logoUK railway franchises and open access operators

A (hopefully) comprehensive listing

Last update 4 October 2019

Additional information is always gratefully received, whether entirely new records (particularly historical records), or information to fill in gaps or correct errors, via the contact link under the Miscellaneous entry in the navigation bar above.  Thank you.

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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 and the service groups page.

Additional information regarding non-franchised operators appears near the bottom of the page.  This section shows the appropriate GB timetable codes (for pre-privatisation TOCs only those codes not used later by the franchised equivalent) and operating dates.  Early pioneers and special circumstances appear at the very end.

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).  Titles in bold, thus, are current and those with a strike through, thus, are no longer valid
Preceded by Links to preceding franchise(s) to simplify tracing operator history
Dates The dates for which the particular franchise ran.  Entries are listed in order of start date.  Note that most, but by no means all, franchises ran from/to 02:00/01:59 respectively to suit the railway traffic day.  This listing treats the transition time as midnight of the calendar day
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) to simplify tracing operator development
Notes Any other useful or interesting information

Franchise detail

Franchise InterCity Great Western
Preceded by British Rail InterCity
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)]
Superseded by First Greater Western Ltd
Notes Trading name changed gradually during autumn 1998; the new name appeared in the 27 September 1998 timetable
 
Franchise South Western
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
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 Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd
 
Franchise Midland Main Line
Preceded by British Rail InterCity
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 Ltd
 
Franchise Gatwick Express
Preceded by British Rail InterCity
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 Southern Railway Ltd
Notes Brand remains within subsequent franchises
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Preceded by British Rail InterCity
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 Great North Eastern Railway Ltd
 
Franchise London, Tilbury & Southend (retitled Essex Thameside by July 2012)
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
Dates Franchise awarded to Enterprise Rail Limited (note 17) 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)] (from 3 July 2000)
Superseded by NXET Trains Ltd
 
Franchise Network South Central
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
Dates 26 May 1996 to 25 August 2001 (originally to have run to 25 May 2003, remaining time bought out by New Southern Railway Ltd)
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 Ltd
 
Franchise Chiltern Railways
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
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 The Chiltern Railway Company Ltd
 
Franchise Cardiff Railway Company
Preceded by British Rail Regional Railways
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)]
Superseded by Cardiff Railway Company Ltd
 
Franchise Island Line
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
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 Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd
Notes Brand remains within subsequent franchises
 
Franchise South Eastern Trains
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
Dates 13 October 1996 to 8 November 2003 (originally to have run to 12 October 2011 but cut short through franchise failure)
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 Ltd
 
Franchise South Wales & West
Preceded by British Rail Regional Railways
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)] (from 29 September 1997)
Superseded by Wales & West Passenger Trains Ltd (rebranding started 30 September 2001)
Cardiff Railway Company Ltd
 
Franchise Thames
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
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)]
Superseded by First Great Western Link Ltd
 
Franchise Anglia
Preceded by British Rail InterCity
British Rail Regional Railways
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)]
Superseded by London Eastern Railway Ltd
 
Franchise Great Eastern
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
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 London Eastern Railway Ltd
Notes Trading name changed gradually during autumn 1998; the new name appeared in the 27 September 1998 timetable
 
Franchise InterCity CrossCountry
Preceded by British Rail InterCity
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)]
Superseded by XC Trains Ltd
First/Keolis TransPennine Ltd
West Coast Trains Ltd
 
Franchise West Anglia Great Northern
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
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)]
Superseded by London Eastern Railway Ltd (West Anglia services)
First Capital Connect Ltd (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
Preceded by British Rail Regional Railways
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 (note 18)] (to 19 March 2001)
Arriva Trains Merseyside Ltd (note 7) (from 20 March 2001)
Superseded by Merseyrail Electrics (2002) Ltd
 
Franchise Thameslink
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
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 Ltd
 
Franchise Central
Preceded by British Rail Regional Railways
Dates 2 March 1997 to 13 October 2001 (Welsh services) (original franchise end date 31 March 2004)
2 March 1997 to 31 March 2004 (remaining services)
1 April 2004 to 10 November 2007 (franchise extension)
Trading as Central Trains
GB timetable code CT
Run by Central Trains Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by Cardiff Railway Company Ltd (Welsh services)
London & Birmingham Railway Ltd
East Midlands Trains Ltd
XC Trains Ltd
 
Franchise North London Railways
Preceded by British Rail Network SouthEast
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 & Birmingham Railway Ltd
London Overground Rail Operations Ltd
 
Franchise North West Regional Railways
Preceded by British Rail Regional Railways
Dates 2 March 1997 to 6 December 2003 (Welsh services)
2 March 1997 to 31 January 2004 (TransPennine 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)] (from 1 June 1997)
Superseded by Arriva Trains Wales Ltd/Trenau Arriva Cymru (Welsh services)
First/Keolis TransPennine Ltd (TransPennine services)
Northern Rail Ltd (remaining services)
Notes Trading name changed gradually during autumn 1998; the new name appeared in the 27 September 1998 timetable
 
Franchise Regional Railways North East
Preceded by British Rail Regional Railways
Dates 2 March 1997 to 31 January 2004 (TransPennine 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 (note 18)] (to 16 June 1998)
Northern Spirit Ltd [MTL (note 18)] (from 17 June 1998 to 26 April 2001)
Arriva Trains Northern Ltd (note 7) (from 27 April 2001)
Superseded by First/Keolis TransPennine Ltd (TransPennine services)
Northern Rail Ltd (remaining services)
 
Franchise InterCity West Coast
Preceded by British Rail InterCity
CrossCountry Trains Ltd
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)
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 7 December 2019 (franchise extension) (originally to run to 30 March 2019; extension option to 31 March 2020 taken then cut back)
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)] (from 10 March 1997)
Superseded by First Trenitalia West Coast Rail Ltd
Notes Franchise awarded to First West Coast to start 9 December 2012 but award cancelled before starting resulting in further extension to this franchise
 
Franchise ScotRail
Preceded by British Rail Regional Railways
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 Ltd
 
Franchise Network South Central
Preceded by Connex South Central Ltd
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 Southern Railway Ltd
 
Franchise Wales & Borders
Preceded by Cardiff Railway Company Ltd
Central Trains Ltd
Wales & West Passenger Trains Ltd
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 Ltd/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
Preceded by Wales & West Passenger Trains Ltd
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 Greater Western
Notes Technically not a separate franchise but a reorganisation and rebranding of part of the existing Wales & West franchise
 
Franchise Chiltern
Preceded by The Chiltern Railway Company Ltd
First Greater Western Ltd
First Great Western Link Ltd
Dates 3 March 2002 to 31 December 2021 (can be extended up to five years by mutual agreement) (absorbed Stratford-on-Avon service from First Great Western Link 12 December 2004; absorbed Bicester service from First Greater Western 22 May 2011)
Trading as Chiltern Railways
GB timetable code CH
Run by The Chiltern Railway Company Ltd [M40 Trains (note 3)]
 
Franchise Tyne & Wear Metro
Dates 31 March 2002 to 31 March 2010
Trading as Metro
GB timetable code TW †
Run by Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Executive (branded Nexus) [local authorities]
Superseded by DB Regio Tyne And Wear Ltd
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
Preceded by Arriva Trains Merseyside Ltd
Dates 20 July 2003 to 19 July 2028 (five year extension possible at Merseytravel discretion)
Trading as Merseyrail
GB timetable code ME
Run by Merseyrail Electrics (2002) Ltd [Serco/NedRailways (note 10)]
 
Franchise South Eastern
Preceded by Connex South Eastern Ltd
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 London & South Eastern Railway Ltd
Notes Operator of last resort between taking over from previous incumbent and reletting contract
 
Franchise Wales & Borders
Preceded by Cardiff Railway Company Ltd
North Western Trains Company Ltd
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)
Superseded by Keolis Amey Operations/Gweithrediadau Keolis Amey Ltd
 
Franchise TransPennine
Preceded by Arriva Trains Northern Ltd
CrossCountry Trains Ltd
North Western Trains Company Ltd
Dates 1 February 2004 to 31 January 2012 (original franchise)
1 February 2012 to 31 March 2015 (franchise extension)
1 April 2015 to 18? February 2016 (franchise extension)
19? 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 Ltd (Manchester Airport-Blackpool/Windermere/Barrow)
First TransPennine Express Ltd (remaining services)
 
Franchise Greater Anglia
Preceded by Anglia Railways Train Services Ltd
Great Eastern Railway Ltd
West Anglia Great Northern Railway Ltd
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 Abellio Greater Anglia Ltd
 
Franchise Thames
Preceded by Thames Trains Ltd
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 The Chiltern Railway Company Ltd (Stratford-upon-Avon service)
First Greater Western Ltd (remaining services)
 
Franchise ScotRail
Preceded by ScotRail Railways Ltd
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 Abellio ScotRail Ltd
Serco Caledonian Sleepers Ltd
Notes ScotRail brand launched by Scottish government 22 September 2008 but not applied by TOC until 8 December 2008
 
Franchise Northern
Preceded by Arriva Trains Northern Ltd
North Western Trains Company Ltd
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 Arriva Rail North Ltd
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Preceded by Great North Eastern Railway Ltd
Dates 1 May 2005 to 8 December 2007 (originally to run until 31 March 2015 but cut short through collapse of owning group)
Trading as GNER
GB timetable code GR
Run by Great North Eastern Railway Ltd [Sea Containers]
Superseded by NXEC Trains Ltd
 
Franchise Greater Western (retitled Great Western by July 2012)
Preceded by First Great Western Link Ltd
Great Western Trains Company Ltd
Heathrow Express Operating Company Ltd
Wales & West Passenger Trains Ltd
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 Oxford-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 19 May 2018 (franchise extension, Paddington-Hayes & Harlington service)
20 September 2015 to 31 March 2020 (franchise extension, remaining services) (originally to run to 31 March 2019; one year extension option taken) (took over operation of Heathrow Express service 1 November 2018)
1 April 2020 to 31 March 2022 (franchise extension; option to extend to 31 March 2024)
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 The Chiltern Railway Company Ltd (Oxford-Bicester service)
MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd (Paddington-Hayes & Harlington service)
(remaining franchise still current)
 
Franchise Integrated Kent (retitled South Eastern some time after 2012)
Preceded by South Eastern Trains Ltd
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 11 October 2014 (franchise extension)
12 October 2014 to 13 December 2014 (franchise extension, small number of services)
12 October 2014 to 23 June 2018 (franchise extension, remaining services)
24 June 2018 to 5 January 2019 (franchise extension)
6 January 2019 to 22 June 2019 (franchise extension) (originally to run to 31 March 2019; three period extension option taken)
23 June 2019 to 31 March 2020 (franchise extension) (originally to run to 10 November 2019; extension option taken) (further extension expected)
Trading as Southeastern
GB timetable code SE
Run by London & South Eastern Railway Ltd [Govia (note 8)]
Superseded by Southern Railway Ltd (Redhill-Tonbridge service)
Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd (small number of services)
(remaining franchise still current)
 
Franchise Thameslink Great Northern
Preceded by Thameslink Rail Ltd
West Anglia Great Northern Railway Ltd
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 Ltd
 
Franchise South Western (retitled South West by July 2012)
Preceded by Island Line Ltd
South West Trains Ltd
Dates 4 February 2007 to xx January 2015 (original franchise)
xx January 2015 to 4 February 2017 (franchise extension)
5 February 2017 to 24 June 2017 (franchise extension; earlier extension to 27 April 2019 cancelled)
25 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 First MTR South Western Trains Ltd
 
Franchise East Midlands
Preceded by Central Trains Ltd
Midland Main Line Ltd
Dates 11 November 2007 to 31 March 2015 (original franchise)
1 April 2015 to 17 October 2015 (franchise extension)
18 October 2015 to 2 March 2018 (franchise extension)
3 March 2018 to 3 March 2019 (franchise extension)
4 March 2019 to 17 August 2019 (franchise extension; option for further six reporting periods not taken)
Trading as East Midlands Trains
GB timetable code EM
Run by East Midlands Trains Ltd [Stagecoach]
(used the name Stagecoach Midland Rail Ltd during the bidding process)
Superseded by Abellio East Midlands Ltd
Notes Supposed to absorb Barton on Humber service from Arriva Rail North on 15 October 2017, rescheduled to 4 March 2018, but this was delayed until after the 2019 refranchise
 
Franchise London Overground
Preceded by Abellio Greater Anglia Ltd
Silverlink Train Services Ltd
Dates 11 November 2007 to 12 November 2016 (originally to run to 8 November 2014; two year extension option taken) (absorbed inner suburban West Anglia services (Liverpool Street–Enfield Town/Cheshunt/Chingford and Romford-Upminster) 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 Arriva Rail London Ltd
 
Franchise New Cross Country (retitled Cross Country by July 2012)
Preceded by Central Trains Ltd
CrossCountry Trains Ltd
Dates 11 November 2007 to 31 March 2016 (original franchise)
1 April 2016 to 15 October 2016 (franchise extension)
16 October 2016 to 12 October 2019 (franchise extension)
13 October 2019 to October 2024 (franchise extension)
Trading as CrossCountry
GB timetable code XC
Run by XC Trains Ltd [Arriva (note 7)]
 
Franchise West Midlands
Preceded by Central Trains Ltd
Silverlink Train Services Ltd
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 30? 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 Trains Ltd
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Preceded by Great North Eastern Railway Ltd
Dates 9 December 2007 to 13 November 2009 (originally to run until 31 March 2015 but cut short through franchise failure)
Trading as National Express East Coast
GB timetable code GR
Run by NXEC Trains Ltd [National Express]
Superseded by East Coast Main Line Company Ltd
 
Franchise Network South Central
Preceded by Gatwick Express Ltd
London & South Eastern Railway Ltd
South Central Ltd
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 Railway Ltd
 
Franchise Network South Central (retitled South Central by July 2012)
Preceded by Southern Railway Ltd
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 Ltd
Notes Brands remain within subsequent franchises
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Preceded by NXEC Trains Ltd
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 East Coast Main Line Company Ltd
Notes Operator of last resort between taking over from previous incumbent and reletting contract
 
Franchise Tyne & Wear Metro
Preceded by Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Executive
Dates 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2017
Trading as Metro
GB timetable code TW †
Run by DB Regio Tyne And Wear Ltd (note 13)
Superseded by Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Executive
Notes Not a 'national' operator, but does access national network track around Sunderland/Pelaw.  Operated under contract with Tyne & 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
Preceded by London Eastern Railway Ltd
Dates 5 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 Rail Operations Ltd (inner suburban West Anglia services (Liverpool Street–Enfield Town/Cheshunt/Chingford and Romford-Upminster))
MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd (inner suburban Great Eastern services (Liverpool Street-Shenfield local))
Abellio East Anglia Ltd (remaining services)
 
Franchise InterCity West Coast
Preceded by (West Coast Trains Ltd)
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 West Coast Trains Ltd
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 West Coast Trains Ltd
 
Franchise Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern
Preceded by First Capital Connect Ltd
London & South Eastern Railway Ltd
Southern Railway Ltd
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 Gatwick Express
Great Northern
Southern
Thameslink; ThamesLink/
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)
ZZ (used in error in December 2018 timetable for one Thameslink train shown on tables 25 and 185)
ZZ (used in error in May 2019 timetable for numerous table 25, 179, 184, 188, 200 and 201 Thameslink trains and one table 170 Southern train)
Run by Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd (note 8) (sometimes also abbreviated GTR)
 
Franchise Essex Thameside
Preceded by c2c rail Ltd
Dates 9 November 2014 to 10 November 2029 (can extend up to 28 weeks at DfT discretion)
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
Preceded by East Coast Main Line Company Ltd
Dates 1 March 2015 to 23 June 2018 (originally to have run to 31 March 2023 with option of a further year, cut back to 31 March 2020 through franchise failure then terminated early)
Trading as Virgin Trains East Coast
GB timetable code GR
Run by East Coast Main Line Company Ltd [Stagecoach/Virgin]
Superseded by London North Eastern Railway Ltd
 
Franchise Caledonian Sleeper
Preceded by First ScotRail Ltd
Dates 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2030
Trading as Caledonian Sleeper
GB timetable code CS
Run by Serco Caledonian Sleepers Ltd
 
Franchise ScotRail
Preceded by First ScotRail Ltd
Dates 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2025 (contract break point exists at 2022)
Trading as ScotRail
GB timetable code SR
Run by Abellio ScotRail Ltd (note 10)
 
Franchise Crossrail
Preceded by Abellio Greater Anglia Ltd
Heathrow Connect
First Greater Western Ltd
Dates 31 May 2015 to 30 May 2023 (two year extension possible at TfL discretion) (absorbed Paddington-Hayes & Harlington and Heathrow Connect services 20 May 2018)
Trading as TfL Rail (to 2019)
Elizabeth line (from 2019)
MTR Elizabeth line (from 30 September 2019) (used for corporate information, e.g. website)
GB timetable code XR
Run by MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd (note 11)
Notes Concession started with just Liverpool Street-Shenfield service, later taking Paddington-based services and tunnel across London in stages
 
Franchise TransPennine Express
Preceded by First/Keolis TransPennine Ltd
Dates 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2023
Trading as TransPennine Express
GB timetable code TP
Run by First TransPennine Express Ltd
 
Franchise Northern
Preceded by First/Keolis TransPennine Ltd
Northern Rail Ltd
Dates 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2025 (option to extend by one year)
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, rescheduled to 4 March 2018, but this was delayed until after the 2019 East Midlands refranchise
 
Franchise East Anglia
Preceded by Abellio Greater Anglia Ltd
Dates 16 October 2016 to 11 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
Preceded by London Overground Rail Operations Ltd
Dates 13 November 2016 to 27 April 2024 (extension to 2026 at TfL discretion)
Trading as London Overground
GB timetable code LO
Run by Arriva Rail London Ltd (note 7)
 
Franchise Tyne & Wear Metro
Preceded by DB Regio Tyne And Wear Ltd
Dates 1 April 2017 to date (originally run for two years, now extended indefinitely)
Trading as Metro
GB timetable code TW †
Run by Tyne & 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
Preceded by Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd
Dates 20 August 2017 to 17 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
Preceded by London & Birmingham Railway Ltd
Dates 10 December 2017 to 31 March 2026 (two year extension possible at DfT discretion)
Trading as West Midlands Railway [Birmingham area services]
London Northwestern Railway [West Coast Main Line services]
GB timetable code LM (Network Rail and internal system use and ATOC use for station operation and timetable search)
LN † (ATOC use only for train operator list; London Northwestern Railway-branded)
WM † (ATOC use only for train operator list; West Midlands Railway-branded)
Run by West Midlands Trains Ltd [Abellio (note 10)/East Japan Railway Company/Mitsui & Co]
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Preceded by East Coast Main Line Company Ltd
Dates 24 June 2018 to 28 June 2020 (five year extension is expected)
Trading as LNER
GB timetable code GR
HB (used in 9 December 2018 timetable in operator page; table column headings retained GR)
Run by London North Eastern Railway Ltd [DfT OLR Holdings (note 16)]
Superseded by East Coast Partnership (planned)
 
Franchise Wales & Borders
Preceded by Arriva Trains Wales Ltd/Trenau Arriva Cymru
Dates 14 October 2018 to 14 October 2033
Trading as Transport for Wales Rail Services
GB timetable code AW
ZZ (used in error in December 2018 timetable for some Liverpool-Chester services shown in tables 81, 89 and 91)
Run by Keolis Amey Operations/Gweithrediadau Keolis Amey Ltd
Notes The partners set up three companies for this contract with varying shareholding proportions.  They are Keolis Amey Operations/Gweithrediadau Keolis Amey Limited (train operation), Keolis Amey Wales Cymru Limited (construction/project management functions) and Amey Keolis Infrastructure/Seilwaith Amey Keolis Limited (network operation)
 
Franchise Sheffield Supertram
Dates 25 October 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 public Rotherham service (test running started earlier).  See the light rail page for full details
 
Franchise East Midlands
Preceded by East Midlands Trains Ltd
Dates 18 August 2019 to 2027
Trading as East Midlands Railway
GB timetable code EM
Run by Abellio East Midlands Ltd (note 10)
Notes Expected to absorb Barton on Humber service from Northern.  Expected to surrender Liverpool-Nottingham to another (unspecified) franchise
 
Franchise West Coast Partnership
Preceded by West Coast Trains Ltd
Dates 8 December 2019 to March 2031
Trading as West Coast Rail (name subject to change before franchise starts)
GB timetable code VT
Run by First Trenitalia West Coast Rail Ltd (note 14)
Notes Initially a conventional franchise running the West Coast Main Line services, the agreement transforms into a management contract as the franchisee gradually introduces High Speed 2 services from March 2026

 

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.  Some do not run trains but do operate stations.

Company GB timetable code UK network operating dates Notes
Alliance Rail
(trading as Grand Southern Railway)
AR
(from 10 December 2017)
(Planned) Intended to start operating regular passenger services December 2017 but regulatory approval declined after much consideration on 1 August 2018
Track access rights requested to 'Principal Change Date' December 2024
Part of Alliance Rail (note 15)
Devon & Cornwall Railways Ltd DC After 24 December 2010 Expected to start operating regular passenger services 2010-2014 but never did
Track access rights progressively extended to 6 August 2021 (for freight; passenger details not fully determined)
Ultimate ownership Iowa Pacific [USA] (to November 2017), Cappagh Contractors (from November 2017)
East Coast Trains Ltd   Planned from May 2021 Track access rights to 'Subsidiary Change Date' May 2031
Subsidiary of First Group
European Passenger Services Ltd
(from 14 November 1994 to 30 September 1996)

Eurostar (UK) Ltd
(from 1 October 1996 to 31 December 2009)

Eurostar International Ltd
(from 1 January 2010 to date)
EP
(from 14 November 1994 to 23 September 2000)
ES
(from 24 September 2000)
14 November 1994 to date Ultimate ownership of UK element of Eurostar operation transferred from BR to private sector 1 April 1996, to HM Government 6 June 2009 and to private sector again 28 May 2015
Eurostar chose not to appear in GB/National timetable from December 2006 timetable (so code was not used therein but did appear in May 2019 table 192 for services that call at Ashford)
PIK Ltd
(5 September 1994 to 19 July 1995)
Prestwick International Airport Ltd
(20 July 1995 to 3 March 1997)
Glasgow Prestwick International Airport Ltd
(4 March 1997 to 24 August 2005)
Glasgow Prestwick Airport Ltd
(from 25 August 2005)
XP †    
Grand Central Railway Company Ltd GC 18 December 2007 to date Track access rights to 'Principal Change Date' December 2026
Initially controlled by Fraser Eagle Group; ultimately acquired November 2011 by Arriva (note 7)
Great North Western Railway Company Ltd LN † Planned from 2019 Track access rights from 8 December 2019 to 'Principal Change Date' December 2026
Controlled by Alliance Rail (note 15)
Original application was from 2018 to 'Principal Change Date' December 2027; rights expired before service started so application resubmitted with new approval dates
Heathrow Connect GL
(from 12 June 2005 to 10 December 2005)
HC
(from 11 December 2005 to 19 May 2018)
12 June 2005 to 19 May 2018 Joint venture First/HAA (later Heathrow Airport Holdings)
Absorbed into MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd
Heathrow Express Operating Company Ltd HX 19 January 1998 to 22 June 1998
(as Fast Train)
23 June 1998 to 31 October 2018
(after relaunch as Heathrow Express)
Track access rights ran to 31 December 2023 but service provided by First Greater Western under contract from 1 November 2018 for ten years (fares, marketing, etc. remain with Heathrow Express company)
Owned by HAA (later Heathrow Airport Holdings)
As this company entered into contracts with British Rail before privatisation certain conditions are outside of the normal regulatory system
Hull Trains Company Ltd HT 25 September 2000 to date Track access rights progressively extended to 'Principal Change Date' December 2029
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
Branding prefixed by 'First' July 2008 to May 2015
InterCity East Coast EC    
Legge Infrastructure Services Ltd LG † 2018 to date Company has its own track access contract from 14 May 2018 and bids for timetable paths but actual train operation is provided by others
Locomotive Services (TOC) Ltd LS † 6 March 2018 to date  
London Transport Ltd/London Underground Ltd LT †    
Network Rail Ltd RT
(3 February 2003 to 17 May 2003)
NR
(18 May 2003 to date)
3 February 2003 to date  
Network Rail Ltd [On Track Plant] LR †    
Network SouthCentral NS    
North Yorkshire Moors Railway Enterprises plc NY 27 May 2006 to date  
Railtrack plc 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 Ltd XS † 18 July 2011 to date  
Swanage Railway Company Ltd SP † (Planned) Swanage services began on 13 June 2017 but initially operated by West Coast Railways on its behalf
Vintage Trains Ltd TY † 19 September 2018? (certainly by 24 September 2018) to date Initial track access rights ran 5 September 2018 to 31 December 2019
West Coast Railway Company Ltd WR 18 June 1998 to date Seasonal operation started in 1995, provided by others under contract.  First appeared in 1 June 1997 timetable (that season's operation started 16 June 1997).  Responsible for own operation from 1998
Track access rights to at least 13 December 2020 (though there are separate agreements for the 'Jacobite' service)
Wrexham Shropshire & Marylebone Railway Company Ltd
(trading as Wrexham & Shropshire)
WS 28 April 2008 to 28 January 2011 Track access rights ran to 13 December 2014
Initially controlled by a John Laing/Renaissance Trains joint venture, purchased by DB in increasing proportions in January 2008 (before operations began).  From 13 December 2009 operated by Chiltern Railways as separate brand
Freight and miscellaneous operators ZZ † n/a See also Govia Thameslink Railway and Keolis Amey Operations
Christmas Special service XM †   Spoof code used around 24/25 December for 'Santa's delivery service

Special circumstances and pioneers

The Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway ran over BR-owned track from just south of Paignton to mile post 223 (just south of Goodrington Sands).  From 30 October 1972 (immediately after BR closure), BR provided the service under contract.  From 1 January 1973 the P&DSR ran its own services on national network track to some time after 2002 (but by 11 July 2006 on issue of a licence exemption) when it purchased and took control of all track except the end of a crossover connecting it to the national network.  It remains a 'non-franchised' operator over this very short length.

The Dart Valley Railway operated over BR tracks into Totnes station from 5 April 1985 to 2 September 1987.

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.

Beginning on 29 March 1997, the Cholsey & Wallingford Railway runs on NR-owned track into Cholsey station.  The track is not physically connected to the main line network.

The Welsh Highland Railway uses a signalled flat crossing over the main line near Porthmadog.  The crossing is owned by NR to the boundary fence either side and is thought to contain the company's only narrow gauge track.  An inaugural service ran on 30 October 2010 with regular public use starting on 8 January 2011.

The Spa Valley Railway began operations on NR-owned track into Eridge from 25 March 2011.  Stymied by NR engineering work, regular use had to wait until 2 April 2011.  The track is not physically connected to the main line network.

Since 1 July 2011 a short length of Network Rail-owned track is used by Peak Rail to access Matlock station.  This first day was a ceremonial opening; public operation started 2 July 2011.

The Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway started operations over NR-owned track for a short length from its own network into Princes Risborough station from August 2018.  A special ran on 12, formal opening was on 15 and public use began on 19 August.

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, taken over completely by First Group from 6 March 1998
  2. Prism Rail was predominantly a management group drawn from the bus industry to take advantage of privatisation opportunities until taken over by National Express from 18 July 2000
  3. M40 Trains was owned by the management team, John Laing and 3i until eventually taken over by Arriva (note 7) from January 2008
  4. Victory Railway Holdings was jointly owned by the management team and Go-Ahead, taken over completely by Go-Ahead June 1998
  5. GB Railways was owned by the management team until taken over by First Group from 14 August 2003
  6. Virgin Rail Group has Stagecoach involvement in various proportions since 22 June 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)
  15. Alliance Rail's majority shareholder is Arriva (note 7)
  16. DfT OLR Holdings is an operator of last resort reporting to the Secretary of State for Transport
  17. Enterprise Rail was a local management group
  18. MTL was taken over by Arriva (note 7) from 18 February 2000

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 | Railway operator service groups | Station access rights