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Northern (train operating company)

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

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
Dumfries and Galloway
Fleet size 339 units (Four units leased from TransPennine Express)
Stations called at 528
Stations operated 476
Parent company Arriva UK Trains

Northern operates more stations than any other train operating company in the United Kingdom.[citation needed]



In August 2014, the Department for Transport announced that Abellio, Arriva and Govia had been shortlisted to bid for the next Northern franchise.[2][3] The franchise was awarded to Arriva in December 2015.[4]

In May 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority launched what The Times called an "... unprecedented investigation into the transport department's decision to award the Northern Rail network to Arriva".[5] This was because the parent company Deutsche Bahn 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.'[6]


Northern took over all the services operated by Northern Rail (also branded Northern) on 1 April 2016[7] 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.[8]

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.[8] Northern will staff some currently unstaffed stations. The first stations to be staffed will be Baildon and Ben Rhydding,[9] 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.[10] Arriva will provide new services across the North of England.[11]

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.[8]

On 1 July 2016, the business was divided into four regions, each headed up by a regional director:[12]

  • 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 ConnectEdit

The logo for future Northern Connect express services

From December 2019, Northern will operate a network of twelve Northern Connect interurban express services. Eleven of these will be operated by brand-new Class 195 diesel multiple units and Class 331 electric multiple units, whilst the Middlesbrough to Carlisle via Newcastle route will be operated by refurbished Class 158 units.

Places that will be served by Northern Connect routes include Bradford, Chester, Halifax, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Nottingham, Newcastle, Preston, Sheffield, Barnsley, Lincoln, Wakefield and York. The routes transferred from the TransPennine franchise will also be part of the Northern Connect network.

Rolling stockEdit

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.

Class 37/4 locomotives and Mark 2 carriages are hired from Direct Rail Services until 2017 for Cumbrian Coast line services.[8]

Current fleetEdit

Class Image Type Top speed Carriages Number Routes Built
mph km/h
Diesel trains
Class 37   Loco 80 130 N/A 2 Cumbrian Coast line (Monday to Saturday only)[13]

(Locos are provided by DRS with Northern providing drivers and conductors)[14]

Mark 2 carriage   Coach 6 1972–75
  DBSO 2 1979
Class 142 Pacer   DMU 75 120 2 79 Local and commuter services across the North 1985–87
Class 144 Pacer   DMU 75 120 2 13 Local and commuter services in Yorkshire 1986–87
3 10
Class 150/1 & 150/2 Sprinter   DMU 75 120 2 58 Local services across the North 1985–87
Class 153 Super Sprinter   DMU 75 120 1 18 Local and commuter services across the North 1987–88
Class 155 Super Sprinter   DMU 75 120 2 7 Local and commuter services across Yorkshire 1987–88
Class 156 Super Sprinter   DMU 75 120 2 42 Local, commuter and regional services across the North 1987–89
Class 158/0 & 158/9
Express Sprinter
  DMU 90 140 2 37
  • Regional express and commuter services in West Yorkshire
  • Northern Connect services in the North East (from 2018)
3 8
Class 180 Adelante   DMU 125 200 5 1 Bradford Interchange to Leeds (one journey per day)
(One unit is subleased from Grand Central Railway)
Class 185 Desiro   DMU 100 161 3 4
  • Manchester Airport to Blackpool North/Barrow in Furness
  • Oxenholme to Windermere

(Four units are subleased from TransPennine Express)[15][16]

Electric trains
Class 319/3 & 319/4   EMU 100 161 4 32
  • Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester and Merseyside
  • Electrified commuter services from Blackpool (from May 2018)[17]
Class 321/9   EMU 100 161 4 3 Electrified commuter services in West Yorkshire 1991
Class 322   EMU 100 161 4 5 Electrified commuter services in West Yorkshire 1990
Class 323   EMU 90 140 3 17 Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Derbyshire 1992–93
Class 333   EMU 100 161 4 16 Electrified commuter services in West Yorkshire 2000

Future fleetEdit

Northern will take delivery of 98 Class 195 and 331 trains built in Spain by CAF between 2017 and 2020.[18] 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.[19][20]

A total of 53 DMUs will be cascaded to Northern, 29 from Abellio ScotRail, three from London Midland and 21 from Great Western Railway train operating companies after the Edinburgh-Glasgow (EGIP) and Great Western Main Line electrification works are completed. Eight of Northern's Class 319/4 units are to be converted from pure EMUs into bi-mode multiple units, classified as Class 769, by early 2018. The Class 323 units will be returned to leasing company Porterbrook at the end of 2018 when the lease expires. An additional 18 two-car DMUs are due to join the fleet by December 2022.

From July 2016-December 2017, Northern will operate a peak morning working from Bradford-Leeds using a Class 180 set hired from Grand Central Railway releasing other DMUs to cover the reduction in the number of units available to hire from TransPennine Express.[21]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes Built
mph km/h
Class 150/0, 150/1 &
150/2 Sprinter
  DMU 75 120 24[23]
  • Commuter services (from 2017)
  • Routes including Huddersfield-Sheffield and Leeds-Goole (from 2019)[22]

24 units are to be converted into 16 three car Class 150/9 units

Class 156 Super Sprinter   DMU 75 120 5 Commuter services around Carlisle 1987
Class 158/0 Express Sprinter   DMU 90 140 8 Services to be confirmed (from 2018) 1990–92
Class 170/4 Turbostar   DMU 100 161 16
  • Leeds–Manchester Victoria–Southport (from 2018)
  • Leeds–Harrogate–York (from 2018)
Class 195/0 & 195/1 Civity   DMU 100 161 55 Northern Connect services 2017–18
Class 331/0 & 331/1 Civity   EMU 100 161 43
  • Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire
  • Electrified Northern Connect services in the North West
Class 769 Flex BMMU 100 161 11
  • Wigan–Manchester Piccadilly–Alderley Edge
  • Wigan–Manchester Victoria–Stalybridge[25]
  • Manchester Airport-Windermere (May 2018–December 2019 only)[26]
TBC DMU 100 161 18 DMUs equivalent in performance and quality to 2-car Class 170 units[22] TBC


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

Train Crew Depots are located at; Leeds, York, Newcastle, Darlington (Driver only), Middlesbrough (guard only), Carlisle, Workington, Blackpool North, Liverpool Lime Street, Wigan Wallgate, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Piccadilly, Buxton, Sheffield, Skipton, Huddersfield, Harrogate, Hull Paragon, Barrow-in-Furness and Doncaster.

Driver Controlled OperationEdit

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."[22] 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.[27]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 4337712 Arriva Rail North Limited
  2. ^ Shortlist for Northern and TransPennine operators revealed Department for Transport 19 August 2014
  3. ^ Transformation of rail in the north Northern 27 February 2015
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lea, Robert (21 May 2016). "Arriva faces northern exposure amid franchise victory enquiry". The Times (71916). p. 51. 
  6. ^ Clinnick, Richard (17 May 2015). "Arriva faces possible investigation over competition concerns". Rail. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  7. ^ Transformation of rail travel in the north Department for Transport 27 February 2015
  8. ^ a b c d Stakeholder Briefing Document and Consultation Response Department for Transport 27 February 2015
  9. ^ "Proud to be Northern – April 2016". 
  10. ^ "Arriva chosen to run and expand Northern franchise from next year". Rail Technology Magazine. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  11. ^ "Massive boost to rail services brings Northern Powerhouse to life". 
  12. ^ "Northern launches new business regions – Northern". 
  13. ^ "Loco-hauled services to return to the Cumbrian coast". Railway Herald. 8 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "Bigger Trains and Changes Ahead For Cumbria's Coastal Rail Route" (Press release). Northern Rail. 18 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Northern Rail 31st SA - Remapped services Track Access Rights
  16. ^ TransPennine Express invitation to tender
  17. ^ "Electrification in the North – Network Rail". 
  18. ^ "Arriva signs £490m rolling stock contract to replace Northern's Pacers". Rail Technology Magazine. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  19. ^ Barrow, Keith (22 January 2016). "CAF to supply 98 trains for Britain's Northern franchise". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  20. ^ Barrow, Keith (11 December 2015). "Arriva confirms Northern rolling stock plans". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  21. ^ "Network Rail – Page not found" (PDF). 
  22. ^ a b c d "Northern Franchise Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Regional Passenger Trains | Angel Trains". Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^

External linksEdit

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