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British Rail was the brand image of the nationalised railway owner and operator in Great Britainmarker, the British Railways Board, used from its formation in 1965, until its breakup and sell-off from 1993 onwards.

From an initial standardised corporate image, several sub-brands emerged for marketing purposes, and later in preparation for privatisation. These brands covered rail networks, customers services, and several classes of new trains.

With the size of British Rail's fleet, due to the time required to repaint rolling stock, in terms of the physical trains brand switchovers could be lengthy affairs lasting years. This worsened into privatisation, with the same services often using 3 or 4 different liveries.

Following privatisation, several of the brands disappeared, although some such as ScotRail, Merseyrail, Eurostar and Freightliner remain. Some privatised train operating companies have since introduced their own brands along the same lines, such as, Midland Mainline's "Meridian" trains, and the Virgin Trains "Voyager" services).

The iconic double-arrow symbol introduced with the creation of the British Rail brand remains post-privatisation, as a unifying branding device for the privatised National Rail network, used on most tickets, stations and publicity, but not trains.

Timeline of brands

Under the Transport Act 1962, responsibility for the state railway operation, British Railways, was transferred from being a trade name and subsidiary of the British Transport Commission, to a separate public corporation, under the British Railways Board.

As the last steam locomotives were being withdrawn (completed in 1968) under the 1955 Modernisation Plan, the corporation's public name was re-branded in 1965 as British Rail, which introduced the double-arrow symbol, a standard typeface (named "Rail Alphabet") and the BR blue livery, applied to nearly all locomotives and rolling stock.

The first major BR sub-brand to appear was InterCity brand. This was augmented with the InterCity 125 brand in 1976, in conjunction with the introduction of the InterCity 125 High Speed Train.

In the 1980s under 'sectorisation', the BR Blue identity was phased out, as the organisation was converted from a regional structure to a sector based structure. The Intercity brand was relaunched, and new passenger brands Network SouthEast and Regional Railways introduced, with these divisions also introducing many sub-brands. Freight operations were split into the Trainload Freight, Railfreight Distribution and Rail Express Systems sectors.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, new multiple-unit train designs being introduced to replace rolling stock also brought new brand names, often linked to other branding exercises, such as the Networker built for Network SouthEast.

In the 1990s, BR created the European Passenger Services (EPS) division, to run passenger services through the Channel Tunnelmarker, under the Eurostar brand. After construction delays, this was operated from 1994, until it passed to the London and Continental Railways consortium in 1996 as Eurostar Ltd..

In preparation for privatisation, the freight sectors were further split into smaller business units, as regional splits of Trainload Freight, or further splits along customer market, such as inter-modal traffic, each with their own branding. With almost all freight businesses going straight to EWS, most of these brands were short lived.

List of brands


  • Island Line - passenger services on the Isle of Wight (Ryde - Shanklin) from 1989. Part of Network SouthEast.
  • Merseyrail - passenger service brand for Merseyside.
  • Network NorthWest - passenger service brand paralleling "Network SouthEast" for Greater Manchester and Lancashire in the early 1990s as part of Regional Railways.
  • Network SouthEast (originally London & South East) - commuter and medium-distance trains operating in an area bounded roughly by King's Lynn, Peterborough, Worcester, Bedwyn, Exeter and Weymouth and including the Waterloo & City Line now part of London Underground
  • Regional Railways (originally Provincial) - other passenger services in England and Wales, often suffixed by a regional description, e.g. Regional Railways North West
  • Ryde Rail - passenger services on the Isle of Wight (Ryde - Shanklin) 1985-1989. Part of Network SouthEast from 1987.
  • ScotRail - passenger services within Scotland (officially part of Regional Railways, but with a distinct identity)
  • Tynerail and Tynerider - passenger service brand for Tyneside (pre-Metro).

Express passenger services

  • Alphaline - a sub-brand of Regional Railways, for regional express services on secondary routes, operated using 90mph Class 158 trains, complementing the InterCity network.
  • Eurostar - International high speed passenger trains from London-Paris/Brussels through the Channel Tunnelmarker using Network SouthEast tracks in Britain.
  • InterCity - high-speed express trains between major towns and cities

Other services

  • Motorail - long-distance passenger services that also carried cars (operated as part of InterCity)
  • Pullman - First Class carriages in InterCity trains offering a full at-seat catering service (mainly marketed to business travellers)
  • Railair - through ticketing service for coach links to airports.
  • Sealink - ferry services.

Freight Services

Rolling stock classes

Brand Name Unit Classes
Diesel Units
Blue Pullman 251
Trans-Pennine 124
Heritage 100 to 131
Intercity 125 (or High Speed Train) 253, 254
Pacer (or Skipper on Western Region) 140, 141, 142, 143, 144
Sprinter-family Sprinter 150
Super-Sprinter 153, 155, 156
'Express-Sprinter' or 'Express' 158,
South Western Turbo 159 (Network SouthEast)
Turbo-family Network Turbo 165
Network Express Turbo 166
Clubman 168
Electric Units
Advanced Passenger Train 370
Blue Train 303, 311
Clacton Express 309
Eurostar 373
InterCity 225* 91 and Mark 4 hauled coaching stock
Networker 365, 465, 466
Wessex Electric 442
The Clubman was never operated by British Rail. Network SouthEast planned it was their new service to Birmingham (via the [[Chiltern Main Line]]) and nicknamed it the Clubman but privatisation intervened. New private operators, [[Chiltern Railways]] (former Chiltern Line managers) ordered 5 [[British Rail Class 168|168/0s]], which were only cosmetically different to the units planned by NSE, in 1996. * The InterCity 225 is not a multiple unit - sets are made up of a single Class 91 electric locomotive, 9 Mark 4 coaches and a Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer.


Image:NSE signs and old BR blue EMU at Farnborough North.jpg|Farnborough North railway stationmarker in the transitional period from BR Blue (the train) to Network SouthEast (the signage and sticker on the front of the train)Image:Brclass91iclivery.jpg|Intercity 225 set in the famous Swallow liveryImage:NSE_Class 47s.jpg|Class 47s sporting in Network SouthEast LiveryImage:150231 'King_Edmund' at Cambridge.jpg|Class 150 Sprinter painted in Regional Railways livery


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