British Rail Class 331

The British Rail Class 331 Civity[4] is a class of electric multiple unit built by CAF, owned by Eversholt Rail Group, and currently operated by Northern Trains. A total of 43 units have been built - 31 three-car units and 12 four-car units. Construction of the trains started in July 2017 and they were phased into service from 1 July 2019.[5]

British Rail Class 331 Civity
331001 approaching Crewe platform 1.jpg
331001 on test at Crewe on 30 October 2018
Class331 Interior.jpg
In service1 July 2019 - present
Built atZaragoza, Spain[2]
Newport, Wales (1 unit only)
Family nameCivity
ReplacedClass 321
Class 322
Constructed2017 – 2020
Number built43 units
Formation31 x 3-car units
12 x 4-car units
Fleet numbers331001–331031 (331/0)
331101–331112 (331/1)
Capacity204 seats (331/0)
284 seats (331/1)[3]
Operator(s)Northern Trains
Train length71.4 m (234 ft 3 in) (331/0)
94.75 m (310 ft 10 in) (331/1)
Car lengthDMSL & DMS: 24.03 m (78 ft 10 in)
PTS & TS: 23.35 m (76 ft 7 in)[1]
Maximum speed100 mph (160 km/h)
Accelerationmax. 1.3 m/s2 (4.7 km/(h⋅s); 2.9 mph/s)[1]
Electric system(s)25 kV 50 Hz AC Overhead[1]
Current collection methodPantograph
Safety system(s)AWS
Coupling systemDellner
Multiple workingWithin class
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge


The announcement of the new trains was made by Arriva UK Trains when it was confirmed that it would become the next operator of the Northern franchise from 1 April 2016.[6] CAF were selected by Arriva as they were the only manufacturer able to produce both new diesel (Class 195) and electric multiple units from the same platform, the Civity, thus increasing familiarity for drivers and reducing maintenance costs once in operation.[7] Bombardier made a bid to produce electric Aventra units but was unable to offer a sister diesel unit which Arriva required.[8] Furthermore, Bombardier already had a long order book for Aventra units and Arriva believed CAF were in a stronger position to guarantee on-time delivery of the units.[8] At the time of ordering, Northern's order for 43 electric and 58 diesel units was the largest ever European based order for CAF, at a cost of £500m.[5]

Construction started in July 2017,[9] with the first completed unit being unveiled on 31 January 2018.[10] Testing began in the UK in September 2018,[9][11] and in March 2019, a four-car Class 331 unit (331111) became the first train to be completed at CAF's Llanwern factory.[12]

On 28 June 2019, the new trains were launched by a special service for the media. Regular passenger service of the Class 331 (along with its diesel counterpart, the Class 195) started on 1 July 2019.[13]


Arriva UK Trains stated its aim for a "step-change in quality" for the new trains when compared with older trains in the Northern fleet such as the Pacers and Sprinters.[14] The interior, layout and driver cab of the Class 331 (EMU) are completely identical to their sister units, the Class 195 (DMU) with the only difference being power generation and drivetrain. [15]

The 331s have a ⅓-⅔ door arrangement, and a top speed limited to 100 mph. The units have air conditioning, power sockets, one toilet per train,[16] open gangways between individual carriages, passenger compartment CCTV, provision for wheelchair passengers and wi-fi system. All trains fitted with an automated audio information system, as well as display screens - six in each carriage ensuring all passengers have an unobstructed view to at least one. These screens convey a variety of information from station arrival times and informing alighting passengers when they need to be in a different carriage due to platforms being too short to accommodate the train.[17]

Northern selected a "wide and spacious" vestibule area to allow for quicker passenger flows when boarding and disembarking to minimise dwell times which can result in delays.[15] These large spaces around the doors also a high degree of flexibility as to how this space can be used with flip-down seats and ample standing space in times of overcrowding where the objective is ensuring all passengers can board.[16] The units are not fitted with fixed luggage racks as these often reduce capacity on peak-time commuter trains - space is provided around the flip-down seats adjacent to the doors to store luggage and prams - thus not impacting on the capacity of the train or safety for passengers wishing to alight or board. In maintaining an objective for the interior to be spacious, seats are cantilevered off the body frame and there are no internal doors with open gangways between carriages.

The Class 331 electric units are noted for their quick acceleration putting them among the fastest accelerating EMUs in the United Kingdom with a rate of 1.3 m/s2.[1] This allows the units to accelerate from 0 to 125 km/h (77 mph) in 45 seconds - by comparison, the ex-British Rail Class 321/322 units have an acceleration rate of 0.55 m/s2 and which takes them over 2 minutes to attain the same speed.[18][19] It is envisaged this improved acceleration result in efficiencies and improved punctuality on commuter routes with multiple stops across the Northern network.

The units are designed with a projected lifespan of 35 years and it is planned they will operate beyond 2050 with maintenance and refurbishment.[15] Other features included are digital seat reservation system however these are to future-proof the train and Northern do not envisage using these on many, if any routes. Although the vast majority of services will operate as 3 or 4 car formations - some 3-car units will be doubled up to form 6 car services. As a result, they are fitted with Automatic Selective Door Operation (ASDO) on routes where station platform lengths are not sufficient to fully accommodate the train. This ASDO is linked to an automated system which informs the passengers through both announcements and the passenger information screens located in each saloon.


Class 331 at Doncaster railway station

In West Yorkshire, the Class 331 units replaced the eight Class 321 and Class 322 trains and now work alongside the current fleet of Class 333 units. In the North West, the 331s were deployed on inter-city electrified services from Blackpool North to Manchester Airport and services from Hazel Grove to Blackpool North. The 331s were also introduced on the Liverpool Lime Street to Blackpool North route and the Liverpool Lime Street to Crewe via Manchester Airport - the longest service in Northern's network with 29 stops.

Named unitsEdit

  • 331106 – Proud To Be Northern[20]
  • 331110 – Proud To Be Northern[20]

Fleet detailsEdit

Class Operator No. Built Year Built Cars per Unit Unit nos.
Class 331/0 Northern Trains 31 2017-2020 3 331001–331031
Class 331/1 12 4 331101–331112

Northern Class 331/0
Northern Class 331/1

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "Class 331". Eversholt Rail. Archived from the original on 13 April 2020. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  2. ^ Clinnick, Richard. "Northern unveils its first new CAF-built train". Rail Magazine. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  3. ^ "Northern Franchise Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  4. ^ "Long Term Passenger Rolling Stock Strategy for the Rail Industry, Fourth Edition, March 2016" (PDF). Rail Delivery Group. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 April 2016. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Northern close to completion of £500 million CAF train order". Rail. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Intention to award Northern franchise to Arriva". Arriva Rail North. Archived from the original on 17 March 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  7. ^ Shirres, David (3 April 2018). "Northern's trains from Spain". Rail Engineer. Archived from the original on 15 September 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  8. ^ a b Lea, Robert (23 January 2016). "Spain wins £490m race to replace unloved Pacer". The Times. London. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  9. ^ a b Barrow, Keith (11 July 2017). "CAF begins production of new trains for Northern". International Rail Journal.
  10. ^ Fender, Keith (31 January 2018). "CAF presents first Civity EMU for Northern". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  11. ^ Cox, Charlotte (26 September 2018). "New trains are on their way to Greater Manchester". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  12. ^ Milner, Chris (August 2019). "CAF Class 195 DMUs and Class 331 EMUs". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 165 no. 1, 421. Horncastle: Mortons Media. p. 31. ISSN 0033-8923.
  13. ^ "New trains launch 'genuine transformation' of Northern services". Rail Business UK. 1 July 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  14. ^ "Arriva signs rolling stock contract for new Northern rail franchise". Northern. 1 April 2019. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  15. ^ a b c Shires, David (3 April 2018). "Northern's trains from Spain". Rail Engineer. Archived from the original on 2 November 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  16. ^ a b "New trains in 2019 6: Northern's Class 195 and 331". busandtrainuser. 10 July 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  17. ^ Clinnick, Richard (9 September 2019). "FROM THE ARCHIVES: On their way to Northern". Rail. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Class 321". Eversholt. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  19. ^ "Class 322". Eversholt. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  20. ^ a b Bendall, Simon; Nicholls, Mark (September 2019). "Fleet Review". Railways Illustrated. No. 199. p. 18.