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Northern Rail,[1] often referred to as Northern, is a British train operating company owned by Serco-Abellio operating the Northern Rail franchise.

Northern runs a mix of commuter rural and some longer-distance services around Cheshire, County Durham, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Northumberland, Teesside, Tyne and Wear and Yorkshire. Northern's services also extend to the north Midland counties of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and Staffordshire. Some services are supported by passenger transport executives. Of all the Train Operating Companies in the UK, Northern Rail operates the most stations.Template:Cn


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 with the remaining services to be operated by a new Northern franchise.[2]

On 1 July 2004 the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the franchise to Serco-NedRailways, beating FirstGroup.[3][4][5] The franchise was awarded for six years and nine months, with a two-year extension subject to performance targets being achieved.

Serco-NedRailways' bid had assumed that some Class 142 Pacers trains would be released imminently when Manchester Metrolink services started between Manchester and Oldham. Due to a substantial delay in extending the Metrolink, it became clear that this was not going to be the case.[6] As a result the contract signing was delayed, and the services operated by First North Western and Arriva Trains Northern did not transfer to Northern until 12 December 2004.

In May 2010 the Department for Transport confirmed that Northern had met the performance targets, and the franchise was extended for two years until September 2013.[7][8] In May 2012 the Department for Transport granted Northern a six-month extension until 31 March 2014.[9][10][11] In March 2013 the Secretary of State for Transport announced the franchise would be further extended to 4 February 2016.[12]


Main article: List of Northern Rail routes

Additional servicesEdit

In December 2008 Northern Rail introduced an express service from Template:Stnlink to Template:Stnlink calling at Template:Stnlink, Template:Stnlink, Template:Stnlink, Template:Stnlink, Template:Stnlink, Template:Stnlink, Template:Stnlink and Template:Stnlink[13][14] using a Template:Brc unit.

Former servicesEdit

Services on the route from Thorpes Bridge Junction, Newton Heath to Rochdale East Junction via Oldham, known as the Oldham Loop Line, ceased on 3 October 2009 to allow the line to be converted for Metrolink operation.[15]


Northern Rail won Public Transport Operator of the Year 2007 at the National Transport Awards and was praised by the judges for attracting 20% more passengers since 2004.[16] When the extension of its franchise was announced, Northern stated that it had improved punctuality from 83.7% in the 12 months to December 2004 to 91.6% in the 12 months to May 2010, meaning that around 200 more trains per day were on time than in 2004.[7]

In the period 15 October 2009 to 14 November 2009, Northern's punctuality was 91.1% and reliability was 92.2%.[17] Northern's passenger charter targets are 91% for punctuality and 99% for reliability.

The franchise agreement commits to a 15% reduction in delays in the first five years and to a new 'incentive/penalty regime' and a more 'local focus on performance'.[18]

The latest official figures released by NR (Network Rail) rate punctuality (PPM) at 91.9% and an MAA of 90.7% for period 7 (2013/2014) and the 12 months up to 12 October 2013.[19]

The annual report for 2012, published in March 2013, of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen[20] stated that Northern Rail transported 263,000 passengers daily. The customer satisfaction decreased to 80%. In May 2011 Northern Rail received the "Sustainable Business of the Year" award.

Rolling stockEdit

Northern inherited a fleet of Class 142, Class 144, Class 150, Class 155, Class 156, Class 158, Class 321. Class 323 and Class 333s from Arriva Trains Northern and First North Western.

In October 2006 Northern leased six former Central Trains Class 158s that had been on loan to First Great Western.[21]

In March 2007 Northern announced it would be acquiring a further 30 Class 158s from Arriva Trains Wales, Central Trains and First Great Western to replace 26 Class 142 Pacers.[22][23] Northern ended up only receiving 19 Class 158s, but did gain eight centre carriages from East Midlands Trains in 2008 that were inserted into Northern’s ex First North Western Class 158s.[24][25] Over 20 Class 142 Pacers were placed in store but reactivated by the end of 2008 with 12 sublet to First Great Western from December 2008 and the balance returning to service with Northern.

In Autumn 2008 five Class 142 Pacers returned from First Great Western with the remaining seven following in Autumn 2011.

From December 2008 until December 2011 Northern leased three Class 180s for use on Blackpool North to Manchester Victoria and Hazel Grove services.[26]

From July 2011 Northern received 18 Class 150s from London Midland. From October 2011 five Class 322s from First ScotRail entered service.[27]

Current fleetEdit

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Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 142 Pacer 115px Diesel multiple unit 75 120 79[28] Manchester Victoria/Airport - Wigan Wallgate/Southport/Kirkby, Chester - Manchester Piccadilly via Altrincham, Southport - Chester via Altrincham (Sundays only), Manchester Piccadilly - New Mills Central/Rose Hill Marple, Leeds - Morecambe/Lancaster/Sheffield/York, Liverpool Lime Street - Manchester Victoria/Manchester Oxford Road/Blackpool North/Warrington Bank Quay, Huddersfield - Manchester Victoria, Colne - Blackpool South, Cumbrian Coast, Newcastle - Hexham/Middlesbrough, Bishop Auckland/Darlington - Saltburn, Middlesbrough - Hexham, Peak-time Crewe/Alderley Edge/Macclesfield-Manchester Piccadilly services, Metrocentre & Newcastle - Morpeth & Chathill, Sheffield - Lincoln, Hull - York 1985–1987
Class 144 Pacer 115px Diesel multiple unit 75 120 23 Leeds - Harrogate/York/Manchester Victoria (stopper)/Huddersfield/Goole/Sheffield/Morecambe, Sheffield/Wakefield Westgate - Huddersfield, Sheffield - Scunthorpe/Lincoln 1986–1987
Class 150/1 Sprinter 115px Diesel multiple unit 75 120 30 Manchester Victoria - Clitheroe/Leeds/Selby, Colne - Blackpool South, Manchester Piccadilly - Buxton/Sheffield/Rose Hill Marple, Liverpool Lime Street - Wigan North Western/Blackpool North/Manchester Victoria/Warrington Bank Quay, Manchester Victoria/Airport - Wigan Wallgate/Southport/Kirkby, Chester - Manchester Piccadilly via Altrincham, Southport - Chester via Altrincham (Sundays only) 1984–1987
Class 150/2 Sprinter 115px Diesel multiple unit 75 120 30 Manchester Victoria - Clitheroe/Leeds, Huddersfield - Selby, Colne - Blackpool South, Wakefield Kirkgate - Knottingley, Manchester Piccadilly - Buxton/Sheffield/Rose Hill Marple, Liverpool Lime Street - Wigan North Western/Blackpool North/Manchester Victoria/Warrington Bank Quay, Manchester Victoria/Airport - Wigan Wallgate/Southport, Chester - Manchester Piccadilly via Altrincham, Southport - Chester via Altrincham (Sundays only) 1984–1987
Class 153 Super Sprinter 115px Diesel multiple unit 75 120 18 Manchester Victoria - Clitheroe, Colne - Blackpool South, Preston - Ormskirk, Leeds - Knottingley, Wakefield Kirkgate - Knottingley, Cumbrian Coast Line. Also seen coupled to other trains for additional capacity, sometimes seen in South Yorkshire replacing services usually run by Pacers. 1987–1988
(Converted 1991 - 1992)
Class 155 Super Sprinter 115px Diesel multiple unit 75 120 7[29] Caldervale Line, Harrogate line 1987–1988
Class 156 Super Sprinter 115px Diesel multiple unit 75 120 42 Colne - Blackpool South (Usually on Sundays only), Cumbrian Coast, Newcastle - Carlisle, Blackpool North - Manchester Victoria, Preston - Hazel Grove, /Manchester Airport/Oxford Road/Victoria - Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool Lime Street - Wigan North Western/Blackpool North/Manchester Victoria/Warrinton Bank Quay, Manchester Piccadilly - Rose Hill Marple/Buxton/Sheffield, Helsby - Ellsemere Port, Manchester Victoria/Airport - Wigan Wallgate/Southport/Kirkby, Chester - Manchester Piccadilly via Altrincham, Southport - Chester via Altrincham (Sundays only), Nunthorpe to Hexham (Select journeys only), Middlesbrough - Whitby, Middlesbrough - Carlisle (1 in 3 services only) 1987–1989
Class 158 Express Sprinter 115px Diesel multiple unit 90 140 46 Express services including York - Blackpool North, Nottingham - Sheffield - Leeds via Barnsley, Hull-York, Sheffield/Hull - Bridlington/Scarborough, Leeds - Carlisle, Leeds - Bradford-Manchester Victoria,[30]

Also occasionally seen on the Harrogate Line.

Class 321/9 115px Electric multiple unit 100 160 3 Wakefield Line
Leeds - Doncaster[31]

Also used on peak-time weekday services on the Airedale and Wharfedale lines

Class 322 115px Electric multiple unit 100 160 5 Wakefield Line
Leeds - Doncaster

Also used on peak-time weekday services on the Airedale and Wharfedale lines

Class 323 115px Electric multiple unit 90 140 17 Electrified routes in and out of Manchester Piccadilly:

Manchester Piccadilly - Alderley Edge/Crewe/Glossop/Hadfield/Hazel Grove/Macclesfield/ Manchester Airport/Stoke-on-Trent

Class 333 115px Electric multiple unit 100 160 16[32] Wharfedale Line
Leeds and Bradford - Shipley - Ilkley

Airedale Line
Leeds and Bradford - Shipley - Keighley - Skipton
Leeds-Bradford line[31]


Future fleetEdit

Class Type Top speed Number Cars per set Routes operated In Service
mph km/h
Class 319 electric multiple unit 100 161 6 (Initially) 4 Lancashire electrified routes (Manchester to Liverpool, Preston and Blackpool) December 2014
tram-train units electric multiple unit TBC TBC 4 2 Rotherham to Sheffield 2014[33]

As part of a trial of the feasibility of the tram-train concept, Northern will operate newly built electric tram-train units between Rotherham and Sheffield after plans for a diesel tram-train trial between Huddersfield and Sheffield were deemed not to be economically viable for a trial.[34]


The depots used by Northern Rail are at:

  • Hull Botanic Gardens (BG)
  • Blackpool North LMD (BP)
  • Barrow-in-Furness (BW)
  • Carlisle Station (Overnight cleaning)
  • Heaton (Newcastle upon Tyne) (HT)
  • Neville Hill (Leeds) (NL)
  • Newton Heath (Manchester) (NH)
  • Sheffield Station (SM)
  • Workington (WK) (overnight cleaning for Cumbrian Coast)
  • Buxton (BX) (Overnight Cleaning Depot)
  • Allerton (AN)


Northern Rail operates just over 100 Pacer trains. These were built on a low budget during the 1980s recession and the upper body is based on a Leyland National bus. Many passengers are unhappy with the ride quality of these trains, noting that they provide an uncomfortable ride, are very noisy when going around bends, and are far too small for the number of passengers travelling today.[35][36] One politician has even said they are not safe, but this was strongly denied by the company and the government.[37] High fares in non-PTE areas adds to criticism about what some called life-expired trains being used.[38]

Northern Rail has a tough approach on fare evasion and has been known to take passengers to court for underpaying by a matter of pence even where the company has no concrete proof.[39] Northern Rail tried to prosecute one passenger who they claimed had tried to avoid paying part of his fare but the court case failed, costing Northern over £2,000 in legal fees.[40] The court case was believed to have failed as Northern requires some passengers to carry special tickets saying which station they boarded at and tried to use that as evidence of attempting to combat fare evasion by not having passengers paying for shorter journeys they then make.[40] However, any such requirement to force a passenger to produce a special ticket to prove where they boarded would be a breach of the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, to which both passengers and rail operators must adhere.[41]

Due to increased passenger numbers, Northern has installed new ticket machines at some stations. However, these do not sell the full range of tickets, for instance they do not sell Cheap Evening Returns,[42][43] so that in the evening passengers can pay double the fare that they need to pay for the journey they are making, if they purchase tickets from the machine.



  1. Companies House extract company no 4619954 Northern Rail Limited
  2. The Trans-Pennine Express rail franchise Yorkshire & The Humber Transport Activist's Roundtable Briefing Note October 2001
  3. Template:Cite press release
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  7. 7.0 7.1 Template:Cite press release
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  10. Franchise Continuation for Northern Rail Northern News 9 May 2012
  11. Contract News Update 14 Serco Press Release
  12. "Railway plan puts new focus on passengers" Secretary of State for Transport statement 26 March 2013
  13. Extra Leeds Nottingham Train Services Announced Northern News 22 November 2006
  14. Northern Introduces New Nottingham - Leeds Service Northern News 12 December 2008
  15. Script error
  16. Template:Cite press release
  17. Performance figures, Northern Rail.
  18. Template:Cite press release
  19. Script error
  20. Annual report 2012
  21. Template:Citation
  22. Angel Trains Leases 30 Class 158 Diesel Multiple Units to Northern Rail Northern News 19 March 2007
  23. Template:Citation
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  26. Template:Citation
  27. Class 322
  28. Script error
  29. Template:Cite press release
  30. Template:Cite press release
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External linksEdit

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