A Northern Class 331 in November 2023 at Stoke-on-Trent
Main region(s)
Other region(s)
Fleet size368[4]
Stations called at474[5]
Parent companyDfT OLR Holdings
Reporting markNT[1]
Dates of operation1 March 2020 (2020-03-01) – 1 March 2025 (2025-03-01)[2]
PredecessorArriva Rail North
Other Edit this at Wikidata
Route map

Northern Trains,[6] trading as Northern, is a British train operating company owned by DfT OLR Holdings for the Department for Transport (DfT), after the previous operator Arriva Rail North had its franchise terminated at the end of February 2020.

The company commenced operating the Northern franchise on 1 March 2020, taking over from Arriva Rail North. The prior operator had its franchise terminated early by the DfT in January 2020 amid widespread dissatisfaction over its performance, particularly in respect of poorly implemented timetable changes. The DfT had opted to hand the operation of the franchise over to the operator of last resort. At the commencement of operations, Northern publicly stated that its immediate aims were to improve service reliability and to proceed with the introduction of new rolling stock. For the latter, both the Class 195 diesel multiple units and Class 331 electric multiple units were brought into service fully during December 2020.

Services have been disrupted by wider events, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic. Northern is also being impacted by the 2022–2024 United Kingdom railway strikes, the largest national rail strikes in the UK in three decades.



In December 2015, the Department for Transport (DfT) awarded Arriva a contract to operate the Northern franchise as Arriva Rail North. It commenced in April 2016 and was originally scheduled to run until March 2025.[7][8] Within two years, the franchise was being widely criticised, in particular for troubled implementation of a new timetable in May 2018 that resulted in widespread delays and cancellations.[9][10] Later in 2018 performance continued to suffer, with many passengers protesting and a reduced service on Saturdays due to industrial action.[11][12][13][14] By November 2018, Arriva were re-evaluating their future involvement in the franchise due to a combination of declining passenger numbers as a result of the chaotic May 2018 timetable change and increasing compensation claims as a result of falling punctuality.[15]

In June 2019, the DfT's operator of last resort, DfT OLR Holdings, conducted due diligence into the franchise believing the both operational and financial performance to be "unsustainable".[16] In October 2019, the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, issued a request for proposals to incumbent operator Arriva and the operator of last resort, which would result in termination of the franchise with either Arriva to be awarded a short-term management contract or the operator of last resort to take over.[17] In January 2020, Shapps publicly criticised Arriva's operation of the Northern franchise and suggested that the Government may step in to revoke its franchise agreement, bluntly referring to the service as "completely unacceptable".[18]

On 29 January 2020, the DfT announced its decision to terminate Arriva Rail North as operator of the franchise, to be taken over by the DfT's operator of last resort.[19][20][21] This was the first time that a franchise has been removed from a train operating company due to poor performance since Connex South Eastern in 2003. On 1 March 2020, the franchise became directly operated by DfT OLR Holdings with the stated objective to "stabilise performance and restore reliability for passengers".[22][23]

Changes and events

By mid-2020, Northern had considerably curtailed its services in response to the significant decline of passenger travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[24][25] From 15 June 2020, both passengers and staff on public transport in England, including Northern services, were required to wear face coverings while travelling, and that anyone failing to do so would be liable to be refused travel or fined.[26][27]

In 2021 Northern was given a contract by the Department for Transport to run services for three years, with an optional extension of a further two years.[28] The contract was updated in 2022, to run until 1 March 2025.[2]

Northern is one of several train operators impacted by the 2022–2024 United Kingdom railway strikes, which are the first national rail strikes in the UK for three decades.[29] Its workers are amongst those who voted to take industrial action due a dispute over pay and working conditions.[30] Northern urged the travelling public to avoid travelling on its services on any of the planned dates for the strikes, being only capable of operating a minimal timetable due to the number of staff involved.[31][32]


Northern took over all the services operated by Arriva Rail North on 1 March 2020.

Table of off-peak services

Below is a simplified list of frequent Monday to Saturday off-peak services, as of December 2023 timetables.[33] Due to the extensive nature of the network, it has been split by region, then majority rail line. One of the changes to the December timetable is the four trains per day service between Huddersfield and Castleford (which was frequently run as a bus rail replacement service), has been moved to TransPennine Express, and extended to start at Manchester Piccadilly, and run to York via Castleford.[34]

North East

Tyne Valley, Durham Coast, Esk Valley Lines and East Coast Main Line
Route tph Calling at
Carlisle to Newcastle 1
Carlisle to Morpeth 1
Hexham to Nunthorpe 1
Middlesbrough to Whitby 14
Darlington to Newcastle 1tpd
Tees Valley Line
Route tph Calling at
Saltburn to Darlington 1
Saltburn to Bishop Auckland 1

North West

Furness, Windermere and Cumbrian Coast lines
Route tph Calling at
Manchester Airport to Barrow-in-Furness 1
  • 4 trains per day each run as Manchester Airport to Windermere, and Lancaster to Carlisle, services instead.
Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle 1
  • 4 trains per day run as Lancaster to Carlisle services
Oxenholme Lake District to Windermere 1
  • 4 trains per day run as Manchester Airport to Windermere services
Morecambe branch line
Route tph Calling at
Lancaster to Morecambe 1 Bare Lane
  • Hourly service supplemented/modified by additional trains from Leeds.
  • 1 train per day extends to Heysham Port.
Liverpool–Wigan and Blackpool branch lines
Route tph Calling at
Liverpool Lime Street to Wigan North Western 2
Liverpool Lime Street to Blackpool North 1
Manchester Airport to Blackpool North 2
Preston to Blackpool South 1
East Lancashire and Ormskirk branch lines
Route tph Calling at
Preston to Colne 1
Ormskirk to Preston 1
Liverpool–Manchester lines
Route tph Calling at
Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Oxford Road 1
  • Most trains either call at Glazebrook and Chassen Road or Humphrey Park and Trafford Park.
Liverpool Lime Street to Warrington Central 1
Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 1
Warrington Bank Quay to Liverpool Lime Street 1tpd
  • westbound only
Ellesmere Port to Helsby 2tpd
Crewe-Manchester, Mid-Cheshire, Stafford–Manchester, and Buxton lines
Route tph Calling at
Manchester Piccadilly to Crewe 1
Manchester Piccadilly to Alderley Edge 1
  • Levenshulme, Heaton Chapel, Stockport, Cheadle Hulme, Handforth, Wilmslow
Manchester Piccadilly to Chester 1
Manchester Piccadilly to Stoke-on-Trent 1
Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton 1
  • Services either call at Middlewood or Dove Holes.
Manchester Piccadilly to Hazel Grove 1
  • Levenshulme, Heaton Chapel, Stockport, Davenport, Woodsmoor
Glossop and Hope Valley lines
Route tph Calling at
Manchester Piccadilly to Hadfield 2
Manchester Piccadilly to Rose Hill Marple 43
Manchester Piccadilly to New Mills Central 1
Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield 1
Manchester–Southport and Kirkby branch lines
Route tph Calling at
Southport to Manchester Oxford Road 1
Southport to Stalybridge 1
Headbolt Lane to Blackburn 1
Ribble Valley line
Route tph Calling at
Blackburn to Rochdale 1
Clitheroe to Rochdale 1

Yorkshire and the Humber

Huddersfield Line
Route tph Calling at
Bradford Interchange to Huddersfield 1
Wharfedale and Airedale lines
Route tph Calling at
Leeds to Bradford Forster Square 2
Leeds to Ilkley 2
Bradford Forster Square to Ilkley 2
  • Frizinghall, Shipley, Baildon, Guiseley, Menston, Burley-in-Wharfedale, Ben Rhydding
Leeds to Skipton 2
Bradford Forster Square to Skipton 2
  • Frizinghall, Shipley, Saltaire, Bingley, Crossflatts, Keighley, Steeton & Silsden, Cononley
Harrogate Line
Route tph Calling at
Leeds to York via Harrogate 2
Pontefract Line
Route tph Calling at
Leeds to Knottingley via Castleford 1
Leeds to Knottingley via Streethouse 1
Wakefield Line
Route tph Calling at
Leeds to Doncaster 1
Leeds to Sheffield via Wakefield Westgate 1
Penistone Line
Route tph Calling at
Sheffield to Huddersfield 1
Hallam Line
Route tph Calling at
Leeds to Sheffield via Castleford 1
Leeds to Nottingham 1
Sheffield–Lincoln line
Route tph Calling at
Leeds to Lincoln 1
Sheffield to Cleethorpes 1tpd .
See #Parliamentary services below for more.
York and Selby Lines
Route tph Calling at
Leeds to York via Cross Gates 1
Halifax to Hull Paragon 1
South Humberside Main Line, Dearne Valley Line and Yorkshire Coast line
Route tph Calling at
Doncaster to Scunthorpe 12
Sheffield to Adwick 1
Sheffield to York 3tpd
Doncaster to Hull Paragon 1
Sheffield to Scarborough 1
Bridlington to York 1
  • Nafferton, Driffield, Hutton Cranswick, Beverley, Cottingham, Hull Paragon, Brough, Gilberdyke, Howden, Selby, Sherburn-in-Elmet (1tp2h), Church Fenton (1tp2h)
Settle to Carlisle and Leeds to Morecambe
Route tph Calling at
Leeds to Carlisle 12
Leeds to Morecambe 12
Calder Valley line
Route tph Calling at
York to Blackpool North 1
Leeds to Manchester Victoria 1
Leeds to Wigan Wallgate 1
Leeds to Chester 1
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Request stop

Parliamentary services

Main article: Parliamentary train

Twice weekly on Saturday mornings, once in each direction, Northern operates a parliamentary train on the Stockport–Stalybridge line between Stockport and Stalybridge calling at Reddish South, Denton, and Guide Bridge.[35][36] From 1992 until 2018, this service ran once weekly.[37]

Multiple campaigns were conducted to request increase in services to the line,[38] but in 2022, Transport for Greater Manchester published two surveys in relation to the line.[39]

As of May 2023, there is one train per day between Sheffield and Cleethorpes, via Gainsborough Central and Brigg. This service runs on weekdays only.[40] The service was suspended between January and October 2022 due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.[41] Between October 1993 and May 2023, this service ran on Saturdays only, but had three trains each way and on weekdays, a few peak services terminated at Gainsborough Central.

Rolling stock

Northern took over all of the rolling stock operated by its predecessor, namely Class 142, 144, 150, 153, 155, 156, 158, 170 and 195 diesel multiple units and Class 319, 321, 322, 323, 331 and 333 electric multiple units. All Class 321 and 322 units were withdrawn in mid-2020 and moved to Greater Anglia.[42] All Class 153s were sent to storage by December 2021.[43] 23 Class 156 units were transferred from East Midlands Railway, which includes eight of the nine Class 156/9 units formerly used by Greater Anglia,[44] although they were renumbered back to 156/4s before the transfer.[45] For the December timetable change in 2022, five more Class 156 units were transferred.[46] The final Class 156 units were delivered in May 2023.[47] The Class 319s were withdrawn on 2 January 2024.[48]

Current fleet

Family Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Routes Built
mph km/h
Diesel multiple units
Sprinter 150 DMU 75 121 6[49] 3 Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and Derbyshire[50] 1984–1987
69[49] 2 1985–1987
155 Super Sprinter 7[28] 2 York, Leeds, Hull Paragon and Scarborough[50] 1987–1988
156 Super Sprinter 66[4] 2 North East, Cumbrian Coast, Lancashire and Cumbria, Merseyside and Cheshire[50] 1987–1989
158 Express Sprinter 90 145 45[49] 2 South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Fylde Coast, North Yorkshire and the North East[50] 1990–1992
8[49] 3
Bombardier Turbostar 170 100 161 16[28] 3 Scarborough - Sheffield, Leeds - York via Harrogate[50] 2003–2005
CAF Civity 195 25[4] 2 Manchester - Derbyshire, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds and Barrow in Furness, York - Blackpool, Windermere and Chester - Leeds[50] 2017–2020
33[4] 3
Electric multiple units
Hunslet Transportation Projects/Holec[51] 323 EMU 90 145 21[52] 3 Manchester-Hadfield, Manchester-Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester-Crewe, and Liverpool-Manchester Airport[50] 1992–1995
CAF Civity 331 100 161 31[4] 3 Blackpool North - Manchester Airport, Liverpool, Leeds - Skipton, Bradford Forster Square, Doncaster, Ilkley, Bradford Forster Square - Skipton, Ilkley 2017–2020
12[4] 4 Electric services in the North West.[53]
CAF/Siemens Transportation Systems 333 16[28] 4 Leeds - Bradford Forster Square, Skipton, Ilkley,
Bradford Forster Square - Skipton, Ilkley
Bi-mode multiple units
BR Second Generation (Mark 3) 769 Flex
BMU 100 161 8[54] 4 Southport - Manchester Oxford Road and Stalybridge 2017–2020 (1987–1988 as Class 319)

Future fleet

In August 2023, Northern issued a tender to acquire a contract for up to 450 new trains to replace the older rolling stock in their fleet.[55]

In 2024 Northern issued a tender for up to 329 new trains.[49]

17 Class 323s are to be transferred from West Midlands Trains.[56][57]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Routes Built In service
mph km/h
Electric multiple units
323[58] EMU 90 145 17 3 Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Merseyside 1992–1995 2024[59]

Past fleet

Former train types operated by Northern include:

Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Routes Notes Built Left fleet
mph km/h
142 Pacer DMU 75 121 79 2 Local and commuter

services across the North

Replaced by Class 150, Class 156, Class 158, Class 170, and Class 195 units.

1985–1987 2020
144 Pacer 23 1986–1987
153 Super Sprinter 17 1 Replaced by Class 150 units, later sent to storage[43] 1987–1988 2020–2021
Class 319/3 EMU 100 161 19 4 Electrified commuter

services in the North West

Replaced by Class 331 units.[48] 1990 2024[48]
3 Electrified commuter

services in West Yorkshire

Replaced by Class 331 units 1991 2020
322 5 1990


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (May 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Northern currently has depots for its train crew at Ashington (conductors),[60] Barrow-in-Furness,[61] Blackburn,[61] Blackpool North, Buxton, Carlisle, Darlington[61] (drivers), Doncaster, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Hull Paragon, Liverpool Lime Street, Leeds,[61] Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria,[62] Middlesbrough (conductors), Newcastle,[61]Sheffield, Skipton, Wigan Wallgate, Workington[61] and York.[61]

Northern's fleet is maintained at depots listed in the table below:

Depot Allocation Servicing Nearest station
Allerton TMD 08, 323,[63] 331, 769 150, 156, 195 Liverpool South Parkway
Blackburn King Street TMD None 150, 156, 195 Blackburn
Botanic Gardens TMD 170[62] 155, 158 Hull Paragon
Heaton TMD 156, 158 Manors
Holbeck TMD None 150, 158, 195 Leeds
Newton Heath TMD 150, 156, 195 158, 769 Moston
Neville Hill TMD 08, 150, 155, 158, 170, 331, 333[64] 195 Leeds
Wigan Springs Branch TMD None 158, 195, 331, 769 Wigan North Western


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  64. ^ Pickering, Graeme (May 2024). "Neville Hill
    125 years old and still evolving". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 170, no. 1478. pp. 47–51.
Preceded byArriva Rail North Operator of Northern franchise 2020 - Succeeded byIncumbent