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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
Fleet size 360 units
(Four units leased from TransPennine Express)
Stations called at 528
Stations operated 476
Parent company Arriva UK Trains



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]


Northern took over all the services operated by Northern Rail (also branded Northern) on 1 April 2016[9] 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.[10]

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.[10] Northern will staff some currently unstaffed stations. The first stations to be staffed will be Baildon and Ben Rhydding,[11] 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.[12] Arriva will provide new services across the North of England.[13]

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.[10][needs update]

On 1 July 2016, the business was divided into four regions, each headed up by a regional director:[14]

  • 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

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,[15] 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.[15]

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 routesEdit

From To Via Rolling Stock
Leeds Chester Bradford Interchange, Halifax, Rochdale, Manchester Victoria & Warrington Bank Quay Class 195 Civity
Leeds Lincoln Wakefield Kirkgate, Barnsley & Sheffield Class 195 Civity
Leeds Liverpool Lime Street Bradford Interchange, Halifax, Rochdale, Manchester Victoria Class 195 Civity
Leeds Nottingham Wakefield Westgate & Sheffield Class 195 Civity
Manchester Airport Barrow-in-Furness Manchester Piccadilly, Wigan North Western, Preston & Lancaster Class 195 Civity
Manchester Airport Blackpool North Manchester Piccadilly, Bolton & Preston Class 331 Civity [16]
Manchester Airport Bradford Interchange Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria, Rochdale & Halifax Class 195 Civity
Manchester Airport Liverpool Lime Street Manchester Piccadilly & Warrington Central Class 195 Civity
Manchester Airport Windermere Manchester Piccadilly, Wigan North Western, Preston & Lancaster Class 769 Flex [15]
Middlesbrough Carlisle Durham, Newcastle & Metrocentre Class 158 ExpressSprinter
Sheffield Hull Doncaster Class 195 Civity
York Blackpool North Leeds, Bradford Interchange, Halifax, Burnley Manchester Road & Preston Class 195 Civity

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 for Cumbrian Coast line services.[10] Class 142 and 144 withdrawals are scheduled to commence in November 2018 with the last to be removed from traffic in October 2019.[17]

Current fleetEdit

Class Image Type Top speed Carriages Number Routes Built
mph km/h
Locomotive hauled stock
37   Loco 80 130 2 Cumbrian Coast line (Monday to Saturday only)[18]

(Locos are provided by DRS with Northern providing drivers and conductors)[19]

Mark 2   Coach 6 1972–75
  DBSO 2 1979
Diesel multiple units
142 Pacer   DMU 75 120 2 79 Local and commuter services across the North 1985–87
144 Pacer   DMU 75 120 2 13 Local and commuter services in Yorkshire 1986–87
3 10
150/1 & 150/2 Sprinter   DMU 75 120 2 69 Local services across the North 1985–87
153 Super Sprinter   DMU 75 120 1 18 Local and commuter services across the North
Also used to boost capacity on peak time services
155 Super Sprinter   DMU 75 120 2 7 Local and commuter services across Yorkshire 1987–88
156 Super Sprinter   DMU 75 120 2 42 Local, commuter and regional services across the North 1987–89
158/0 & 158/9
Super 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
185 Desiro   DMU 100 161 3 4 Services transferred from TransPennine Express[nb 1]
(Four units are subleased from TransPennine Express)
Electric multiple units
319/3 & 319/4   EMU 100 161 4 32[nb 2]
  • Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester and Merseyside
  • Electrified commuter services from Blackpool (from May 2018)[20]
321/9   EMU 100 161 4 3 Electrified commuter services in West Yorkshire 1991
322   EMU 100 161 4 5 Electrified commuter services in West Yorkshire 1990
323   EMU 90 140 3 17 Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Derbyshire 1992–93
333   EMU 100 161 4 16 Electrified commuter services in West Yorkshire 2000

Future fleetEdit

Northern will take delivery of 55 Class 195 and 43 Class 331 trains built in Spain by CAF between 2017 and 2020.[21] 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.[22][23]

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 18 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 Railway releasing other DMUs to cover the reduction in the number of units available to hire from TransPennine Express.[24]

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.[25]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes Built In Service
mph km/h
Diesel multiple units
150/1 Sprinter   DMU 75 120 9[26] Commuter services across The North 1984–85[27] 2017–19
150/9 Sprinter   DMU 75 120 12[nb 3] Services including:
  • Huddersfield–Sheffield
  • Leeds–Goole[28]
1984–85[29] 2019
156 Super Sprinter   DMU 75 120 5 Commuter services around Carlisle 1987 2019
158/0 Express Sprinter   DMU 90 140 6 Services to be confirmed 1990–92 2018
170/4 Turbostar   DMU 100 161 16[30]
  • Leeds–Southport via Manchester Victoria
  • Leeds–York via Harrogate
2003–05 2018
195/0 & 195/1 Civity   DMU 100 161 55 Northern Connect services 2017–19 2018–19
TBC[nb 4] DMU 100 161 18 Services to be confirmed TBC TBC
Electric multiple units
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
2017–19 2018–19
Bi-mode multiple units
769 Flex BMU TBC TBC 11
  • Wigan–Alderley Edge via Manchester Piccadilly
  • Wigan–Stalybridge via Manchester Victoria[31]
  • Manchester Airport–Windermere (May 2018–December 2019 only)[32]
2017–18[nb 5] 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.[33]

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

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."[28] 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.[34]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ The eight Class 319/4 units are to be converted to Class 769 bi-mode units
  3. ^ Eighteen units are to be converted into twelve three car Class 150/9 units
  4. ^ These must be DMUs which are at least an equivalent in performance and quality to 2-car Class 170 units
  5. ^ 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. ^ Transformation of rail travel in the north Department for Transport 27 February 2015
  10. ^ a b c d Stakeholder Briefing Document and Consultation Response Department for Transport 27 February 2015
  11. ^ "Proud to be Northern – April 2016". 
  12. ^ "Arriva chosen to run and expand Northern franchise from next year". Rail Technology Magazine. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  13. ^ "Massive boost to rail services brings Northern Powerhouse to life". 
  14. ^ "Northern launches new business regions – Northern". 
  15. ^ a b c "Bi-mode Class 319s for Lakes Line". RailStaff. Coalville: Rail Media. 21 July 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  16. ^ "CAF presents first Civity EMU for Northern". International Railway Journal. Falmouth: Simmons-Boardman Publishing. 31 January 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  17. ^ "Northern announces dates for rundown of Pacer fleet" Rail Express issue 244 September 2016 page 11
  18. ^ "Loco-hauled services to return to the Cumbrian coast". Railway Herald. 8 January 2015. 
  19. ^ "Bigger Trains and Changes Ahead For Cumbria's Coastal Rail Route" (Press release). Northern Rail. 18 May 2015. 
  20. ^ "Electrification in the North – Network Rail". 
  21. ^ "Arriva signs £490m rolling stock contract to replace Northern's Pacers". Rail Technology Magazine. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  22. ^ Barrow, Keith (22 January 2016). "CAF to supply 98 trains for Britain's Northern franchise". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  23. ^ Barrow, Keith (11 December 2015). "Arriva confirms Northern rolling stock plans". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  24. ^ "Network Rail – Page not found" (PDF). 
  25. ^ Fender, Keith. "CAF presents first Civity EMU for Northern". International Railway Journal. International Railway Journal. Retrieved 11 February 2018. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Regional Passenger Trains | Angel Trains". Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  28. ^ a b "Northern Franchise Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  29. ^ "Regional Passenger Trains". Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Northern opens £23m Blackburn depot as part of Great North Rail Project". Rail Technology Magazine. Rail Technology Magazine. Retrieved 29 December 2017. 
  34. ^

External linksEdit

  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