line, Watford DC Line and Bakerloo line)
  Kensington (Olympia) (interchange for District line and Southern)
  West Brompton (interchange for District line and Southern)
  Clapham Junction (interchange for South West Trains and Southern)

Shepherd's Bush on the West London Line was due to open under the franchise (with signage in Silverlink colours installed), but platform widening work meant that it finally opened in September 2008 under London Overground management, the signage being replaced with the London Overground roundels by that time.

Watford DC Line[edit]

  London Euston (interchange for Northern line, Victoria line, Silverlink and Virgin)
  South Hampstead
  Kilburn High Road
  Queen's Park
  Kensal Green
  Willesden Junction † (interchange for North London Line and West London Line)
  Stonebridge Park
  Wembley Central † (interchange for Southern during the peaks)
  North Wembley
  South Kenton
  Harrow & Wealdstone † (interchange for Northampton Line and Southern)
  Headstone Lane
  Hatch End
  Carpenders Park
  Watford High Street
  Watford Junction (interchange for Northampton Line, St Albans Abbey Line, Virgin (West Coast Main Line), Southern)

† = also served by the Bakerloo line.

Gospel Oak to Barking Line[edit]

  Gospel Oak (interchange for North London Line)
  Upper Holloway
  Crouch Hill
  Harringay Green Lanes
  South Tottenham
  Blackhorse Road (interchange for Victoria line)
  Walthamstow Queens Road
  Leyton Midland Road
  Leytonstone High Road
  Wanstead Park
  Woodgrange Park
  Barking (interchange for District line, Hammersmith & City line and c2c)

Silverlink County[edit]

Birmingham/Northampton Line[edit]

Birmingham Line services ran on the slow lines of the West Coast Main Line. The service was cut back to Northampton in September 2004, with services north of Northampton being taken over by Central Trains,[6] which shared rolling stock and a parent company with Silverlink, and some through services remained.

  London Euston (interchange for Watford DC Line and Virgin)
  Harrow and Wealdstone (interchange for Watford DC Line and Southern (via West London Line) )
  Watford Junction (interchange for Watford DC Line, St Albans Abbey Line, Virgin and Southern)
  Kings Langley
  Hemel Hempstead
  Leighton Buzzard
  Bletchley (interchange for Marston Vale Line)
  Milton Keynes Central (interchange/terminus for Southern)

Prior to 2004 the service also continued to Birmingham, calling at the following stations:

  Long Buckby
  Birmingham International
  Birmingham New Street

St Albans Abbey Line[edit]

  Watford Junction (interchange for Northampton Line, Virgin, Watford DC Line and Southern)
  Watford North
  Bricket Wood
  How Wood
  Park Street
  St Albans Abbey

Marston Vale Line[edit]

  Bletchley (interchange for Northampton Line)
  Fenny Stratford
  Bow Brickhill
  Woburn Sands
  Aspley Guise
  Kempston Hardwick
  Bedford St Johns
  Bedford (interchange for First Capital Connect and Midland Mainline)


Silverlink was categorised as a London and South East operator by the Office for Rail Regulation (ORR) and was one of the best performing TOCs in this sector with a PPM (Public Performance Measure) of 90.8% for the last quarter of the financial year 2006/7.[7] This figure is for the whole of the day, as opposed to just peak services for which their performance is lower. The figures are slightly down from the previous year, but remain above the sector level of 89.0%.

Silverlink Metro service levels[edit]

Despite published performance figures[8] the Silverlink Metro franchise on the North London Line was regarded by frequent travellers as offering a poor service,[9] with extremely congested trains and an unreliable service[10] with some trains cancelled shortly before they are due to arrive. A London Assembly report described the service as "shabby, unreliable, unsafe and overcrowded". The recent transfer of the service to Transport for London (TfL) has the potential to improve the quality of the service[11] due to upgrade plans[12] which coincide with the extension of the East London line.

A report on the future of the line can be found on the London Assembly website.[13]

Rolling stock[edit]

Silverlink inherited a fleet of Class 117, Class 121, Class 313 and Class 321s from British Rail.

To replace the Class 117 and 121s, seven Class 150s were transferred from Central Trains in summer 1999, with an eighth following in 2006.[14] Pending their arrival Silverlink hired Class 31s from Fragonset to top and tail Mark 2 carriages on Bletchley - Bedford services in 1998/99.

In 2003 three Class 508s were transferred from Merseyrail for use on the Watford DC Line.

On 16 July 2004, Virgin Trains announced that it was withdrawing most of its stops at Milton Keynes Central, which were used by up to 6,000 passengers a day. Commuters became unhappy at the prospect of switching to older Silverlink trains, and a longer journey. Silverlink countered this with the temporary usage of ex-Virgin stock, still in Virgin colours.[15]

The Strategic Rail Authority decided to divert thirty four-carriage Siemens Desiro carriages from an order made by South West Trains to provide stock with faster acceleration for the West Coast Main Line operators. They were not allocated to a specific operator but a shared fleet used by both Silverlink and Central Trains, both being National Express train operating companies.

While awaiting these to arrive, from September 2004 Silverlink introduced two former Virgin Trains Mark 3 sets hauled by Virgin Trains Class 87s and EWS Class 90s on peak hour Northampton services as well as hiring five Class 321s from National Express sister fleet One.[16]

Metro services were operated by Class 313s on the electrified routes, with the Class 508s used exclusively on the Euston - Watford Junction service from 2003.

County services to Northampton and Birmingham were operated by Class 321s joined in 2005 by Class 350s.

The St Albans Abbey line was operated for many years by Class 313s, but later were usually operated by Class 321s with Silverlink Metro drivers and Silverlink County guards.

The non-electrified Bletchley - Bedford and Gospel Oak - Barking services initially used Class 117 and Class 121s before Class 150s took over in 1999.


Class Image Type Top speed Number Train Numbers Routes operated Built Period used Notes
mph km/h
Class 121 Bubble Car 19880827-Paddington-Class121.jpg DMU 70 112 4 55023/27/29/31 Gospel Oak - Barking Line
Marston Vale Line
1960 1997-2001 Replaced by Class 150
Class 150 Sprinter Silverlink 150128 Barking.jpg 75 120 8 150120-150121, 150123, 150127-150131 1984–1987 1999–2007
Class 313 Silverlink 313122 at Kensington Olympia 03crop.jpg EMU 21 313101-117,

313119-313123, 313134

Silverlink Metro:
North London Line
West London Line
Watford DC Line
1997 - 2001
Class 321 321409 HarrowWealdstone.jpg 100 160 37 321401-321437 Silverlink County:
Northampton Line
St Albans Abbey Line
1989–1990 1989–2007
Class 350 Desiro 350115 at Euston 1.jpg 30 350101-350130 Silverlink County:
Northampton Line
2004–2005 2004–2007 Shared use by Central Trains and Silverlink on the southern section of the West Coast Main Line
CT SL Class 350-1 w-pantograph.png
Class 508 508302 at South Hampstead.jpg 75 120 3 508301-508303 Silverlink Metro:
Watford DC Line
1979 - 1980
Class 313 at North Woolwich 2001, it closed in 2006.


Silverlink's fleet was maintained at Bletchley Depot. Following Virgin Trains ceasing to operate electric locomotives, Silverlink's Metro fleet moved to Willesden Depot.

In 2006 Alstom proposed closing Willesden. Closure would have left the Class 508s homeless and the Class 313s having to return to Bletchley Depot which was due to close. On 12 May 2007 Silverlink took over direct running of the depot and its staff for the final six months of its franchise.


As part of a wider redrawing of the rail franchise map by the Department for Transport, the Silverlink network was to be broken up when it was renewed in November 2007.

The Silverlink Metro services were moved to the control of Transport for London under the banner of the London Overground. On 19 June 2007 Transport for London announced it had awarded the London Overground concession to a Laing Rail/MTR joint venture.[17]

The Silverlink County services were merged with the Central Trains services around Birmingham to create a new West Midlands franchise. On 22 June 2007 the Department for Transport announced it had awarded the West Midlands franchise to Govia.[18]

Silverlink's services transferred to London Overground Rail Operations and London Midland on 11 November 2007.


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007935 Archived 15 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine Silverlink Train Services Limited
  2. ^ "NX Awarded North London Railways Franchise". National Express. 7 February 1997. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
  3. ^ "UK Activity Report - National Express". 30 September 1997. Archived from the original on 22 February 2008.
  4. ^ "Silverlink franchise extended to November 2007" (PDF). 11 August 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2006.
  5. ^ "Stratford-North Woolwich service to be withdrawn". Silverlink. 8 December 2006. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 3 January 2007.
  6. ^ ""Slow" trains between cities cut". BBC News. 8 September 2004. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  7. ^ "National Rail Trends 2006-2007 Q4" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 9 September 2007.
  8. ^ "Silverlink rises to second position in the national performance league". 18 September 2006. Archived from the original on 3 December 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2007. Association of Train Operating Companies [1] Archived 15 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine Press Releases
  9. ^ Sharp, Rachel (24 October 2007). "TfL to take on rail network". Ealing Times. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 26 October 2007.
  10. ^ "Braced for rail strikes". Hackney Gazette. 26 October 2007. Archived from the original on 28 November 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2007.
  11. ^ London Assembly Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine - Light at end of the tunnel for London's forgotten railway
  12. ^ Always Touch Out Archived 15 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine - London Overground & Orbirail
  13. ^ London Assembly Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine - London's forgotten railway (PDF)
  14. ^ Today's Railways UK Issue 63 March 2007 Page 37
  15. ^ "Commuters angry over train switch". BBC. 16 July 2004. Retrieved 25 January 2007.
  16. ^ Sevens on the "Cobblers" 2004/2005 Archived 11 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine 87015aewn
  17. ^ MTRLaing appointed to run London Overground TheRailwayCentre.Com 19 June 2007
  18. ^ Govia wins franchise for West Midlands rail Archived 15 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine The Telegraph 22 June 2007

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Network SouthEast
As part of British Rail
Operator of North London Railways franchise
1997 — 2007
Succeeded by
London Midland
West Midlands franchise
Succeeded by
London Overground
London Overground concession