Northern Rail

Northern Rail
Northern Rail
Northern Rail Logo.svg
Franchise(s): Northern
12 December 2004 – 15 September 2013[1]
Main Region(s): North West, North East,
Yorkshire and the Humber
Other Region(s): East Midlands and Staffordshire
Fleet size: 287
Stations called at: 529
Stations operated: 462
Passenger km 2007/8: 1831.9 million
Route km operated: 2695.7
National Rail abbreviation: NT[2]
Parent company: Serco-Abellio
Web site:

Northern Rail (often referred to simply as Northern) is a British train operating company that has operated local passenger services in Northern England since 2004. Northern Rail's owner, Serco-Abellio, is a consortium formed of Abellio (formerly NedRailways, the British unit of Nederlandse Spoorwegen) and Serco, an international operator of public transport systems. When it won the Northern England franchise, the consortium had already secured the contract to operate north-west England's Merseyrail network in 2003. The current managing Director of Northern Rail is Ian Bevan.



Serco-Abellio was announced as the 'preferred bidder' for the Northern franchise by the Strategic Rail Authority on 1 July 2004,[3] and signed the agreement to operate the franchise on 19 October 2004. However, the new operator did not actually take over from the previous operator (First North Western and Arriva Trains Northern) until 12 December 2004. This was because Serco-Abellio assumed that some Class 142 Pacer trains would be freed up in the near future 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.[4]

Northern runs a mix of commuter routes, rural routes and some longer-distance services around Cheshire, Co. 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. In December 2008 the operator started an express service from Leeds to Nottingham calling at Wakefield Kirkgate, Barnsley, Sheffield, Dronfield, Chesterfield, Alfreton, Langley Mill and Nottingham.

The franchise was planned to run for a maximum of eight years and nine months, the final two years being subject to performance targets being achieved.[3][5] It was announced in May 2010 that Northern had beaten these targets and the two-year extension was granted. This means that the franchise will end on 15 September 2013.[1] The franchise does not require the company to purchase or lease new trains.

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.[6] 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.[1]


In the period 15 October 2009 to 14 November 2009, Northern's punctuality was 91.1% and reliability was 92.2%.[7] 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'.[8]

The latest official figures released by the ORR rate punctuality (PPM) at 92.1% and an MAA of 90.8% for the fourth quarter of financial year 2010/11 and the 12 months up to 31 March 2011.[9]


Former routes

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. The line is currently being converted to Metrolink operation.[10]


The Traincare depots for Northern Rail are at:

  • Hull Botanic Gardens (BG)
  • Blackpool North LMD (BP)
  • Barrow-in-Furness (BW)
  • 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 (To be reopened for Northern Rail, for the servicing of its 156 fleet & future 319 fleet)

Northern Rail also has a Depot Access Agreement (DAA) with West Coast Traincare to undertake Level 1 to 4 maintenance at its Manchester Traincare Centre (Longsight LO) on the Northern-Rail-operated Class 323 EMUs and servicing on its Class 142 and Class 15x DMUs.

A further DAA covers servicing of its Class 142 and Class 15x DMUs at West Coast Traincare's Liverpool Traincare Centre (Edge Hill CS).

Rolling stock

Current fleet

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 142 Pacer 142041 Northern Rail Castleton East Jcn.jpg Diesel multiple unit 75 120 79 [11] 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 1985–1987
Class 144 Pacer 144002 at York.JPG 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 Northern-150145-01.jpg Diesel multiple unit 75 120 26 (30 by December 2011) Manchester Victoria - Clitheroe/Leeds; Colne - Blackpool South; Manchester Piccadilly - Buxton/Sheffield/Rose Hill Marple; Liverpool Lime Street - Blackpool North/Manchester Victoria; Manchester Victoria/Airport - Wigan Wallgate/Southport/Kirkby; Chester - Manchester Piccadilly via Altrincham; Southport - Chester via Altrincham (Sundays only); 1984–1987
Class 150/2 Sprinter 150277 Northern Rail Castleton East Jcn.jpg Diesel multiple unit 75 120 26 (30 by December 2011) Manchester Victoria - Clitheroe/Leeds; Colne - Blackpool South; Wakefield Kirkgate - Knottingley; Manchester Piccadilly - Buxton/Sheffield/Rose Hill Marple; Liverpool Lime Street - Blackpool North/Manchester Victoria; Manchester Victoria/Airport - Wigan Wallgate/Southport; Chester - Manchester Piccadilly via Altrincham; Southport - Chester via Altrincham (Sundays only); 1984–1987
Class 153 Super Sprinter 153328 Doncaster.JPG Diesel multiple unit 75 120 18 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 155347 C Leeds.JPG Diesel multiple unit 75 120 7[12] Caldervale Line, Harrogate line 1987–1988
Class 156 Super Sprinter Benkid77 156420, Buxton 1 080809.JPG 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 - Liverpool Lime Street; 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); 1987–1989
Class 158 Express Sprinter Northern Rail Class 158 no 158796 Castleton East Jcn.jpg Diesel multiple unit 90 140 46 Express services including York - Blackpool North, Sheffield - Leeds via Barnsley, Sheffield/Hull -Bridlington/Scarborough, Leeds - Carlisle, Leeds-Bradford-Manchester Victoria, Nottingham - Leeds[13] 1989–1992
Class 158 Northern Rail Diagram.PNG
Class 180 Adelante Northern Rail 180108 Salford Crescent July09.jpg diesel multiple unit 125 200 3 (until December 2011) [11] Cascaded from First Great Western.
Blackpool North - Manchester Victoria[14] and Hazel Grove - Preston/Blackpool. Being sub-leased from East Coast.[15]
Class 321/9 321903 B Doncaster.JPG Electric multiple unit 100 160 3 Wakefield Line
Leeds - Doncaster[16]
Class 322 Waverley Station 07.jpg Electric multiple unit 100 160 5 (expected in service December 2011) Wakefield Line
Leeds - Doncaster
Class 323 Class 323 NR Piccadilly (NR Livery).JPG 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 333002 A Leeds.JPG Electric multiple unit 100 160 16 [17] Wharfedale Line
Leeds and Bradford - Shipley - Ilkley

Airedale Line
Leeds and Bradford - Shipley - Keighley - Skipton
Leeds-Bradford line[16]

Class 333 Northern Rail Diagram.PNG

Northern are currently in the process of receiving additional cascaded 2 car class 150 trains from London Midland in 2011[11][18]

Future fleet

Class Type Top speed Number Cars per set Routes operated In Service
mph km/h
Class 319 electric multiple unit 100 161 TBA 4 Lancashire electrified routes (Manchester to Liverpool, Preston and Blackpool) 2015[19]
Class 322 electric multiple unit 100 161 5 4 Leeds area 2011[20]
tram-train units electric multiple unit TBA TBA 4 2 Rotherham to Sheffield 2014[21]

In January 2008, as part of the Government's rolling stock plan, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that the fleet of Class 323 trains currently in operation on services in South and East Manchester would be transferred to London Midland, where the rest of the Class 323 trains are based, in order to form a uniform fleet. Northern was due to receive 24 new-build or cascaded EMU vehicles to allow for this and provide additional capacity.[22] This now looks unlikely to be implemented. The original plan also stated that further DMU stock was due to be transferred to Northern from London Midland and London Overground. A presentation by the DfT, also in January 2008, indicated that this could include Class 150 units from London Midland.[23]

On 22 December 2008 the Department for Transport announced that it had issued an invitation to tender for 200 new carriages to form diesel multiple units, some of which were intended for Northern Rail.[24] The Contract Notice specifies that those parties expressing in an interest must have the ability to design and manufacture DMUs 23 metres in length, capable of a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), formed of 2, 3, and/or 4 cars, capable of operation in multiple, and gangwayed throughout, both within units and units in multiple.[25] The order was postponed in July 2009, following the announcement of the electrification of Liverpool to Manchester via Newton-le-Willows. Northern will now get ex-Thameslink EMUs[26] (most likely British Rail Class 319s) to run Liverpool to Manchester services, allowing the diesel units currently used on that route to be cascaded to other lines.

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.[27]


Northern Rail operates just under 100 Pacer trains. These were built on a low budget during the 1980s recession and the upper body is based on a British Leyland 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.[28][29] Some critics even say they are not safe to still be in use.[30] High fares in non-PTE areas adds to criticism about what some called life-expired trains being used.[31]

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.[32] Northern Rail tried to prosecute one passenger who had actually tried to avoid paying part of his fare but the court case failed costing Northern over £2,000 in legal fees.[33] The court case was believed to have failed as Northern require some passengers to carry special tickets saying which station they boarded at and tried to use that as evidence as a way of attempting to combat fare evasion by not having passengers paying for shorter journeys they then make.[34] 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, which both passengers and rail operators are obliged to adhere to[35].

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,[36][37] 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. ^ a b c "Northern Secures Two Year Franchise Extension" (Press release). Northern Rail. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  2. ^ "National Rail Timetable". Network Rail. 
  3. ^ a b "Serco-NedRailways Announced as Preferred Bidder for new Northern Rail Franchise" (Press release). Strategic Rail Authority. 1 July 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2009. 
  4. ^ "Mid Cheshire Rail Report No.61". Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association. Autumn 2004. 
  5. ^ "Mid Cheshire Rail Report No.62". Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association. Christmas 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2009. 
  6. ^ "Northern Rail Wins Public Transport Operator of the Year" (Press release). Northern Rail. 16 August 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2008. "The judges praised the company, which runs local and regional trains across the north of England, for its success in attracting 20% more passengers since it started in 2004." 
  7. ^ Performance figures, Northern Rail.
  8. ^ "New Northern Rail Franchise Signed" (Press release). Strategic Rail Authority. 19 October 2004. Retrieved 22 December 2008. 
  9. ^ "National Rail Trends Chapter 2". ORR. 
  10. ^ "Oldham Loop rail line closure". GMPTE information poster. Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. September 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2009. 
  11. ^ a b c "Freedom of Information Request 2011". 
  12. ^ "Metro and Northern introduce new look for Yorkshire trains" (Press release). Northern Rail. 10 November 2006. Retrieved 6 January 2009. 
  13. ^ "Northern launches first regular direct service between Nottingham and Leeds for 25 years" (Press release). Northern Rail. 15 December 2008. 
  14. ^ "New services and new trains for Manchester-Blackpool North" (Press release). Northern Rail. 15 December 2008. 
  15. ^ Today's Railways Issue 86
  16. ^ a b "Yorkshire and Humber Route Utilisation Strategy Draft". Network Rail. Retrieved 23 June 2009. 
  17. ^ "Integrated Services -- Partner for Your Success" (PDF). Siemens Transportation Systems. p. 9. Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  18. ^ "Department of Transport Press Release August 2011". 
  19. ^ "Siemens beats Bombardier to Thameslink train order". 16 June 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  20. ^ "ScotRail cascade allows Northern to add capacity". Transport Briefing. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  21. ^ "Vossloh to supply Rotherham tram-trains". 14 July 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  22. ^ "Appendix B - Indicative Number of Additional Vehicles required by English TOCs by 2014". Rolling stock plan. Department for Transport. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2008. 
  23. ^ "HLOS industry seminar talk". Department for Transport. 31 January 2008. p. 19. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  24. ^ "Invitation to tender issued for 200 new diesel train carriages". Department for Transport. 22 December 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  25. ^ "2008/S 236-313671 Contract Notice". Official Journal of the European Union. 4 December 2008. Retrieved 22 December 2008. 
  26. ^ Britain's Transport Infrastructure - Rail Electrification. Department for Transport. July 2009.
  27. ^ "Tram-train line given go ahead". South Yorkshire Transport. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  28. ^ "Pacer line users - RailUK Forums". Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  29. ^ "Pacer's or Roof??? - RailUK Forums". Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  30. ^ "MP says trains in area are 'unsafe' - News". 17 February 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  31. ^ John Siddle. "Northern Rail, which runs the Southport to Manchester line, told to improve its services after announcing ticket price hikes". Southport Visiter. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  32. ^ "Law student gets £1,000 bill over - Local stories". Yorkshire Post. 9 March 2006. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  33. ^ Exclusive by Deborah Linton (27 May 2011). "Commuter finally cleared over 50p train fare fraud after 11-month legal battle costing thousands |". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  34. ^ "Commuter finally cleared over 50p train fare fraud after 11-month legal battle costing thousands". Manchester Evening News. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  35. ^ "National Rail Conditions of Carriage". National Rail. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  36. ^ "Northern Rail Self Service Ticket Machines - RailUK Forums". Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  37. ^ "Offers - Cheap Evening Return (Greater Manchester area)". Northern Rail. 2 January 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 

External links

Preceded by
Arriva Trains Northern
Regional Railways North East franchise
Operator of Northern franchise
2004 - present
Preceded by
First North Western
North West Regional Railways franchise

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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