First TransPennine Express

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First trans pennine logo.svg
Scarborough railway station MMB 20 185117.jpg
185117 departing from Scarborough
  • TransPennine
    1 February 2004 – 1 April 2016
  • TransPennine Express
    1 April 2016 – 31 March 2023
Main route(s): North West England, Yorkshire and Humber, North East England, Scotland
Fleet size:
Stations called at: 60
Stations operated: 30
National Rail abbreviation: TP
Parent company: FirstGroup (55%)
Keolis (45%)

First TransPennine Express[1] is a British train operating company owned by FirstGroup (55%) and Keolis (45%) operating the TransPennine Express franchise.[2] First TransPennine Express runs regular Express regional railway services between the major cities of Northern England as well as Scotland.

The franchise operates all its services to and through Manchester covering three main routes. The service provides rail links for major cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Sheffield, Hull, Leeds, York, Scarborough and Newcastle. Previously, all services called or terminated at Manchester Piccadilly,[3] but, as of May 2014, a new service running between Newcastle Central and Liverpool Lime Street, calling at Manchester Victoria was announced, and launched as part of the Northern Hub plan.[4]

First TransPennine Express is one of the few UK train operating companies running 24 hours a day, including through New Year's Eve night. For example, trains run between York, Leeds and Manchester Airport at least every three hours every night of the week.

When the franchise was re-tendered, FirstGroup and Keolis elected to tender separately. The franchise was awarded to FirstGroup,[5] who will take 100% ownership on 1 April 2016.


Previous logo

The TransPennine Express brand was launched in May 1998 by Northern Spirit, and maintained by its successor, Arriva Trains Northern.[6]

In 2000, the Strategic Rail Authority announced that it planned to reorganise the North West Regional Railways and Regional Railways North East franchises operated by First North Western and Arriva Trains Northern. A TransPennine Express franchise would be created for the long-distance regional services, the remaining services being operated by a new Northern franchise.[7]

In July 2003, the TransPennine franchise was awarded to a joint venture between FirstGroup and Keolis, and the services operated by Arriva Trains Northern and First North Western transferred to First TransPennine Express on 1 February 2004.[8]


The franchise was due to end on 31 January 2012, but in August 2011 the Department for Transport awarded First TransPennine Express an extension until March 2015.[9] Included was a clause to allow this date to be brought forward to April 2014 to allow it to coincide with the end-date of the Northern Rail franchise. In March 2013 the Secretary of State for Transport announced the franchise would again be extended until 1 April 2016.[10]

The future continuation of the franchise was not certain. Local transport authorities and consultancies had proposed merging Trans-Pennine services into other franchises to increase efficiency on the rail network.[11] The Manchester Airport to Scotland service could be transferred to the InterCity West Coast franchise after the electrification of lines around Manchester by 2018. The south Trans-Pennine route between Manchester and Cleethorpes could be transferred to East Midlands Trains who already operate an hourly service on the Manchester to Sheffield section.[12]

In June 2014 the DfT confirmed that there will be two separate franchises in the north of England, one providing intercity rail services and a second providing local rail services. At the time there were proposals to transfer a number of routes including York to Scarborough and Doncaster to Cleethorpes services to the Northern franchise and transfer the Nottingham to Liverpool portion of the Norwich to Liverpool service operated by East Midlands Trains to the TransPennine franchise.[13]

In August 2014, the Department for Transport announced FirstGroup, Keolis/Go-Ahead and Stagecoach had been shortlisted to bid for the next franchise.[14]

On 9 December 2015, it was announced that FirstGroup had been awarded the franchise in its own right, to run until at least 31 March 2023. As part of the new franchise, 44 new 5-car trains (220 vehicles) capable of travelling at up to 125 mph will be introduced. Also existing class 185s will be refurbished and will fitted with wifi, plug sockets and personal TVs for TV and films on demand.[15][16][17]

Services from Manchester Airport to Blackpool North, Manchester Airport to Barrow in Furness and Oxenholme to Windermere will be transferred to Arriva Rail North when that company begins operating the Northern franchise on 1 April 2016.[18]


North TransPennine[edit]

As a result of the May 2014 timetable changes, the core route between Manchester and Leeds on the Huddersfield Line now sees five trains per hour instead of the previous four. This is made up of the following services:

Most services between Manchester Airport and Newcastle now run early morning/late evenings.

The Manchester to Liverpool section is supplemented by East Midlands Trains' hourly service from Norwich to Liverpool and a Northern Rail hourly Manchester Airport to Liverpool express service (which runs via Newton-le-Willows rather than Warrington Central), thus giving four fast services per hour between Manchester and Liverpool. Similarly, the service between Leeds and Newcastle is augmented by an hourly CrossCountry service. Trains between York and Newcastle are also operated by Virgin Trains East Coast.

Under Arriva Trains Northern, Newcastle services continued to Sunderland. When First TransPennine Express first took over the franchise it extended the Manchester to Hull service to Bridlington, a decision later reversed.

In May 2014 a new hourly service between Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle Central was introduced. This service runs non stop between Liverpool and Manchester Victoria and then onward to Newcastle via Leeds. This service reduced journey times between Liverpool and Manchester by 15 minutes and Liverpool to Leeds by 25 minutes.

South TransPennine[edit]

An hourly service operates from Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes via Manchester Piccadilly, Stockport, Sheffield, Doncaster and Scunthorpe. The Manchester to Sheffield sector is supplemented by East Midlands Trains hourly Liverpool to Norwich service, giving a half-hourly service of fast trains between Manchester and Sheffield. Additional services to/from Manchester Airport start or terminate at Sheffield or Doncaster and some services to/from Cleethorpes start or terminate short at Sheffield.

TransPennine North West[edit]

TransPennine North West uses sections of the Styal Line, Manchester to Preston Line, West Coast Main Line, Furness Line and Windermere Branch Line. These services were formerly operated by First North Western with the exception of the Scottish routes, which were previously operated by Virgin Trains from Manchester Piccadilly.

Following timetable changes in May 2014 the following services now operate:

  • 1tph between Manchester Airport and Blackpool North. Some services also run to/from Barrow-in-Furness and Windermere which are detached/attached at Preston. A number of peak services start or terminate at Preston.
  • 1tph between Manchester Airport and Glasgow Central or Edinburgh Waverley (alternating). Most of these services use Class 350s (some Edinburgh services run in 8 car formations) however a number of peak services are still run by Class 185s via Bolton/Wigan North Western and Bolton/Chorley.

With the completion of the first stage of the North West electrification programme, the Scottish services will be operated from 8 December 2013 by newly arrived Class 350 electric units and rerouted to stop at Wigan North Western after joining the West Coast Main Line close to Newton-le-Willows. Most stops at Bolton and Chorley will be withdrawn as a result. With a number of peak services still operating via Bolton/Chorley or Bolton/Wigan North Western.[19]

North TransPennine
2:50 Newcastle Central Tyne and Wear Metro
2:36 Chester-le-Street
2:30 Durham
2:13 Darlington
2:38 Middlesbrough
2:28 Thornaby
2:14 Yarm
1:58 Northallerton
1:49 Thirsk
2:18 Scarborough
2:07 Seamer
1:50 Malton
1:23 York
1:54 Hull
1:36 Brough
1:30 Gilberdyke
1:24 Howden
1:18 Selby
1:09 South Milford
1:08 Garforth
1:04 Cross Gates
0:57 Leeds
0:40 Dewsbury
0:30 Huddersfield
0:13 Stalybridge
M60 motorway
0:00 Manchester Piccadilly Manchester Metrolink
0:00 Manchester Victoria Manchester Metrolink
0:14 Manchester Airport Airport interchange Manchester Metrolink
0:02 Manchester Oxford Road
0:08 Irlam
0:16 Birchwood
0:21 Warrington Central
0:27 Widnes
0:38 Liverpool South Parkway Merseyrail Airport interchange
0:50 Liverpool Lime Street Merseyrail

Times shown are best times
from Manchester Piccadilly
or Manchester Victoria.

South TransPennine
3:02 Cleethorpes
2:49 Grimsby Town
2:27 Barnetby
2:12 Scunthorpe
1:45 Doncaster
1:21 Meadowhall Supertram (Sheffield)
1:11 Sheffield Supertram (Sheffield)
0:30 Stockport
0:14 Manchester Piccadilly Manchester Metrolink
Mauldeth Road
East Didsbury Manchester Metrolink
Heald Green
0:00 Manchester Airport Airport interchange Manchester Metrolink

Times shown are best times
from Manchester Airport.

TransPennine North West
Edinburgh Waverley
(Edinburgh Trams St Andrew Square)
3:20 Haymarket Edinburgh Trams
Glasgow Central
(Glasgow Subway St Enoch)
3:15 Motherwell
3:06 Carstairs
2:27 Lockerbie
2:06 Carlisle
1:51 Penrith
2:22 Windermere
2:16 Staveley
2:11 Burneside
2:08 Kendal
1:28 Oxenholme
2:20 Barrow-in-Furness
2:10 Roose
2:04 Dalton
1:55 Ulverston
1:51 Cark and Cartmel
1:47 Kents Bank
1:42 Grange-over-Sands
1:37 Arnside
1:33 Silverdale
1:26 Carnforth
1:14 Lancaster
1:49 Blackpool North
1:39 Poulton-le-Fylde
1:34 Kirkham and Wesham
1:00 Preston
0:53 Buckshaw Parkway
0:50 Chorley
0:56 Blackrod
0:53 Horwich Parkway
0:49 Lostock
0:43 Wigan North Western
0:38 Bolton
M60 motorway
0:27 Salford Crescent
(Manchester Metrolink Deansgate-Castlefield)
0:19 Manchester Oxford Road
0:16 Manchester Piccadilly Manchester Metrolink
0:08 East Didsbury Manchester Metrolink
0:05 Gatley
0:04 Heald Green
0:00 Manchester Airport Airport interchange Manchester Metrolink

Times shown are best times
from Manchester Airport.


Official performance figures released by Network Rail for period 7 of the financial year 2013/14 were down on the same period last year at 87.8% (PPM) and MAA up to 12 October 2013 stood at 90.5%.[20]

Rolling stock[edit]

First TransPennine Express inherited a fleet of two- and three-car Class 158 Express Sprinter trains from Arriva Trains Northern. It also operated Class 175 Coradias on hire from Arriva Trains Wales.

A franchise commitment was the replacement of the entire fleet, so in 2005 First TransPennine ordered 56 (later cut back by the Strategic Rail Authority to 51) three-car Class 185 Desiros, the first of which entered service in March 2006.

Most of the Class 185s were delivered in FirstGroup's neon blue livery. The "i" in the logo of Keolis is used as the "i" in the TransPennine Express logo in addition to the First "flying f" logo. The first eight units were delivered in First's dark blue livery, and later reliveried with neon blue vinyls.

350409 at Patricroft

The Class 185 trains proved popular with off-peak travellers, although these satisfaction levels decrease for passengers undertaking long-distance journeys and at peak times.[21]

Despite the 185s having a higher capacity than two-car 158s, 185s frequently leave passengers behind due to severe overcrowding at peak times.[22] Transport for Greater Manchester stated in 2007 that projected passenger numbers would probably mean that 100–125 mph (161–201 km/h) 8-car units would be needed by 2014.[23]

185103 at Castleton East Junction

It was planned to operate all services with the new Class 185 Desiros. However, weight restrictions on the Micklefield to Hull line restrict the Class 185s to 65–75 mph (105–121 km/h). To solve this and create extra capacity, First TransPennine Express leased eight Class 170 Turbostars from late 2006 that were surplus to South West Trains' requirements, and in November 2007 a ninth was transferred from Central Trains. The Class 185 Desiros operate across the network, the Class 170 Turbostars on services from Manchester to Cleethorpes, Hull and York.

Since May 2014 services between Manchester and Scotland have been operated by the Class 350/4s electric multiple units.[24] This will enable the diesel trains currently in use on the Manchester to Scotland services to be transferred to other TransPennine Express services.[25] The Manchester Airport to Blackpool route will also be electrified, allowing further diesel trains to be cascaded on to other TransPennine Express services. However, this will be after the end of the current TransPennine Express franchise.

In February 2012 the Department for Transport announced that 10 four-car electric Class 350 Desiros had been ordered to operate services from Manchester to Scotland via Wigan after electrification.[26][27] It was confirmed that all the existing rolling stock would remain with the franchise to boost capacity.

However, in March 2014 it was announced that the nine Class 170 Turbostars will move to Chiltern Railways.[28] MP Stephen Hammond revealed on 12 March 2014 that all the class 170/3s will remain with First TransPennine Express until the May 2015 timetable change.[29]

In January 2015 it was confirmed Chiltern would take five of the Class 170s from May 2015 and the other four from February 2016. First TransPennine have hired Class 156 Super Sprinters (which were originally intended to be used for extra capacity on Northern Rail services) from Northern Rail to work in pairs on the Manchester Airport-Blackpool North route,[30] ahead of that route's transfer (along with the services to Barrow-in-Furness and Windermere) to the new Northern franchisee in April 2016.

Current fleet[edit]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
 mph   km/h 
Class 156 Super Sprinter Northern Rail Class 156, 156421, Liverpool South Parkway railway station (geograph 3786972).jpg DMU 75 120 6 Manchester Airport - Blackpool North[31] 1987-9
Class 170 Turbostar Manchester Piccadilly station MMB 51 170303.jpg DMU 100 160 4 Manchester Piccadilly–Cleethorpes 2000–1[32]
Class 185 Desiro York railway station MMB 49 185120.jpg DMU 100 160 51 All TransPennine routes 2005–6
Class 350 Desiro EMU 350403 at Edinburgh Waverley.jpg EMU 110 180 10 Manchester Airport–Edinburgh/Glasgow
(Dedicated fleet for Scotland)

Past fleet[edit]

Class Image Type Built Withdrawn Notes Number
Class 158 Express Sprinter 158798 at Doncaster.JPG DMU 1989-1992 2006-07 Transferred to Central Trains, First Great Western, Northern Rail and South West Trains Initially 28 + an additional 2 sub-leased from First North Western. Later 28 + an additional 4 sub-leased from Central Trains. 2 units also briefly sub-leased from First ScotRail
Class 175 Coradia 175111 'Brief Encounter' at Crewe.jpg DMU 1999–2001 2007 Were subleased from Arriva Trains Wales

After the introduction of the Class 185, they were returned to Arriva Trains Wales

27 shared between First TransPennine Express and Arriva Trains Wales

Managed stations[edit]

First TransPennine Express' services run over a large area of northern England and southern Scotland. Many of the largest stations they serve are managed by a different TOC or, in five cases, Network Rail.

First Trans Pennine manage the following 30 stations:[33]


Siemens maintains the Class 185 Desiro Diesel and the Class 350/4 Electric fleets at Ardwick depot in Manchester with a smaller facility in York. The Class 170 Turbostars are maintained by Bombardier Transportation at Crofton. TransPennine Express is headquartered at Bridgewater House, Manchester.


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 4113923 First/Keolis TransPennine Limited
  2. ^ Keolis in the UK Keolis
  3. ^ First TransPennine Express route map FirstGroup
  4. ^ [1] First Group
  5. ^ Companies House extract company no 9111801 First TransPennine Express Limited
  6. ^ "Northern Spirit is brand new name for Regional Railways North East" Rail issue 332 3 June 1998 page 7
  7. ^ The Trans-Pennine Express rail franchise. Yorkshire & The Humber Transport Activist's Roundtable Briefing Note October 2001.
  8. ^ "SRA Announce Preferred Bidder For TransPennine Express Franchise" (PDF) (Press release). Strategic Rail Authority. 28 July 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2003. 
  9. ^ "New franchising programme" (Press release). Department for Transport. 5 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "Railway plan puts new focus on passengers" Secretary of State for Transport statement 26 March 2013
  11. ^ "Rail Franchising: Written evidence from First/Keolis TransPennine". UK Parliament. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "Research Project on Reviewing the Franchise Map" (PDF). Jacobs Consultancy. March 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "Future of Northern and TransPennine Express rail franchises" (Press release). Department for Transport. 9 June 2014. 
  14. ^ Shortlist for Northern and TransPennine operators revealed Department for Transport 19 August 2014
  15. ^ "FirstGroup awarded TransPennine Express franchise". Rail Technology Magazine. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  16. ^ "Arriva and First chosen for Northern and TransPennine franchises". International Railway Journal. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  17. ^ "FirstGroup plc welcomes award of TransPennine Express rail franchise". 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  18. ^ Stakeholder Briefing Document and Consultation Response Department for Transport 27 February 2015
  19. ^ "December Changes: Changes to services between Manchester, Bolton, Chorley, Preston and Cumbria / Scotland". First TransPennine Express. 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  20. ^ "Rail performance results period 7". Network Rail. 
  21. ^ "The Pennine Class 185 experience - What do passengers think?" (PDF) (Press release). Passenger Focus. May 2007. Retrieved 10 June 2008. More than 90% of passengers said they are satisfied with the key measures – getting a seat, the ease of getting on and off the train and cleanliness of the train interior. ... However, the research also shows that passenger satisfaction with comfort decreases as the journey time increases. 
  22. ^ Emma Davison (31 October 2008). "Anyone for a game of train sardines?". Huddersfield Daily Examiner. 
  23. ^ "Heavy Rail White Paper" (PDF). Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority. [dead link]
  24. ^ West Coast Main Line route utilisation strategy, Network Rail.
  25. ^ "Britain's Transport Infrastructure: Rail Electrification" (PDF). Department for Transport. July 2009. 
  26. ^ "Extra trains and faster journey times will boost capacity" (Press release). Department for Transport. 29 February 2012. 
  27. ^ "Rail passengers in the north of England and Scotland to benefit from new trains" (Press release). First TransPennine Express. 29 February 2012. 
  28. ^ "Campaigners' fury as nine TransPennine Express trains sent south in 'crazy and scandalous' move". Manchester Evening News. 3 March 2014. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Train Announcement". First TransPennine Express. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  31. ^ Prentice, Paul (8 January 2015). "Locomotive-hauled trains to return to north west". Rail Magazine. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  32. ^ Pritchard, Robert; Hall, Peter (2014). British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock 2014. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. pp. 229–230. ISBN 978-1-909431-09-6. 
  33. ^ "Safe and sound train stations". First Transpennine Express. October 2011. 

External links[edit]

Media related to First TransPennine Express at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Arriva Trains Northern
Regional Railways North East franchise
Operator of TransPennine franchise
2004 - 2016
Preceded by
First North Western
North West Regional Railways franchise
Operator of TransPennine Express franchise
2016 - 2023