logoUK railway franchises

A (hopefully) comprehensive listing

Last update 18 November 2017

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Introduction | Rail franchise operators | TOC timetable codes | Light rail system operators

This page aims to bring together in one place all UK franchise activity.  Whilst there are technical differences between a franchise, a management contract and a concession, for simplicity all are listed here as franchises.  Similarly, there is a technical difference between a franchise extension and a direct award; in the interests of simplicity all are listed here as extensions.  Each entry also has its GB timetable company code.  Other company codes used for accounting appear on the business and sector code page.

Additional information regarding non-franchised operators appears at the end.  This section intends only to show the appropriate GB timetable codes, and for pre-privatisation TOCs only those codes not used later by the franchised equivalent.

Franchises

Terms used

Franchise Name given by franchising authority at time of letting (note that this can change during a franchise lifetime or during the bidding process)
Dates The dates for which the particular franchise ran.  Entries are listed in order of start date
Trading as Public face of a franchise or marketing title
GB timetable code Code used to distinguish the franchise's services in the GB Passenger Railway/National Rail timetable.  For those operators that do not normally appear in this timetable, marked with a dagger (†), the code that is (or has been) used in other systems (e.g. Realtime Trains or similar that receive official feeds)
Run by The "front end" limited company (legal entity) running the franchise.  Where it is not obvious from the company name which group financially underpinned the franchise this is given in square brackets.  Dates are given in parentheses where this changed during the franchise life
Superseded by Links to successor franchise(s)
Notes Any other useful or interesting information

Franchise detail

Franchise InterCity Great Western
Dates 4 February 1996 to 4 February 2006 (original franchise originally to run to February 2003, three year extension option exercised)
5 February 2006 to 31 March 2006 (franchise extension)
Trading as Great Western Trains (to autumn 1998)
First Great Western (from autumn 1998)
GB timetable code GW
Run by Great Western Trains Company Ltd [Great Western Holdings (note 1); taken over by First Group 6 March 1998]
Superseded by First Great Western
Notes Trading name changed gradually during autumn 1998; the new name appeared in the 27 September 1998 timetable
 
Franchise South Western
Dates 4 February 1996 to 1 February 2004 (original franchise)
2 February 2004 to 3 February 2007 (franchise extension)
Trading as South West Trains
Run by South West Trains Ltd [Stagecoach]
GB timetable code SW
Superseded by South West Trains
 
Franchise Midland Main Line
Dates 28 April 1996 to 27 April 2006 (original franchise)
28 April 2006 to 10 November 2007 (franchise extension)
Trading as Midland Mainline
GB timetable code ML
Run by Midland Main Line Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by East Midlands Trains
 
Franchise Gatwick Express
Dates 28 April 1996 to 21 June 2008 (originally to run until 27 April 2011)
Trading as Gatwick Express
GB timetable code GX
Run by Gatwick Express Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by New Southern Railway
Notes Remains as a separate brand within subsequent franchises
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Dates 28 April 1996 to 27 April 2003 (original franchise)
28 April 2003 to 30 April 2005 (franchise extension)
Trading as Great North Eastern Railway (to 1 June 2002)
GNER (from 2 June 2002)
GB timetable code EC (to 31 May 1997)
GR (from 1 June 1997)
Run by Intercity East Coast Ltd [Sea Containers] (to 21 October 1996)
Great North Eastern Railway Ltd [Sea Containers] (from 22 October 1996)
Superseded by GNER
 
Franchise London, Tilbury & Southend (retitled Essex Thameside by July 2012)
Dates Franchise awarded to Enterprise Rail Limited to start 4 February 1996 but award cancelled before starting resulting in retendering contract
26 May 1996 to 25 May 2011 (original franchise, renegotiated 1998)
26 May 2011 to 25 May 2013 (franchise extension)
26 May 2013 to 13 September 2014 (franchise extension)
14 September 2014 to 8 November 2014 (franchise extension)
Trading as LTS Rail (to 1 July 2000)
c2c (from 2 July 2000)
GB timetable code LS (to 1 July 2000)
CC (from 2 July 2000)
Run by LTS Rail Ltd [Prism Rail (note 2)] (to 2 July 2000)
c2c rail Ltd [Prism Rail (note 2); taken over by National Express 18 July 2000] (from 3 July 2000)
Superseded by c2c
 
Franchise Network South Central
Dates 26 May 1996 to 25 August 2001 (originally to have run to 25 May 2003, remaining time bought out by New Southern)
Trading as Connex South Central
GB timetable code SC (to September 1998)
CX (from September 1998)
Run by Network Southcentral Ltd [Connex] (to 28 September 1996)
Connex South Central Ltd [under unified management with Connex SouthEastern as Connex from September 1998] (from 29 September 1996)
Superseded by New Southern Railway
 
Franchise Chiltern Railways
Dates 21 July 1996 to 2 March 2002 (originally to run until 20 July 2003, renegotiated for a longer deal)
Trading as Chiltern Railways
GB timetable code CH
Run by The Chiltern Railway Company Ltd [M40 Trains (note 3)]
Superseded by Chiltern Railways
 
Franchise Cardiff Railway Company
Dates 13 October 1996 to 13 October 2001 (original franchise end date 12 April 2004, but overtaken by Wales & Borders development)
Trading as Cardiff Railway Co (to summer 1999)
Valley Lines (from summer 1999)
GB timetable code CA (to 23 May 1998)
VL (from 24 May 1998)
Run by Cardiff Railway Company Ltd [Prism Rail (note 2); taken over by National Express 18 July 2000]
Superseded by Wales & Borders
 
Franchise Island Line
Dates 13 October 1996 to 12 October 2001 (original franchise)
13 October 2001 to 27 September 2003 (franchise extension)
28 September 2003 to 1 February 2004 (franchise extension)
2 February 2004 to 3 February 2007 (franchise extension)
Trading as Island Line
GB timetable code IL
Run by Island Line Ltd [Stagecoach]
Superseded by South West Trains
Notes Remains as a separate brand within subsequent franchises
 
Franchise South Eastern Trains
Dates 13 October 1996 to 8 November 2003 (originally to have run to 12 October 2011)
Trading as Connex South Eastern (until September 1998)
Connex (from September 1998)
GB timetable code SE (to 26 September 1998)
CX (from 27 September 1998)
Run by Connex South Eastern Ltd [under unified management with Connex South Central as Connex from September 1998]
Superseded by South Eastern Trains
 
Franchise South Wales & West
Dates 13 October 1996 to 13 October 2001 (originally to run until 12 April 2004, franchise renegotiated on National Express takeover to create Wales & Borders and Wessex as separate entities)
Trading as South Wales & West (to September 1997)
Wales & West (from September 1997)
GB timetable code WW
Run by South Wales & West Railway Ltd [Prism Rail (note 2)] (to 28 September 1997)
Wales & West Passenger Trains Ltd [Prism Rail (note 2); taken over by National Express 18 July 2000] (from 29 September 1997)
Superseded by Wessex Trains (rebranding started 30 September 2001)
Wales & Borders
 
Franchise Thames
Dates 13 October 1996 to 31 March 2004
Trading as Thames Trains
GB timetable code TT
Run by Thames Trains Ltd [Victory Railway Holdings (note 4); taken over by Go-Ahead June 1998]
Superseded by First Great Western Link
 
Franchise Anglia
Dates 5 January 1997 to 31 March 2004
Trading as Anglia Railways
GB timetable code AR
Run by Anglia Railways Train Services Ltd [GB Railways (note 5); taken over by First Group 14 August 2003]
Superseded by 'one'
 
Franchise Great Eastern
Dates 5 January 1997 to 31 March 2004
Trading as Great Eastern (to autumn 1998)
First Great Eastern (from autumn 1998)
GB timetable code GE
Run by Great Eastern Railway Ltd [First Group]
Superseded by 'one'
Notes Trading name changed gradually during autumn 1998; the new name appeared in the 27 September 1998 timetable
 
Franchise InterCity CrossCountry
Dates 5 January 1997 to 10 November 2007 (originally to run until 4 January 2012)
Trading as Virgin CrossCountry (to 11 June 2005)
Virgin Trains (from 12 June 2005)
GB timetable code XC (to 27 September 1997)
VT (from 28 September 1997)
Run by CrossCountry Trains Ltd [Virgin Rail Group (note 6); Stagecoach joined partnership 22 June 1998]
Superseded by CrossCountry
TransPennine Express
Virgin West Coast
 
Franchise West Anglia Great Northern
Dates 5 January 1997 to 31 March 2004 (original franchise)
1 April 2004 to 31 March 2006 (franchise extension, Great Northern services only)
Trading as West Anglia Great Northern (to early 2000)
WAGN Railway (by May 2000 to 2003)
Wagn Railway (by September 2003 to 11 June 2005)
Wagn (from 12 June 2005)
GB timetable code WN
Run by West Anglia Great Northern Railway Ltd [Prism Rail (note 2); taken over by National Express 18 July 2000]
Superseded by 'one' (West Anglia services)
First Capital Connect (Great Northern services)
Notes Dates of transitions between early trading names are not known with precision, and indeed may not exist as a single date
 
Franchise Merseyrail
Dates 19 January 1997 to 19 July 2003 (originally to run until 18 March 2004, franchise renegotiated on Arriva (note 7) takeover)
Trading as Merseyrail Electrics (to 26 April 2001)
Arriva Trains Merseyside (from 27 April 2001)
GB timetable code ME (to 29 September 2001)
AM (from 30 September 2001)
Run by Merseyrail Electrics Ltd [MTL; taken over by Arriva (note 7) 18 February 2000] (to 19 March 2001)
Arriva Trains Merseyside Ltd (note 7) (from 20 March 2001)
Superseded by Merseyrail
 
Franchise Thameslink
Dates 2 March 1997 to 1 April 2004 (original franchise)
2 April 2004 to 31 March 2006 (franchise extension)
Trading as Thameslink
GB timetable code TL
Run by Thameslink Rail Ltd [Govia (note 8)]
Superseded by First Capital Connect
 
Franchise Central
Dates 2 March 1997 to 13 October 2001 (Welsh services) (original franchise end date 1 April 2004)
2 March 1997 to 10 November 2007 (remaining services) (original franchise end date 1 April 2004)
Trading as Central Trains
GB timetable code CT
Run by Central Trains Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by Wales & Borders (Welsh services)
London Midland
East Midlands Trains
CrossCountry
 
Franchise North London Railways
Dates 2 March 1997 to 1 September 2004 (original franchise)
2 September 2004 to 10 November 2007 (franchise extension)
Trading as North London Railways (to 28 September 1997)
Silverlink Train Services (from 29 September 1997)
GB timetable code NL (to 28 September 1997)
SS (from 29 September 1997)
Run by North London Railways Ltd [National Express] (to 25 September 1997)
Silverlink Train Services Ltd [National Express] (from 26 September 1997)
Superseded by London Midland
London Overground
 
Franchise North West Regional Railways
Dates 2 March 1997 to 6 December 2003 (Welsh services)
2 March 1997 to 1 April 2004 (remainder of original franchise)
2 April 2004 to 11 December 2004 (franchise extension)
Trading as North Western Trains (to autumn 1998)
First North Western (from autumn 1998)
GB timetable code NW
Run by North West Regional Railways Ltd [Great Western Holdings (note 1)] (to 31 May 1997)
North Western Trains Company Ltd [Great Western Holdings (note 1); taken over by First Group 6 March 1998] (from 1 June 1997)
Superseded by Arriva Trains Wales/Trenau Arriva Cymru (Welsh services)
Transpennine Express
Northern Rail
Notes Trading name changed gradually during autumn 1998; the new name appeared in the 27 September 1998 timetable
 
Franchise Regional Railways North East
Dates 2 March 1997 to 31 January 2004 (some services) (originally to run until 1 April 2004, franchise renegotiated on Arriva takeover)
2 March 1997 to 11 December 2004 (remaining services) (originally to run until 1 April 2004, franchise renegotiated on Arriva takeover)
Trading as Regional Railways North East (to 24 May 1998)
Northern Spirit (from 25 May 1998 to 26 April 2001)
Arriva Trains Northern (from 27 April 2001)
GB timetable code RE (to 24 May 1998)
NS (from 25 May 1998 to 29 September 2001)
AN (from 30 September 2001)
Run by Regional Railways North East Ltd [MTL] (to 16 June 1998)
Northern Spirit Ltd [MTL; taken over by Arriva (note 7) 18 February 2000] (from 17 June 1998 to 26 April 2001)
Arriva Trains Northern Ltd (note 7) (from 27 April 2001)
Superseded by TransPennine Express (some services)
Northern Rail (remaining services)
 
Franchise InterCity West Coast
Dates 9 March 1997 to 31 March 2012 (original franchise; absorbed some CrossCountry west coast main line services 11 November 2007)
1 April 2012 to 8 December 2012 (franchise extension)
Franchise awarded to First West Coast to start 9 December 2012 but award cancelled before starting resulting in further extension to this franchise
9 December 2012 to 9 November 2014 (franchise extension)
10 November 2014 to 31 March 2017 (franchise extension)
1 April 2017 to xx September 2017 (franchise extension)
xx September 2017 to 31 March 2018 (franchise extension)
1 April 2018 to 30 March 2019 (franchise extension; one year extension possible at DfT's discretion)
Trading as Virgin West Coast (to 11 June 2005)
Virgin Trains (from 12 June 2005)
GB timetable code WC (to 27 September 1997)
VT (from 28 September 1997)
Run by West Coast Trains Ltd [Virgin Rail Group (note 6); Stagecoach joined partnership 22 June 1998] (from 10 March 1997)
Superseded by West Coast Partnership
 
Franchise ScotRail
Dates 31 March 1997 to 16 October 2004
Trading as ScotRail
GB timetable code SR
Run by ScotRail Railways Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by First ScotRail
 
Franchise Network South Central
Dates 26 August 2001 to 21 June 2008 (originally to have started in June 2003; started early through buying out Connex South Central)
Trading as South Central (to 29 May 2004)
Southern (from 30 May 2004)
GB timetable code SN (to 1 June 2002)
SC (from 1 June 2002 to 29 May 2004)
SN (from 30 May 2004)
Run by New Southern Railway Ltd [Govia (note 8)] (to 28 May 2004)
South Central Ltd [Govia (note 8)] (from 29 May 2004)
Superseded by New Southern Railway
 
Franchise Wales & Borders
Dates 14 October 2001 to 6 December 2003
Trading as Wales & Borders Trains
GB timetable code WB
Run by Cardiff Railway Company Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by Arriva Trains Wales/Trenau Arriva Cymru
Notes Technically not a separate franchise but a reorganisation and rebranding, merging part of the existing Wales & West franchise into Cardiff Railway Co, preparatory to reletting as Wales & Borders
 
Franchise Wessex
Dates 14 October 2001 to 31 March 2006 (rebranding started 30 September 2001)
Trading as Wessex Trains
GB timetable code WE
Run by Wales & West Passenger Trains Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by First Great Western
Notes Technically not a separate franchise but a reorganisation and rebranding of part of the existing Wales & West franchise
 
Franchise Chiltern
Dates 3 March 2002 to 31 December 2021 (absorbed Stratford-on-Avon service from First Great Western Link 12 December 2004; absorbed Bicester service from First Great Western 22 May 2011)
Trading as Chiltern Railways
GB timetable code CH
Run by The Chiltern Railway Company Ltd [M40 Trains (note 3); taken over by Laing Rail August 2002, by Henderson Equity Partners September 2006 and by Arriva (note 7) January 2008]
 
Franchise Tyne & Wear Metro
Dates 31 March 2002 to 31 March 2010
Trading as Metro
GB timetable code TW †
Run by Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive (branded Nexus) [local authorities]
Superseded by Tyne & Wear Metro
Notes Not a 'national' operator nor franchise, but does access national network track around Sunderland/Pelaw; date is from start of Sunderland service.  See the light rail page for full details
 
Franchise Merseyrail
Dates 20 July 2003 to 19 July 2028
Trading as Merseyrail
GB timetable code ME
Run by Merseyrail Electrics (2002) Ltd [Serco/NedRailways (note 10)]
 
Franchise South Eastern
Dates 9 November 2003 to 31 March 2006
Trading as South Eastern Trains
GB timetable code SE
Run by South Eastern Trains Ltd [Strategic Rail Authority]
Superseded by Southeastern
Notes Operator of last resort between taking over from previous incumbent and before reletting contract
 
Franchise Wales & Borders
Dates 7 December 2003 to 13 October 2018
Trading as Arriva Trains Wales/Trenau Arriva Cymru
GB timetable code AW
ATW (erroneously given in May 2015 timetable only)
Run by Arriva Trains Wales Ltd/Trenau Arriva Cymru (note 7)
 
Franchise TransPennine
Dates 1 February 2004 to 31 January 2012 (original franchise)
1 February 2012 to 31 March 2015 (franchise extension)
1 April 2015 to xx February 2016 (franchise extension)
xx February 2016 to 31 March 2016 (franchise extension)
Trading as First TransPennine Express
GB timetable code TP
Run by First/Keolis TransPennine Ltd (note 9)
Superseded by Arriva Rail North (Manchester Airport-Blackpool/Windermere/Barrow)
First TransPennine Express (remaining services)
 
Franchise Greater Anglia
Dates 1 April 2004 to 31 March 2011 (original franchise; option to 2014 not exercised)
1 April 2011 to 31 October 2011 (franchise extension)
1 November 2011 to 4 February 2012 (franchise extension)
Trading as 'one' (to 26 February 2008)
National Express East Anglia (from 27 February 2008)
GB timetable code LE
SX † (Stansted Express-branded services)
Run by London Eastern Railway Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by Greater Anglia
 
Franchise Thames
Dates 1 April 2004 to 11 December 2004 (Stratford-upon-Avon service)
1 April 2004 to 31 March 2006 (remaining services)
Trading as First Great Western Link
GB timetable code TT (to 22 May 2004)
GL (from 23 May 2004)
Run by First Great Western Link Ltd (from 1 April 2004)
Superseded by Chiltern Railways (Stratford-upon-Avon service)
First Great Western (remaining services)
 
Franchise ScotRail
Dates 17 October 2004 to 15 October 2011 (original franchise)
16 October 2011 to 9 November 2014 (franchise extension)
10 November 2014 to 31 March 2015 (franchise extension)
Trading as First ScotRail (to 7 December 2008)
Scotrail (from 8 December 2008)
GB timetable code SR
Run by First ScotRail Ltd
Superseded by ScotRail
Caledonian Sleeper
Notes ScotRail brand launched by Scottish government 22 September 2008 but not applied by TOC until 8 December 2008
 
Franchise Northern
Dates 12 December 2004 to 14 September 2013 (original franchise)
15 September 2013 to 31 March 2014 (franchise extension)
1 April 2014 to 31 March 2016 (franchise extension)
Trading as Northern Rail
(sometimes also branded Northern)
GB timetable code NT
Run by Northern Rail Ltd [Serco/NedRailways (note 10)]
Superseded by Northern
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Dates 1 May 2005 to 8 December 2007 (originally to run until 31 March 2015)
Trading as GNER
GB timetable code GR
Run by Great North Eastern Railway Ltd [Sea Containers]
Superseded by National Express East Coast
 
Franchise Greater Western (retitled Great Western by July 2012)
Dates 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2013 (original franchise; option to 31 March 2016 not exercised)
1 April 2006 to 21 May 2011 (original franchise Bicester service)
1 April 2013 to 29 April 2013 (franchise extension)
30 April 2013 to 21 July 2013 (franchise extension)
22 July 2013 to 12 October 2013 (franchise extension)
13 October 2013 to 19 September 2015 (franchise extension)
20 September 2015 to 31 March 2019 (franchise extension; one year extension possible at DfT's discretion)
Trading as First Great Western (to 19 September 2015)
Great Western Railway (from 20 September 2015)
GB timetable code GW
GWR (erroneously given in December 2016 timetable only)
Run by First Greater Western Ltd
Superseded by Chiltern Railways (Bicester service)
(remaining franchise still current)
 
Franchise Integrated Kent (retitled South Eastern some time after 2012)
Dates 1 April 2006 to 13 December 2008 (original franchise; Redhill-Tonbridge service)
1 April 2006 to 31 March 2014 (original franchise; remaining services)
1 April 2014 to 12 September 2014 (franchise extension)
13 September 2014 to 13 December 2014 (franchise extension; small number of services)
13 September 2014 to 24 June 2018 (franchise extension; remaining services)
25 June 2018 to xx December 2018 (franchise extension)
Trading as Southeastern
GB timetable code SE
Run by London & South Eastern Railway Ltd [Govia (note 8)]
Superseded by New Southern Railway (Redhill-Tonbridge service)
Govia Thameslink Railway (small number of services)
(remaining franchise still current)
 
Franchise Thameslink Great Northern
Dates 1 April 2006 to 14 September 2013 (original franchise)
15 September 2013 to 31 March 2014 (franchise extension)
1 April 2014 to 13 September 2014 (franchise extension)
Trading as First Capital Connect
GB timetable code FC
Run by First Capital Connect Ltd
Superseded by Govia Thameslink Railway
 
Franchise South Western (retitled South West by July 2012)
Dates 4 February 2007 to xx January 2015 (original franchise)
xx January 2015 to 3 February 2017 (franchise extension)
4 February 2017 to xx June 2017 (franchise extension; earlier extension to 27 April 2019 cancelled)
xx June 2017 to 19 August 2017 (franchise extension)
Trading as South West Trains
GB timetable code SW
IL (Island Line-branded services)
Run by Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd
Superseded by South Western Railway
 
Franchise East Midlands
Dates 11 November 2007 to 31 March 2015 (original franchise)
1 April 2015 to 14 October 2017 (franchise extension)
15 October 2017 to 4 March 2018 (franchise extension)
5 March 2018 to 3 March 2019 (franchise extension)
4 March 2019 to xx August 2019 (franchise extension)
Trading as East Midlands Trains
GB timetable code EM
Run by East Midlands Trains Ltd [Stagecoach]
Notes Supposed to absorb Barton on Humber service from Northern on 15 October 2017 but this was delayed until after the 2019 refranchise
 
Franchise London Overground
Dates 11 November 2007 to 12 November 2016 (two year extension from 8 November 2014 exercised) (absorbed inner suburban West Anglia services 31 May 2015)
Trading as London Overground
GB timetable code LO
Run by London Overground Rail Operations Ltd [MTR Corporation (note 11)/Laing Rail (latter later acquired by Arriva (note 7))] on behalf of Rail for London (subsidiary of Transport for London)
Superseded by London Overground
 
Franchise New Cross Country (retitled Cross Country by July 2012)
Dates 11 November 2007 to 31 March 2016 (original franchise)
1 April 2016 to 15 October 2016 (franchise extension)
16 October 2016 to xx October 2019 (franchise extension)
Trading as CrossCountry
GB timetable code XC
Run by XC Trains Ltd [Arriva (note 7)]
 
Franchise West Midlands
Dates 11 November 2007 to 19 September 2015 (original franchise)
20 September 2015 to 31 March 2016 (franchise extension)
1 April 2016 to 14 October 2017 (franchise extension, originally to xx June 2017)
15 October 2017 to 9 December 2017 (franchise extension, option to extend further to 3 February 2018 not taken)
Trading as London Midland
GB timetable code LM
Run by London & Birmingham Railway Ltd [Govia (note 8)]
Superseded by West Midlands Railway/London And North Western
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Dates 9 December 2007 to 13 November 2009 (originally to run until 31 March 2015)
Trading as National Express East Coast
GB timetable code GR
Run by NXEC Trains Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by East Coast
 
Franchise Network South Central
Dates 22 June 2008 to 19 September 2009 (absorbed Redhill-Tonbridge service from Southeastern 14 December 2008)
Trading as New Southern Railway
GB timetable code GX (Gatwick Express-branded services)
SN (Southern-branded services)
Run by Southern Railway Ltd [Govia (note 8)]
Superseded by Southern
 
Franchise Network South Central (retitled South Central by July 2012)
Dates 20 September 2009 to 25 July 2015 (option to July 2017 not exercised)
Trading as Southern
GB timetable code GX (Gatwick Express-branded services)
SN (Southern-branded services)
Run by Southern Railway Ltd [Govia (note 8)]
Superseded by Govia Thameslink Railway
Notes Remains as a separate brands within subsequent franchises
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Dates 14 November 2009 to 8 December 2013 (original franchise)
9 December 2013 to 28 February 2015 (franchise extension)
Trading as East Coast
GB timetable code GR
Run by East Coast Main Line Company Ltd [Directly Operated Railways (note 12)]
Superseded by Virgin Trains East Coast
 
Franchise Tyne & Wear Metro
Dates 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2017
Trading as Metro
GB timetable code TW †
Run by DB Regio Tyne & Wear Ltd (note 13)
Superseded by Tyne & Wear Metro
Notes Not a 'national' operator, but does access national network track around Sunderland/Pelaw.  Operated under contract with Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive (branded Nexus) on behalf of the North East Combined Authority.  See the light rail page for full details
 
Franchise Greater Anglia
Dates 6 February 2012 to 19 July 2014 (original franchise)
20 July 2014 to 30 May 2015 (franchise extension; inner suburban West Anglia and Great Eastern services)
20 July 2014 to 15 October 2016 (franchise extension; remaining services)
Trading as Greater Anglia (to 17 May 2014)
Abellio Greater Anglia (from 18 May 2014)
GB timetable code LE
SX † (Stansted Express-branded services)
Run by Abellio Greater Anglia Ltd (note 10)
Superseded by London Overground (inner suburban West Anglia services)
Crossrail (inner suburban Great Eastern services)
Greater Anglia (remaining services)
 
Franchise InterCity West Coast
Dates 9 December 2012 to 31 March 2026 (option to extend to 31 December 2027)
Trading as First West Coast
GB timetable code (none)
Run by First West Coast Ltd
Superseded by Virgin West Coast
Notes Franchise never came into force; details given here are the original plan.  Franchise award was cancelled on 3 October 2012 resulting in a further extension to Virgin Trains
 
Franchise Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern
Dates 14 September 2014 to 19 September 2021 (absorbed small number of Southeastern services 14 December 2014; absorbed Southern 26 July 2015, absorbed further Southeastern services June 2018)
Trading as Govia Thameslink Railway
(sometimes also abbreviated GTR)
GB timetable code GN (Great Northern-branded services)
GX (Gatwick Express-branded services)
SN (Southern-branded services)
TL (Thameslink-branded services; some online timetables briefly applied this code to all services in error)
Run by Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd (note 8)
 
Franchise Essex Thameside
Dates 9 November 2014 to 10 November 2029
Trading as c2c
GB timetable code CC
Run by NXET Trains Ltd [National Express; taken over by Trenitalia UK (note 14) 13 February 2017] (to 2 April 2017)
Trenitalia c2c Ltd (note 14) (from 3 April 2017)
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Dates 1 March 2015 to 31 March 2023
Trading as Virgin Trains East Coast
GB timetable code GR
Run by East Coast Main Line Co Ltd [Stagecoach/Virgin]
 
Franchise Caledonian Sleeper
Dates 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2030
Trading as Caledonian Sleeper
GB timetable code CS
Run by Serco Caledonian Sleepers Ltd
 
Franchise ScotRail
Dates 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2025
Trading as ScotRail
GB timetable code SR
Run by Abellio ScotRail Ltd (note 10)
 
Franchise Crossrail
Dates 31 May 2015 to 30 May 2023 (two year extension possible)
Trading as TFL Rail (to 2018)
Crossrail (from 2018)
GB timetable code XR
Run by MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd (note 11)
 
Franchise TransPennine Express
Dates 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2023
Trading as TransPennine Express
GB timetable code TP
Run by First TransPennine Express Ltd
 
Franchise Northern
Dates 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2025
Trading as Northern
GB timetable code NT
Run by Arriva Rail North Ltd (note 7)
Notes Supposed to surrender Barton on Humber service to East Midlands Trains on 15 October 2017 but this was delayed until after the 2019 East Midlands refranchise
 
Franchise East Anglia
Dates 16 October 2016 to xx October 2025
Trading as Greater Anglia
GB timetable code LE
SX (Stansted Express-branded services)
Run by Abellio East Anglia Ltd (note 10)
 
Franchise London Overground
Dates 13 November 2016 to 26 May 2024
Trading as London Overground
GB timetable code LO
Run by Arriva Rail London Ltd (note 7)
 
Franchise Tyne & Wear Metro
Dates 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2019
Trading as Metro
GB timetable code TW †
Run by Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive (branded Nexus) [local authorities]
Notes Not a 'national' operator nor franchise, but does access national network track around Sunderland/Pelaw.  See the light rail page for full details
 
Franchise South Western
Dates 20 August 2017 to 19 August 2024 (11 month extension possible)
Trading as South Western Railway
GB timetable code SW
IL (Island Line-branded services)
Run by First MTR South Western Trains Ltd [First/MTR Corporation (note 11)]
 
Franchise West Midlands
Dates 10 December 2017 to xx March 2026
Trading as West Midlands Railway [Birmingham area services]
London And North Western [West Coast Main Line services]
GB timetable code LM
Run by West Midlands Trains Ltd [Abellio (note 10)/East Japan Railway Company/Mitsui & Co]
 
Franchise Sheffield Supertram
Dates 2018 to 2024
Trading as Stagecoach Supertram
GB timetable code SJ †
Run by South Yorkshire Supertram Ltd [Stagecoach]
Notes Not a 'national' operator nor franchise, but does access national network around Tinsley/Rotherham; date is from start of Rotherham service.  See the light rail page for full details

 

Non-franchised and pre-privatisation companies

Some of the companies below are current non-passenger (or freight) operators and others have not started any operations yet.

Company GB timetable code UK network operating dates Notes
Devon & Cornwall Railway DC After 24 December 2010 Expected to start operating regular passenger services 2010-2014 but never did.  Ultimate ownership Iowa Pacific [USA]
European Passenger Services EP    
Eurostar (UK)
Eurostar International
EP (from 14 November 1994 to 23 September 2000)
ES (from 24 September 2000)
14 November 1994 to date Operations transferred from BR to Eurostar UK from 1 April 1996.  Eurostar chose not to appear in GB/National timetable from December 2006 timetable (so code was not used therein)
Glasgow Prestwick Airport XP †    
Grand Central GC 18 December 2007 to December 2026 Initially controlled by Fraser Eagle Group; ultimately acquired November 2011 by Arriva (note 7)
Great North Western Railway LN † 2018 to ?? Controlled by Arriva (note 7)
Heathrow Connect GL (from 12 June 2005 to 10 December 2005)
HC (from 11 December 2005 to date)
12 June 2005 to date Joint venture First/HAA (later Heathrow Airport Holdings)
Heathrow Express HX 19 January 1998 to 22 June 1998 (as Fast Train)
23 June 1998 to date (after relaunch as Heathrow Express)
Owned by HAA (later Heathrow Airport Holdings)
Hull Trains (from 25 September 2000 to July 2008)
First Hull Trains (from July 2008 to May 2015)
Hull Trains (from May 2015)
HT 25 September 2000 to date Initially controlled by GB Railways (note 5) and Renaissance Railways; control acquired by First Group 14 August 2003.  Operation managed by TransPennine Express from 16 January 2011
InterCity East Coast EC    
London Transport/London Underground LT †    
Network Rail NR 3 February 2003 to date  
Network Rail [On Track Plant] LR †    
Network SouthCentral NS    
North Yorkshire Moors Railway NY 27 May 2006 to date  
Railtrack RT 1 April 1994 to 2 February 2003 BR subsidiary from 1 April 1994 until company floated 20 May 1996; into railway administration 7 October 2001; superseded by Network Rail from 3 February 2003
South Eastern Train Co SE    
Stobart Rail XS † 18 July 2011 to date  
Swanage Railway SP † (Planned) Swanage services began on 13 June 2017 but initially operated by West Coast Railways on its behalf
West Coast Railways WR 16 June 1997 to date  
Wrexham Shropshire & Marylebone Railway WS 28 April 2008 to 28 January 2011 Traded as Wrexham & Shropshire.  From 13 December 2009 operated by Chiltern Railways as separate brand
Freight and miscellaneous operators ZZ † n/a  
Christmas Special service XM †   Spoof code used around 24/25 December for 'Santa's delivery service

Special circumstance pioneers

Stagecoach Rail launched an 'open access' service in 1992, supplying seated coaches for the London-Aberdeen InterCity sleeper train; note that Stagecoach did not provide its own traction.  The service lasted, it appears, only for the period 11 May 1992 to 1 November 1992, after which the seated accommodation reverted to InterCity (though joint marketing lasted until 1 October 1993).  However, Mr Prescott, speaking to parliament on 29 October 1992, referred to the service in the past tense as already having collapsed.

The Dart Valley Railway was an 'open access' operator over BR tracks into Totnes station from 5 April 1985 to 2 September 1987.

Notes regarding ownership

The 'owning' companies listed above are themselves part of larger groups.  A much simplified summary is given here.

  1. Great Western Holdings was jointly owned by the management team and First Group
  2. Prism Rail was predominantly a management group until taken over by National Express
  3. M40 Trains was owned by the management team, John Laing and 3i until eventually taken over by Arriva
  4. Victory Railway Holdings was jointly owned by the management team and Go-Ahead
  5. GB Railways was owned by the management team until taken over by First Group
  6. Virgin Rail Group has Stagecoach involvement in various proportions since 1998
  7. Arriva became a subsidiary of DB (Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway) absorbing companies previously taken over by DB Regio (note 13)
  8. Govia is a partnership between Go-Ahead and VIA (later known as Keolis (note 9)), the latter predominantly owned by SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer, the French state railway)
  9. Keolis is predominantly owned by SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer, the French state railway)
  10. NedRailways became Abellio in October 2009, ultimately part of NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Dutch state railway)
  11. MTR Corporation runs Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway amongst other activities
  12. Directly Operated Railways was an operator of last resort reporting to the Secretary of State for Transport
  13. DB Regio is a subsidiary of DB (Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway)
  14. Trenitalia is a subsidiary of FS (Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, the Italian state railway)

Tables compiled in collaboration with Richard Maund.

Timetable change dates appear on this Rail Chronology page.

Introduction | Rail franchise operators | TOC timetable codes | Light rail system operators