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First TransPennine Express is a train operating company in the United Kingdommarker. It is a joint operation between First Group (55%) and Keolis (45%). It operates regular services in the north including services linking the west and east coasts of England across the Pennines. The franchise will run for eight years with an optional extension of five years.

The original service and brand name TransPennine Express was launched in late 1998 by Northern Spirit, and maintained by its successor, Arriva Trains Northern. On 1 February 2004, the service became a separate franchise, also incorporating the Manchester Airportmarker to Cumbriamarker and Lakelines (Oxenholme to Windermere) routes from First North Western but minus the Bradfordmarker to Blackpoolmarker service. TransPennine Express later took over the Manchester Airportmarker to Blackpoolmarker service.

First TransPennine Express is one of the few train operating companies in the United Kingdom running 24 hours a day, including through New Year's Eve night. For example, trains run between Yorkmarker, Leedsmarker and Manchester Airportmarker at least every three hours every night of the week.


First TransPennine Express services are split into three routes:

North TransPennine

The core route between Manchester Piccadillymarker and Leedsmarker sees four trains per hour between the two cities. This is made up of an hourly Liverpool Lime Streetmarker to Scarboroughmarker service, an hourly Manchester Airportmarker to Newcastlemarker service, an hourly Manchester Airport to Middlesbroughmarker service and an hourly Manchester Piccadilly to Hullmarker service. The Huddersfieldmarker to Leeds section is the busiest section on any TransPennine Express service.

The Manchester to Liverpool section is supplemented by East Midlands Trains' hourly service from Norwichmarker and a Northern Rail hourly Liverpool to Manchester Airport express service (which runs via Newton-le-Willowsmarker rather than Warringtonmarker), thus giving three fast services between Manchester and Liverpool per hour. Similarly, the service between Leeds and Newcastle is boosted by an hourly CrossCountry service; York to Newcastle is also supplemented by National Express East Coast and CrossCountry services.

Under the previous franchise, Newcastle services used to continue to Sunderlandmarker. When First and Keolis first took over the service they extended the Manchester to Hull service to Bridlingtonmarker, a decision which has since been reversed.

South TransPennine

An hourly service operates from Manchester Airport to Cleethorpesmarker via Manchester Piccadilly, Stockportmarker, Sheffieldmarker, Doncastermarker and Scunthorpemarker. The Manchester to Sheffield sector is supplemented by East Midlands Trains hourly Liverpool to Norwich service, thus giving a half hourly fast service frequency between Manchester and Sheffield.

Transpennine North West

North West services are further split into Blackpool and Cumbria/Scotland routes.


First TransPennine Express now run an hourly service from Manchester Airport and Blackpool.Northern Rail also run an hourly Manchester Victoria-Blackpool North service.

Transpennine Cumbria & Scotland

First TransPennine Express took over the Manchester Airportmarker to Blackpoolmarker, Barrow-in-Furnessmarker and Windermeremarker services from First North Western. They reduced the number of stops which some trains made, to make them more of an express service.

In December 2007 TransPennine Express axed the two hourly service between Manchester Airport and Windermere. Windermere trains now start and terminate at Preston or are joined to another service between Manchester Airport and Preston, though the latter is less common. There is still, however, an hourly service between Oxenholme and Windermere and a two hourly service between Manchester Airport and Barrow-in-Furness.

TransPennine Express also took over the route between Manchester Airport and Edinburgh/Glasgow (formerly operated by Virgin CrossCountry). These trains run in the time slot that the Windermere service used to have and call at more stations than the Virgin service to help compensate for the loss of the Windermere service. Because the Class 185s are smaller and have a lower top speed than the previous Voyagers and fewer trains run overall, trains are susceptible to overcrowding. Whilst the 185s have a lower top speed, the actual increase in journey time on Scottish services is minimal as the length of stops at stations such as Preston and Lancaster has been reduced.

Rolling stock

The First Class interior of Class 185 DMCO vehicle.
The Standard Class interior of Class 185 MSO vehicle.

The franchise is operated with Class 185 and Class 170 diesel multiple units. When first created, the franchise operated a mixed fleet of Class 158 (inherited from Arriva Trains Northern) and Class 175 (originally from First North Western, but sub-leased from Arriva Trains Wales).

In March 2006 new three-car Class 185 units, constructed in Germany by Siemens, began to enter service and took over most services. A new depot at Ardwickmarker, about a mile east of Manchester Piccadilly was built as the base for the Class 185 fleet. A smaller depot, to provide stabling and lighter maintenance east of the Pennines, has been built at York and another at Cleethorpes. The Class 185 units were delivered in the First Group 'neon-style' livery. The "i" in the logo of Keolis is used as the 'i' in the TransPennine Express logo in addition to the FirstGroup 'flyling f' logo. The first eight units were sent over in First’s old livery, and were converted to the new one (see the photograph at the beginning of this article) using vinyl wrap. The arrival of the Class 185 allowed the Class 175 units to be returned to Arriva Trains Wales.

The Class 185 trains proved popular with off-peak travellers although these satisfaction levels decrease for passengers undertaking long-distance journeys and at peak-times.

Despite the 185s being bigger than 2 car 158s, 185s frequently leave passengers behind due to severe overcrowding at peak times. Projected passenger numbers will likely mean 100–125 mph 8 car units are needed by 2014.

It was planned to operate all services with the new Class 185 units. However, weight restrictions on the Hull-Leeds line mean the Class 185 units are limited to 65–75 mph (120 km/h) east of Micklefield. To solve this problem and create extra capacity across their network First TransPennine Express has started to take on a nine-strong fleet of lighter Class 170 Turbostar units, 8 of which were formerly used by South West Trains (SWT) on their Waterloo–Salisbury–Exeter services. In return SWT has received eleven surplus Class 158 units from TransPennine Express which will be upgraded to the same standard as SWT's Class 159 units. TransPennine Express have also since received one additional 170 (170309) formerly used by Central Trains, and numbered 170399 whilst there. The two-car Class 170 Turbostars are being used solely on Manchester-Hull services and have since been refurbished to include CCTV, plug sockets at table seats, replacement seat covers and an accessible toilet. They have also had 8 first class seats removed and had 13 standard class seats inserted in their place.

Currently (May 2009) a few Class 170-operated services run beyond the core Hull - Manchester route. One evening service from Hull works through to Liverpool Lime Street, and a later departure from Hull forms an evening service from Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Airport. They also work certain services from Manchester to Sheffield to enable Sheffield crews to retain traction knowledge, and on Sundays they often visit York. Only Hull, Sheffield and Manchester Piccadilly based train crews are trained to work class 170 stock, limiting their appearance on other routes.

The class 170s are maintained at Crofton depot, east of Wakefield, but may visit Ardwick on occasion for wheel turning, fuelling, or for emptying of the toilet waste tanks. However, none of the Ardwick depot drivers are trained to move them, and thus a TPE driver has to move them around the depot complex.

Whilst the class 170s initially suffered poor reliability, concerted efforts by maintenance staff at FTPE have raised their miles per casualty figures close to the levels recorded for the class 185 fleet.

As of September 2009, Class 170s now run on the South Transpennine route between Cleethorpes and Manchester Airport, limited to 2 diagrams per day Monday to Thursday with Friday being all Class 185s. Weekend wise, there are 2 trains each way on both days.

Current fleet

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
 mph   km/h 
Class 170 Turbostar Diesel Multiple Unit 100 160 9 Manchester Piccadilly - Hull routeManchester Airport - Cleethorpes route

Manchester Airport - Blackpool North route *4 cars
Class 185 Pennine Diesel Multiple Unit 100 160 51 All TransPennine routes 2006

Past fleet

 Class   Image   Type   Built   Withdrawn   Notes 
Class 158 Express Sprinter diesel multiple unit 1989 - 1992 2006 - 2007 Moved to Central Trains, First Great Western, South West Trains and Northern Rail
Class 175 Coradia diesel multiple unit 1999 - 2001 2006 Were subleased from Arriva Trains Wales.After the introduction of the Class 185, they returned to Arriva Trains Wales and are no longer subleased

Future fleet

TransPennine Express had maintained an ambition to increase its fleet capacity by adding an extra carriage to some or all of its Class 185 units. However, on December 22, 2008, the Department for Transport announced it had issued an invitation to tender for 200 new carriages to form diesel multiple units, some of which are for TransPennine Express, to Bombardier Transportation, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, Chinese Sourced Railway Equipment on behalf of CSR Nanjing Puzhen Rolling Stock, and Hyundai Rotem, with Siemens not included. The DfT expects to announce its preferred bidder in April 2009 and the units to enter service by 2012. The invitation to tender follows the issuing of a Contract Notice in the Official Journal of the European Union which outlined the scope of the contract to be the supply of between 200 and 250 new DMU vehicles with an option for a further 100. The Contract Notice specifies that those parties expressing in an interest must have the ability to design and manufacture DMUs which are 23 metres in length, capable of a maximum speed of , formed of 2, 3, and/or 4 cars, capable of operation in multiple, and gangwayed throughout, both within units and units in multiple.

On the 23 July 2009, the DfT announced that following the planned electrification of the Manchester to Liverpool line, services between Manchester and Scotland will be operated by four-carriage Class 350 electric multiple units which are currently operating services on the West Coast Main Line with London Midland from London Eustonmarker. This will enable the diesel trains currently used on the Manchester to Scotland services to be transferred onto other TransPennine Express routes.


The latest figures to be released by the ORR for the first quarter of the financial year 2009/10 were up on last year at 93.6% (PPM) and also up slightly for MAA at 90.6%. These figures are also above the sector level for this quarter.


  1. FTPE's website
  3. Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority
  4. ORR Statistics

External links

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