|Stations called at||474|
|Parent company||DfT OLR Holdings|
|Dates of operation||1 March 2020– 1 March 2025|
|Predecessor||Arriva Rail North|
Northern Trains, trading as Northern, is a publicly owned train operating company in England. It is 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 to 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 2022–2023 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. 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. Later in 2018 performance continued to suffer, with many passengers protesting and a reduced service on Saturdays due to industrial action. 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.
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". 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. 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".
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. 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".
By mid-2020, Northern had considerably curtailed its services in response to the significant decline of passenger travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.
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. The contract was updated in 2022, to run until 1 March 2025.
Northern is one of several train operators impacted by the 2022–2023 United Kingdom railway strikes, which are the first national rail strikes in the UK for three decades. Its workers are amongst those who voted to take industrial action due a dispute over pay and working conditions. 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.
Northern took over all the services operated by Arriva Rail North on 1 March 2020.
Below is a simplified list of frequent Monday to Saturday off-peak services, as of May 2023 timetables. Due to the extensive nature of the network, it has been split by region, then majority rail line.
|Tyne Valley, Durham Coast, Esk Valley Lines and East Coast Main Line|
|Carlisle to Newcastle||1|
|Carlisle to Morpeth||1|
|Hexham to Nunthorpe||1|
|Middlesbrough to Whitby||1⁄4|
|Darlington to Newcastle||1tpd|
|Tees Valley Line|
|Saltburn to Darlington||1|
|Saltburn to Bishop Auckland||1|
|Furness, Windermere and Cumbrian Coast lines|
|Manchester Airport to Barrow-in-Furness||1|
|Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle||1|
|Oxenholme Lake District to Windermere||1|
|Morecambe branch line|
|Lancaster to Morecambe||1||Bare Lane|
|Liverpool–Wigan and Blackpool branch lines|
|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|
|Preston to Colne||1|
|Ormskirk to Preston||1|
|Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Oxford Road||1|
|Liverpool Lime Street to Warrington Central||1|
|Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport||1|
|Warrington Bank Quay to Liverpool Lime Street||1tpd|
|Ellesmere Port to Helsby||2tpd|
|Crewe-Manchester, Mid-Cheshire, Stafford–Manchester, and Buxton lines|
|Manchester Piccadilly to Crewe||1|
|Manchester Piccadilly to Alderley Edge||1|
|Manchester Piccadilly to Chester||1|
|Manchester Piccadilly to Stoke-on-Trent||1|
|Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton||1|
|Manchester Piccadilly to Hazel Grove||1|
|Glossop and Hope Valley lines|
|Manchester Piccadilly to Hadfield||2|
|Manchester Piccadilly to Rose Hill Marple||4⁄3|
|Manchester Piccadilly to New Mills Central||1|
|Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield||1|
|Manchester–Southport and Kirkby branch lines|
|Southport to Manchester Oxford Road||1|
|Southport to Stalybridge||1|
|Kirkby to Blackburn||1|
|Ribble Valley line|
|Blackburn to Rochdale||1|
|Clitheroe to Rochdale||1|
|Castleford to Huddersfield||4tpd|
|Bradford Interchange to Huddersfield||1⁄2|
|Wharfdale and Airedale lines|
|Leeds to Bradford Forster Square||2|
|Leeds to Ilkley||2|
|Bradford Forster Square to Ilkley||2|
|Leeds to Skipton||2|
|Bradford Forster Square to Skipton||2|
|Leeds to York via Harrogate||2|
|Leeds to Knottingley via Castleford||1|
|Leeds to Knottingley via Streethouse||1|
|Leeds to Doncaster||1|
|Leeds to Sheffield via Wakefield Westgate||1|
|Sheffield to Huddersfield||1|
|Leeds to Sheffield via Castleford||1|
|Leeds to Nottingham||1|
|Leeds to Lincoln||1|
|Sheffield to Cleethorpes||1tpd|
See #Parliamentary services below for more.
|York and Selby Lines|
|Leeds to York via Cross Gates||1|
|Halifax to Hull||1|
|South Humberside Main Line, Dearne Valley Line and Yorkshire Coast line|
|Doncaster to Scunthorpe||1⁄2|
|Sheffield to Adwick||1|
|Sheffield to York||3tpd|
|Doncaster to Hull||1|
|Sheffield to Scarborough||1|
|Bridlington to York||1|
|Settle to Carlisle and Leeds to Morecambe|
|Leeds to Carlisle||1⁄2|
|Leeds to Morecambe||1⁄2|
|Calder Valley line|
|York to Blackpool North||1|
|Leeds to Manchester Victoria||1|
|Leeds to Wigan Wallgate||1|
|Leeds to Chester||1|
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. From 1992 until 2018, this service ran once weekly.
Multiple campaigns were conducted to request increase in services to the line, but in 2022, Transport for Greater Manchester published two surveys in relation to the line.
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. The service was suspended between January and October 2022 due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.
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. All Class 153s were sent to storage by December 2021. 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, although they were renumbered back to 156/4s before the transfer. For the December timetable change in 2022, five more Class 156 units were transferred. The final Class 156 units were delivered in May 2023.
|Diesel multiple units|
Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and Derbyshire
|155 Super Sprinter||7||2||
York, Leeds, Hull and Scarborough
|156 Super Sprinter||65||2||North East, Cumbrian Coast, Lancashire and Cumbria, Merseyside and Cheshire||1987–1989|
|158 Express Sprinter||90||145||45||2||South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Fylde Coast, North Yorkshire and the North East||1990–1992|
|Bombardier Turbostar||170||100||161||16||3||Scarborough - Sheffield, Leeds - York via Harrogate||2003–2005|
Manchester - Derbyshire, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds and Barrow in Furness, York - Blackpool, Windermere and Chester - Leeds
|Electric multiple units|
|BR Second Generation (Mark 3)||319||EMU||100||161||12||4||Liverpool - Wigan and Blackpool.||1990|
|Hunslet Transportation Projects/Holec||323||90||145||17||3||Manchester-Hadfield, Manchester-Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester-Crewe, and Liverpool-Manchester Airport||1992–1995|
Blackpool North - Manchester Airport, Liverpool, Leeds - Skipton, Bradford Forster Square, Doncaster, Ilkley, Bradford Forster Square - Skipton, Ilkley
|CAF/Siemens Transportation Systems||333||16||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||4||Southport - Manchester Oxford Road and Stalybridge||2017–2020 (1987–1988 as Class 319)|
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.
17 Class 323s are to be transferred from West Midlands Trains. This will result in the withdrawal of all Class 319 units.
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Carriages||Routes||Built||In service|
|Electric multiple units|
|323||EMU||90||145||17||3||Electrified commuter services in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Merseyside||1992–1995||2024|
Former train types operated by Northern include:
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Carriages||Routes||Notes||Built||Left fleet|
|142 Pacer||DMU||75||121||79||2||Local and commuter
services across the North
|153 Super Sprinter||17||1||Replaced by Class 150 units, later sent to storage||1987–1988||2020–2021|
services in West Yorkshire
|Replaced by Class 331 units||1991||2020|
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 (conductors), Newcastle, Sheffield, Skipton, Wigan Wallgate, Workington and York.
Northern's fleet is maintained at depots listed in the table below:
|Allerton TMD||08, 319, 323, 331, 769||150, 156, 195||Liverpool South Parkway|
|Blackburn King Street TMD||None||150, 156, 195||Blackburn|
|Botanic Gardens TMD||None||155, 158, 170||Hull Paragon|
|Heaton TMD||156, 158||Manors|
|Newton Heath TMD||150, 156, 195||158, 769||Moston|
|Neville Hill TMD||08, 150, 155, 158, 170, 331, 333||195||Leeds|
|Wigan Springs Branch TMD||None||158, 195, 319, 331, 769||Wigan North Western|
Q: What are Northern Trains Limited's plans for the franchise? Our initial priority is to continue to stabilise performance across the region and restore reliability for customers. We will then explore opportunities to improve the experience for customers.