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Northern Rail (often referred to simply as Northern) is a train operating company that has operated local passenger services in the north of Englandmarker since 2004. Northern Rail's owner, Serco-NedRailways, is a consortium formed of NedRailways (the British unit of ) and Serco, an international operator of public transport systems. When it won the Northern England franchise, the consortium had already secured the contract to operate north-west England's Merseyrail network in 2003.


Serco-NedRailways was announced as the 'preferred bidder' for the Northern franchise by the Strategic Rail Authority on 1 July 2004, and signed the agreement to operate the franchise on 19 October. However, the new operators did not actually take over from the previous operators (First North Western and Arriva Trains Northern) until 12 December 2004. The reason for the delay was because Serco NedRailways assumed that some Class 142 Pacer trains would be freed up in the near future when Manchester Metrolink services started between Manchestermarker and Oldhammarker. Due to a substantial delay in extending the Metrolink, it was clear that this was not going to be the case.

Northern run a mix of commuter routes, rural routes and some longer distance services around Cheshiremarker, Co. Durham, Cumbriamarker, Greater Manchestermarker, Lancashiremarker, Merseyside, Northumberlandmarker, Tyne and Wear and Yorkshiremarker. Northern’s services also extend to the north Midland counties of Derbyshiremarker, Lincolnshiremarker, Nottinghamshiremarker and Staffordshire. Some services are supported by Passenger Transport Executives. In December 2008 the operator started an express service from Leeds to Nottingham calling at Wakefield Kirkgatemarker, Barnsleymarker, Sheffieldmarker, Dronfieldmarker, Chesterfieldmarker, Alfretonmarker, Langley Millmarker and Nottinghammarker.

The franchise is planned to run for a maximum of eight years and nine months, with the final two years subject to performance targets being achieved. The franchise does not require them to purchase or lease new trains.

Northern Rail won public transport operator of the year 2007 at the National Transport Awards and was praised by the judges for attracting 20% more passengers since 2004.


In the period 15 October 2009 to 14 November Northern’s punctuality was 91.1% and reliability was 92.2%. Northern's passengers charter targets are 91% for punctuality and 99% for reliability.

The franchise agreement commits to a 15% reduction in delays in the first five years and to a new 'incentive/penalty regime' and a more 'local focus on performance'.

The latest official figures released by the ORR rate punctuality (PPM) at 93.6% and an MAA of 90.2% for the first quarter of the financial year 2009/10 and the 12 months up to 30 June 2009.


Timetable Route
1 ChathillAlnmouthmarker and Morpethmarker to Newcastlemarker and MetroCentremarker
2 Nunthorpemarker and Middlesbroughmarker to Newcastlemarker and MetroCentremarker (Durham Coast Line)
3 Newcastlemarker, Bishop Aucklandmarker and Darlingtonmarker to Saltburnmarker (Tees Valley Line)
4 Sunderlandmarker and Newcastlemarker to Carlislemarker (Tyne Valley Line)
5 Middlesbroughmarker to Whitbymarker (Esk Valley Linemarker)
6 Carlislemarker to Barrowmarker, Lancastermarker and Prestonmarker (Cumbrian Coast Line and Furness Line)
7 Leedsmarker and Lancastermarker to Carlislemarker, Morecambemarker and Heysham Portmarker (Settle to Carlisle and Leeds to Morecambe lines)
8 Yorkmarker to Blackpool Northmarker (Caldervale Line)
9 Colnemarker to Prestonmarker and Blackpool Southmarker (East Lancashire Line)
10 Liverpoolmarker to Wiganmarker, Prestonmarker and Blackpool Northmarker and Preston to Ormskirkmarker (Liverpool to Wigan Line)
11 Boltonmarker to Manchester Victoriamarker and Manchester Airportmarker
12 Manchestermarker to Blackburnmarker and Clitheroemarker (Ribble Valley Line)
13 Prestonmarker to Blackpool Northmarker and Blackpool Southmarker (The Blackpool Branch Lines)
14 Manchester Victoriamarker and Manchester Airportmarker to Southportmarker and Kirkbymarker (Southport Line and Kirkby Branch Line)
15 Liverpoolmarker to Manchester Airportmarker and Warrington Bank Quaymarker via Earlestown and Helsbymarker to Ellesmere Portmarker
16 Liverpoolmarker to Manchester Oxford Roadmarker and Warrington Centralmarker
17 Manchestermarker to Chestermarker via Altrinchammarker (Mid-Cheshire Line)
18 Manchestermarker to Crewemarker via Stockportmarker or Manchester Airportmarker
19 Manchestermarker to Stoke-on-Trentmarker via Macclesfieldmarker (Stafford-Manchester Line)
20 Manchester to Blackpool North and Buxtonmarker, and Hazel Grovemarker to Preston (Buxton Line)
21 Manchester to Manchester Airport (local stopping service)
22 Manchester to New Mills Centralmarker and Rose Hill Marplemarker
23 Manchester to Sheffieldmarker (The Hope Valley Line)
24 Manchester to Hadfieldmarker and Glossopmarker
25 Manchester to Stalybridgemarker and Huddersfieldmarker (Huddersfield Line)
26 Manchester to Rochdalemarker via Castletonmarker (previously Oldham Loop Line - service ceased operation on 3 October 2009)
27 Manchester Victoriamarker to Selbymarker and Leedsmarker and Leeds to Huddersfield
28 Hullmarker to Scarboroughmarker (Yorkshire Coast Line)
29 York to Leeds via Harrogate (Harrogate Line)
30 Hullmarker to Yorkmarker, Leedsmarker, Doncastermarker & Sheffieldmarker and York to Sheffield via Pontefract Baghill
31 Barton-on-Humbermarker to Cleethorpesmarker (Barton Line)
32 Sheffieldmarker to Lincolnmarker and Cleethorpes (Saturdays only)]
33 Nottinghammarker to Sheffieldmarker and Leedsmarker
WY Leeds to Skiptonmarker (Airedale Line)
WY/SY Leeds to Sheffield via Wakefield Kirkgate and Barnsleymarker (Hallam Line)
WY/NY Leedsmarker to Yorkmarker via Harrogatemarker (Harrogate Line)
WY Leeds to Huddersfield via Dewsbury (Huddersfield Line)
WY Bradford Forster Squaremarker and Leeds to Ilkley (Wharfedale Line)
WY Leeds to Bradford Forster Square
WY Leeds and Wakefield to Knottingley (Pontefract Line)
WY/SY Leeds to Doncastermarker and Sheffield via Wakefield Westgatemarker (Wakefield Line)
WY/SY Sheffield to Huddersfieldmarker via Penistone and Barnsley (Penistone Line)

Timetable booklets for routes marked WY are only produced by Metro, the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.

Northern Rail also run some parliamentary trains. These include:


The Traincare depots for Northern Rail are located in:
  • Hull Botanic Gardens (BG)
  • Blackpool North LMD (BP)
  • Barrow-in-Furness (BW)
  • Heaton (Newcastle upon Tyne) (HT)
  • Neville Hill (Leeds) (NL)
  • Newton Heath (Manchester) (NH)
  • Sheffield Station (SM)
  • Workington (WK) (overnight cleaning for Cumbrian Coast)

Additionally, Northern Rail also has a Depot Access Agreement (DAA) with West Coast Traincare to undertake Level 1 to 4 Maintenance at its Manchester Traincare Centre (Longsight LO) on the Northern Rail operated Class 323 EMU's and Servicing on its Class 142 and Class 15x DMU's.

An further DAA covers Servicing of its Class 142 and Class 15x DMU's at West Coast Traincare's Liverpool Traincare Centre (Edge Hill CS).

Rolling Stock

Current fleet

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 142 Pacer Diesel multiple unit 75 120 68 Stopping Services Across Cheshire, Cumbria, north Derbyshire,Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Tees Valley, Tyne and Wear, Yorkshire 1985 - 1987
Class 144 Pacer Diesel multiple unit 75 120 23 Found on Metro services mostly in West Yorkshire, also in South Yorkshire & North Yorkshire. Also found on the Leeds to Manchester Victoria stopper. 1986 - 1987
Class 150/1 Sprinter Diesel multiple unit 75 120 18 Found on local and longer distance services around Cheshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire 1981 - 1984
Class 150/2 Sprinter Diesel multiple unit 75 120 22 Found on local and longer distance services around Cheshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire 1983 - 1985
Class 153 Super Sprinter Diesel multiple unit 75 120 18 Preston - Ormskirk, Leeds - Knottingley, Wakefield Kirkgate - Knottingley, Cumbrian Coast Line. Also seen coupled to other trains for additional capacity. 1987 - 1988
Class 155 Super Sprinter Diesel multiple unit 75 120 7 Caldervale Line, Harrogate line 1987
Class 156 Super Sprinter Diesel multiple unit 75 120 46 Various longer distance services and increasingly on shorter services across Northern’s network. 1987 - 1989
Class 158 Express Sprinter Diesel multiple unit 90 145 46 Express services including York - Blackpool North, Sheffield - Leeds via Barnsley, Sheffield -Bridlington/Scarborough, Leeds - Carlisle, Leeds-Bradford-Manchester Victoria, Nottingham - Leeds 1989 - 1992
Class 180 Adelante diesel multiple unit 125 200 3 Cascaded from First Great Western.

Blackpool North - Manchester Victoria and Hazel Grove - Preston. Being sub-leased from East Coast.
Class 321/9 Electric multiple unit 100 160 3 Wakefield Line

Leeds - Doncaster
Class 323 Electric multiple unit 100 160 17 Electrified routes in and out of Manchester Piccadilly:

Manchester Piccadilly - Alderley Edge/Crewe/Glossop/Hadfield/Hazel Grove/Macclesfield/ Manchester Airport/Stoke-on-Trent
1989 - 1991
Class 333 Electric multiple unit 100 160 16 Wharfedale Line

Leeds and Bradford - Shipley - Ilkley
Airedale Line

Leeds and Bradford - Shipley - Keighley - Skipton
Leeds-Bradford line

Future fleet

In January 2008, as part of the Government's rolling stock plan, the Department for Transportmarker (DfT) announced that the fleet of Class 323 trains currently in operation on services in South and East Manchester would be transferred to London Midland where the rest of the Class 323 trains are based in order to form a uniform fleet. Northern were due to receive 24 new build or cascaded EMU vehicles to allow for this and provide additional capacity. The original plan also stated that further DMU stock is due to be transferred to Northern from London Midland and London Overground. A presentation by the DfT, also in January 2008, indicated that this could include Class 150 units from London Midland.

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 were intended for Northern Rail. 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. The order was postponed in July 2009, following the announcement of the electrification of Liverpool to Manchester via Newton-le-Willows. Northern will now get ex-Thameslink EMUs (most likely British Rail Class 319s) to run Liverpool to Manchester services allowing the diesel units currently used on that service to be cascaded to other lines.

As part of a trial into the feasibility of the tram-train concept, Northern will operate newly built electric tram-train units between Rotherhammarker and Sheffieldmarker after plans for a diesel tram-train trial between Huddersfieldmarker and Sheffieldmarker was deemed non-economically viable for a trial.


  2. Today's Railways Issue 86
  4. Britain's Transport Infrastructure - Rail Electrification. Department for Transport. July 2009.

External links

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