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Midland Mainline
Class 222 Meridian at London St Pancras in 2004
Franchise(s)Midland Main Line
28 April 1996 – 10 November 2007
Main region(s)East Midlands
Yorkshire and the Humber
Greater London
Other region(s)East of England
Fleet size23 Class 222 Meridian sets
28 HST power cars
Stations called at27 (7 operated)
Parent companyNational Express
Reporting markML
SuccessorEast Midlands Trains

Midland Mainline[1] was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by National Express that operated the Midland Main Line franchise from April 1996 until November 2007. Midland Mainline ran fast and semi-fast passenger services from London to the East Midlands and Yorkshire, on the Midland Main Line. Most services ran between London St Pancras and either Derby, Nottingham or Sheffield. Some services extended to Burton upon Trent, Matlock, Barnsley, Leeds, York and Scarborough.


The Midland Mainline franchise was awarded by the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising to National Express for a period of ten years with operations commencing on 28 April 1996. In May 1999 Midland Mainline was able to extend its sphere of operation after receiving new rolling stock. In August 2000 the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority awarded a two-year extension in return for National Express committing to invest including ordering new rolling stock and running an hourly service to Leeds.[2]

Service patterns

The off peak service pattern, upon conclusion of the franchise in November 2007, consisted of four departures per hour from London St Pancras. There were two fast and two semi-fast trains per hour. The hourly pattern from St Pancras was as below:[3]

xx00: semi-fast to Derby, calling at:

This service was operated by four or five carriage Class 222 Meridians.

xx25: fast to Sheffield, generally calling just at:

This service was generally operated by High Speed Trains, although a few diagrams use eight-carriage Class 222 Meridians

xx30: semi-fast to Nottingham, calling at:

with a journey time of 1 hour 56 minutes

This service was operated by four or five carriage Class 222 Meridians

xx55: fast to Nottingham, generally calling at:

with a journey time of 1 hour 41 minutes

This service was generally operated by eight-carriage Class 222 Meridians although sometimes a Class 43 High Speed Train was used.

Limited services

Midland Mainline rail bus link ran between Corby town centre and Kettering railway station.
Midland Mainline rail bus link ran between Corby town centre and Kettering railway station.

Midland Mainline operated a limited service between St Pancras and Leeds, with three early morning departures from Leeds and four evening return trips from St Pancras. This was principally because Midland Mainline's HSTs were maintained at Neville Hill depot. The timings did not compare favourably with the principal service from London King's Cross to Leeds along the East Coast Main Line with the Midland Main Line having a much slower line speed. The journey time on the Midland route is around 3 hours 15 minutes vs 2 hours 15 minutes via the East Coast.[4]

In July 1996, a bus service between Kettering and Corby was introduced.[5]

From May 1999, a small number of through trains from St Pancras to Burton upon Trent and Barnsley were introduced as well as stops at Belper and Meadowhall.[4]

From May 2000, through trains between St Pancras and Matlock were introduced, ceasing in December 2004 when Class 222s were introduced, as they were not allowed on the Derwent Valley Line branch line.[6][7] Also in May 2000 Midland Mainline began operating one Saturday service between St Pancras and York via Doncaster. In summer it would continue to Scarborough. On Sunday a service to York started at Leicester, with the return service being via the Erewash Valley Line to Nottingham, where it reversed before proceeding to St Pancras.[6]

A small number of trains operated between St Pancras and Sheffield via Nottingham and along the Erewash Valley Line to Chesterfield serving Langley Mill and Alfreton.[3]

Project Rio

From May 2003 until September 2004, Midland Mainline operated an hourly service between St Pancras and Manchester Piccadilly; this was at the request of the Strategic Rail Authority whilst the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Manchester underwent engineering work using former Virgin CrossCountry High Speed Trains.[8][9] This temporary service was named Project Rio after the similarity of the route to footballer Rio Ferdinand's recent transfer movements. He first transferred from West Ham United to Leeds United, then later crossed the Pennines in a £30 million record transfer to Manchester United.

The service used the Midland Main Line as far as Trent Junction, before taking the Erewash Valley Line (avoiding Derby) to Clay Cross, rejoining the Midland Main Line until Dore South Junction, using Dore Tunnel Curve to join the Hope Valley Line westwards towards Manchester Piccadilly. South of Leicester, the service ran in the path of the xx:30 semi-fast Nottingham train, with an additional Leicester to Nottingham service introduced using the displaced Class 170 Turbostar.

Named trains

Rolling stock

Midland Mainline inherited a fleet of High Speed Trains from British Rail. Enhancements were carried out to the power cars of the HSTs, most notably a revised lighting cluster.

In April 1997 Midland Mainline ordered 13 (later expanded to 17) Class 170 Turbostars to operate stopping services.[10] Originally all were ordered as two-carriage sets before it was decided to increase 10 to three-carriage sets. The first entered service in May 1999 and allowed a new timetable with increased frequencies to be introduced with the Class 170s operating most of the stops south of Leicester, allowing the HSTs to be better used on the longer-distance services.

To cover for a shortage of HSTs, Midland Mainline hired two Fragonset Class 47 locomotives to top and tail a set of HSBC Rail Mark 2 carriages on a morning service from Nottingham to London St Pancras and evening return to Sheffield from February 2002.[11] In October 2002 Midland Mainline was able to replace these, after leasing an additional five HST power cars and two sets of Mark 3 carriages that had been released by Virgin CrossCountry.[12]

In February 2002 Midland Mainline ordered sixteen four-carriage and seven nine-carriage Class 222 Meridian trains based on Virgin CrossCountry's Class 220 Voyager, but with developments to improve passenger comfort and address some of the criticisms aimed at the Voyager.[13] The first entered service in May 2004.[14] The four-carriage sets replaced the Class 170s, which were transferred to Central Trains, while the nine-carriage sets were ordered to operate a new service from London St Pancras to Leeds via Nottingham and the Erewash Valley Line.[3] When the Strategic Rail Authority ruled that there was not enough demand for this service, the nine-carriage sets were left sitting idle[15][16] until eventually they were put into use on the services between Nottingham/Sheffield and London St Pancras from July 2005, releasing one HST for hire to First Great Western while it refurbished its fleet and two other HSTs to GNER to allow that operator to run extra services to Leeds from May 2007.[17]

As the nine-carriage Meridians were lightly loaded while the four-carriage sets were overcrowded, it was decided in 2006 to reduce all of the nine-carriage sets to eight carriages, the removed carriages then being used to extend seven of the four-carriage sets to five carriages.[18] A further reconfiguration of the Meridians took place in 2008, shortly after East Midlands Trains took over Midland Mainline's services, when six of the eight-carriage sets were reduced to seven carriages and the remaining set was reduced to five carriages, allowing all nine of the remaining four-carriage sets to be extended to five carriages.[19]

To operate the Project Rio services to Manchester Piccadilly, 23 HST power cars and associated Mark 3 carriages were transferred from Virgin CrossCountry in May 2003.[20] Whilst these were undergoing overhaul, a First Great Western HST was hired from May 2003 until February 2004.[21] When Project Rio concluded in September 2004, some were transferred to First Great Western and GNER, while others went into store.[9]

Midland Mainline's fleet consisted of the following trains at the time they ceased operating:

Final fleet

Class Image Type Top speed Quantity Routes operated Built
 mph   km/h 
Class 43
MML43035 at Nottingham 2005-10-14 01.jpg
Diesel locomotive 125 200 31 Midland Main Line 1976–1982
Class 222 Meridian
MML222009 at Nottingham 2005-11-14 02.jpg
Diesel multiple unit 23 2003–2005
Mark 3 carriage
British Rail Mk 3 42051 at Kings Cross.jpg
Passenger carriage 1975–1982

Previous fleet

Class Image Type Top speed Quantity Routes operated Built Left fleet
 mph   km/h 
Class 170 Turbostar
170110 and 170117 at Derby.JPG
Diesel multiple unit 100 160 17 Midland Main Line 1999 2004


London St Pancras, Wellingborough, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester, Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield.

Luton Airport Parkway, Luton, Bedford Midland, Loughborough, Long Eaton, Willington, Burton upon Trent, Beeston, Nottingham, Langley Mill, Alfreton, Dronfield, Meadowhall, Barnsley, Doncaster, Wakefield Westgate, Leeds, York, Scarborough.

Duffield, Ambergate, Whatstandwell, Cromford, Matlock Bath, Matlock, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly.


Midland Mainline's HSTs were maintained at Neville Hill with the rest of the fleet at Derby Etches Park.


An East Midlands Trains liveried Class 222 Meridian at Derby

As part of a redrawing of the rail franchise map from November 2007, the Midland Mainline franchise was combined with some Central Trains services into a new East Midlands franchise.[22]

In September 2006 the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that National Express, Arriva, FirstGroup and Stagecoach had been shortlisted to bid for the new franchise.[23][24] In June 2007 the DfT awarded the franchise to Stagecoach, with the services operated by Midland Mainline transferring to East Midlands Trains on 11 November 2007.[25]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007934 Midland Main Line Limited
  2. ^ Statement re Midland Mainline Shadow Strategic Rail Authority 10 August 2000
  3. ^ a b c d e f National Rail Timetable 20 May - 8 December 2007 Network Rail
  4. ^ a b "MML serves 6 new stations" Rail Magazine issue 355 21 April 1999 page 355
  5. ^ "MML re-launches" Railway Magazine October 1996 page 8
  6. ^ a b "Midland Mainline run to Scarborough this summer" Rail Magazine issue 384 14 June 2000 page 4
  7. ^ "Mistimed, daunting...but still a top table" Rail Magazine issue 502 8 December 2004 page 36
  8. ^ Project Rio: Network Licence Conditions 12 and 13 - Consent of the Regulator Office of the Rail Regulator 16 May 2003
  9. ^ a b Privatisation 1993 - 2005 125 Group
  10. ^ "14 October 1997 - Midland Mainline orders more trains". National Express. 14 October 1997.
  11. ^ Rail Magazine issue 430 6 March 2002 page 12
  12. ^ Rail Magazine issue 447 30 October 2002 page 55
  13. ^ "Rail firm orders 23 new trains". BBC News. 14 February 2002. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  14. ^ Rail Magazine issue 489 9 June 2004 page 6
  15. ^ "New train fleet left sitting idle". BBC News. 29 October 2004. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  16. ^ Rail Magazine issue 485 14 April 2004 page 12
  17. ^ Class 222 Meridian / Pioneer Railway UK website
  18. ^ MML creates eight-car Meridians The Railway Magazine issue 1268 December 2006 page 8
  19. ^ EMT continues its shuffle of Class 222 vehicles Rail Express issue 145 June 2008 page 53
  20. ^ Rail Magazine issue 465 9 July 2003 page 40
  21. ^ Rail Magazine issue 463 11 June 2003 age 406
  22. ^ Central Trains franchise extended BBC News 2 April 2006
  23. ^ Hong Kong bid to run Midland trains The Telegraph 19 September 2006
  24. ^ Davidson, Ros (19 September 2006). "Virgin prepares for rail franchise battle". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  25. ^ Department for Transport announces winner of East Midlands franchise Archived 2007-12-11 at the Wayback Machine Department for Transport 22 June 2007

Further reading

Preceded byInterCityAs part of British Rail Operator of Midland Main Line franchise 1996–2007 Succeeded byEast Midlands TrainsEast Midlands franchise