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A (hopefully) comprehensive listing

Last update 27 March 2017

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Introduction | Rail franchise operators | Light rail system operators

This page aims to bring together in one place all UK franchise activity.  Franchises are listed in date order of start date.  Whilst there is a technical difference 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.  "Owning company" intends to show the legal entity running the franchise ("Ltd" and similar terms have been omitted); where it is not obvious what the owning company was at the time of franchise this is given in parentheses.  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

Franchise InterCity Great Western
Trading as Great Western Trains (to 26 September 1998)
First Great Western (from 27 September 1998)
GB timetable code GW
Run by Great Western Train Company (Great Western Holdings) (taken over by First Group 6 March 1998)
Dates 4 February 1996 to 4 February 2006 (original franchise)
5 February 2006 to 31 March 2006 (franchise extension)
Superseded by First Great Western
 
Franchise South Western
Trading as South West Trains
Run by South West Trains (Stagecoach)
GB timetable code SW
Dates 4 February 1996 to 1 February 2004 (original franchise)
2 February 2004 to 3 February 2007 (franchise extension)
Superseded by South West Trains
 
Franchise Midland Main Line
Trading as Midland Main Line
GB timetable code ML
Run by Midland Main Line (National Express)
Dates 28 April 1996 to 27 April 2006 (original franchise)
28 April 2006 to 10 November 2007 (franchise extension)
Superseded by East Midlands Trains
 
Franchise Gatwick Express
Trading as Gatwick Express
GB timetable code GX
Run by Gatwick Express (National Express)
Dates 28 April 1996 to 21 June 2008 (originally to run until 27 April 2011)
Superseded by New Southern Railway
Notes Remains as a separate brand within subsequent franchises
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Trading as Great North Eastern Railway
GB timetable code EC (to 31 May 1997)
GR (from 1 June 1997)
Run by Great North Eastern Railway (Sea Containers)
Dates 28 April 1996 to 27 April 2003 (original franchise)
28 April 2003 to 30 April 2005 (franchise extension)
Superseded by Great North Eastern Railway
 
Franchise London, Tilbury & Southend
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 (Prism Rail) (taken over by National Express 18 July 2000)
Dates 26 May 1996 to 25 May 2011 (original franchise)
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)
Superseded by c2c
 
Franchise Network South Central
Trading as Connex South Central
GB timetable code SC (to September 1998)
CX (from September 1998)
Run by Connex 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)
Superseded by New Southern Railway
 
Franchise Chiltern Railways
Trading as Chiltern Railways
GB timetable code CH
Run by The Chiltern Railway Company (M40 Trains)
Dates 21 July 1996 to 2 March 2002 (originally to run until 20 July 2003, renegotiated for a longer deal)
Superseded by Chiltern Railways
 
Franchise Cardiff Railway Company
Trading as Valley Lines
GB timetable code CA (to 23 May 1998)
VL (from 24 May 1998)
Run by Cardiff Railway Company (Prism Rail) (taken over by National Express 18 July 2000)
Dates 13 October 1996 to 13 October 2001 (original franchise end date 12 April 2004, but overtaken by Wales & Borders development)
Superseded by Wales & Borders
 
Franchise Island Line
Trading as Island Line
GB timetable code IL
Run by Island Line (Stagecoach)
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)
Superseded by South West Trains
Notes Remains as a separate brand within subsequent franchises
 
Franchise South Eastern Trains
Trading as Connex South Eastern
GB timetable code SE (to September 1998)
CX (from September 1998)
Run by Connex South Eastern
Dates 13 October 1996 to 8 November 2003 (originally to have run to 12 October 2011)
Superseded by South Eastern Trains
 
Franchise South Wales & West
Trading as Wales & West
GB timetable code WW
Run by South Wales & West Railway (Prism Rail) (to 28 September 1997)
Wales & West Passenger Trains (Prism Rail) (from 29 September 1997) (taken over by National Express 18 July 2000)
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)
Superseded by Wessex Trains (rebranding started 30 September 2001)
Wales & Borders
 
Franchise Thames
Trading as Thames Trains
GB timetable code TT
Run by Thames Trains (management team/Victory Railway Holdings (Go Ahead Group)) (taken over by Victory fully June 1998)
Dates 13 October 1996 to 31 March 2004
Superseded by First Great Western Link
 
Franchise Anglia
Trading as Anglia Railways
GB timetable code AR
Run by Anglia Railways Train Services (GB Railways) (taken over by First Group 28(?) August 2003)
Dates 5 January 1997 to 31 March 2004
Superseded by 'one'
 
Franchise Great Eastern
Trading as Great Eastern (to 26 September 1998)
First Great Eastern (from 27 September 1998)
GB timetable code GE
Run by Great Eastern Railway (First Group)
Dates 5 January 1997 to 31 March 2004
Superseded by 'one'
 
Franchise InterCity CrossCountry
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 (Virgin Trains (Stagecoach joined partnership 22 June 1998))
Dates 5 January 1997 to 10 November 2007 (originally to run until 4 January 2012)
Superseded by Crosscountry
Transpennine Express
Virgin West Coast
 
Franchise West Anglia Great Northern
Trading as West Anglia Great Northern
WAGN Railway
Wagn Railway (to 11 June 2005)
Wagn (from 12 June 2005)
GB timetable code WN
WA
Run by West Anglia Great Northern Railway (Prism Rail) (taken over by National Express 18 July 2000)
Dates 5 January 1997 to 31 March 2004 (original franchise)
1 April 2004 to 31 March 2006 (franchise extension, Great Northern services only)
Superseded by 'one' (West Anglia services)
First Capital Connect (Great Northern services)
 
Franchise Merseyrail
Trading as Merseyrail Electrics (to 26 April 2001)
Arriva Trains Merseyside (from 27 April 2001)
GB timetable code ME (to 26 April 2001)
AM (from 27 April 2001)
Run by Merseyrail Electrics (MTL) (taken over by Arriva Trains Merseyside 18 February 2000)
Dates 19 January 1997 to 19 July 2003 (originally to run until 18 March 2004, franchise renegotiated on Arriva takeover)
Superseded by Merseyrail
 
Franchise Thameslink
Trading as Thameslink
GB timetable code TL
Run by Thameslink Rail (Govia)
Dates 2 March 1997 to 1 April 2004 (original franchise)
2 April 2004 to 31 March 2006 (franchise extension)
Superseded by First Capital Connect
 
Franchise Central
Trading as Central Trains
GB timetable code CT
Run by Central Trains (National Express)
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)
Superseded by Wales & Borders (Welsh services)
London Midland
East Midlands Trains
Crosscountry
 
Franchise North London Railways
Trading as Silverlink Train Services
GB timetable code NL (to 28 September 1997)
SS (from 29 September 1997)
Run by Silverlink Train Services (National Express)
Dates 2 March 1997 to 1 September 2004 (original franchise)
2 September 2004 to 10 November 2007 (franchise extension)
Superseded by London Midland
London Overground
 
Franchise North West Regional Railways
Trading as North Western Trains (to 26 September 1998)
First North Western (from 27 September 1998)
GB timetable code NW
Run by North Western Trains Company (Great Western Holdings) (taken over by First Group 6 March 1998)
Dates 2 March 1997 to 7 December 2003 (Welsh services)
2 March 1997 to 1 April 2004 (remainder of original franchise)
2 April 2004 to 11 December 2004 (franchise extension)
Superseded by Arriva Trains Wales (Welsh services)
Transpennine Express
Northern Rail
 
Franchise Regional Railways North East
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 26 April 2001)
AN (from 27 April 2001)
Run by Northern Spirit (MTL) (taken over by Arriva Trains Northern 18 February 2000)
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)
Superseded by Transpennine Express (some services)
Northern Rail (remaining services)
 
Franchise InterCity West Coast
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 Virgin Trains (Stagecoach joined partnership 22 June 1998)
Dates 9 March 1997 to 31 March 2012 (original franchise; absorbed some Crosscountry 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 30 March 2019 (franchise extension; one year extension possible at DfT's discretion)
Superseded by First West Coast (award cancelled before starting)
West Coast Partnership
 
Franchise ScotRail
Trading as ScotRail
GB timetable code SR
Run by ScotRail Railways (National Express)
Dates 31 March 1997 to 16 October 2004
Superseded by First ScotRail
 
Franchise Network South Central
Trading as South Central
New Southern Railway
GB timetable code SN (to 1 June 2002)
SC (from 1 June 2002 to 29 May 2004)
SN (from 30 May 2004)
Run by South Central (Govia)
Dates 26 August 2001 to 21 June 2008 (originally to have started in June 2003; started early through buying out Connex South Central)
Superseded by New Southern Railway
 
Franchise Wales & Borders
Trading as Wales & Borders
GB timetable code WB
Run by Cardiff Railway Company (National Express)
Dates 14 October 2001 to 7 December 2003
Superseded by Arriva Trains Wales
 
Franchise Wessex
Trading as Wessex Trains
GB timetable code WE
Run by National Express
Dates 14 October 2001 to 31 March 2006
Superseded by First Great Western
 
Franchise Chiltern Railways
Trading as Chiltern Railways
GB timetable code CH
Run by The Chiltern Railway Company (M40 Trains) (taken over by Laing Rail August 2002, by Henderson Equity Partners September 2006, and by DB Regio January 2008)
Dates 3 March 2002 to 31 December 2021
 
Franchise Tyne & Wear Metro
Trading as Metro
GB timetable code TW
Run by Nexus (local authorities)
Dates 31 March 2002 to 1 April 2010
Superseded by Tyne & Wear Metro
Notes Not a 'national' operator, but does access national network track around Sunderland/Pelaw; date is from start of Sunderland service
 
Franchise Merseyrail
Trading as Merseyrail
GB timetable code ME
Run by Merseyrail Electrics 2002 (Serco/Abellio)
Dates 20 July 2003 to 19 July 2028
 
Franchise South Eastern
Trading as South Eastern Trains
GB timetable code SE
Run by Strategic Rail Authority
Dates 9 November 2003 to 31 March 2006
Superseded by Southeastern
 
Franchise Wales & Borders
Trading as Arriva Trains Wales
GB timetable code AW
Run by Arriva Trains Wales/Trenau Arriva Cymru
Dates 8 December 2003 to 13 October 2018
 
Franchise Transpennine
Trading as Transpennine Express
GB timetable code TP
Run by First Group/Keolis
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)
Superseded by Arriva Rail North (Manchester Airport-Blackpool/Windermere/Barrow)
First TransPennine Express (remaining services)
 
Franchise Greater Anglia
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 (National Express)
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 5 February 2012 (franchise extension)
Superseded by Greater Anglia
 
Franchise Thames
Trading as First Great Western Link
GB timetable code TT (to 22 May 2004)
GL (from 23 May 2004)
Run by First Thames Trains
First Great Western Link
Dates 1 April 2004 to 31 March 2006
Superseded by First Great Western
 
Franchise ScotRail
Trading as First ScotRail
GB timetable code SR
Run by First 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)
Superseded by Scotrail
Caledonian Sleeper
 
Franchise Northern
Trading as Northern Rail
GB timetable code NT
Run by Northern Rail (Serco/Abellio)
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)
Superseded by Arriva Rail North
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Trading as Great North Eastern Railway
GB timetable code GR
Run by Great North Eastern Railway (Sea Containers)
Dates 1 May 2005 to 8 December 2007 (originally to run until 31 March 2015)
Superseded by National Express East Coast
 
Franchise Greater Western
Trading as First Great Western (to 19 September 2015)
Great Western Railway (from 20 September 2015)
GB timetable code GW
Run by First Greater Western
Dates 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2013 (original franchise; option to 31 March 2016 not exercised)
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)
 
Franchise Integrated Kent
Trading as Southeastern
GB timetable code SE
Run by London & South Eastern Railway (Govia)
Dates 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2014 (original franchise)
1 April 2014 to 12 September 2014 (franchise extension)
13 September 2014 to 14 December 2014 (franchise extension; small number of services)
13 September 2014 to 24 June 2018 (franchise extension; remaining services)
Superseded by Govia Thameslink Railway (small number of services)
(remaining franchise still current)
 
Franchise Thameslink Great Northern
Trading as First Capital Connect
GB timetable code FC
Run by First Group
First GNTL
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)
Superseded by Govia Thameslink Railway
 
Franchise South Western
Trading as South West Trains
GB timetable code SW
IL (Island Line-branded services)
Run by Stagecoach South Western Trains
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)
Superseded by South Western Railway
 
Franchise East Midlands
Trading as East Midlands Trains
GB timetable code EM
Run by East Midlands Trains (Stagecoach)
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) (absorbed Barton on Humber service from Arriva Rail North)
5 March 2018 to November 2018 (franchise extension)
 
Franchise London Overground
Trading as London Overground
GB timetable code LO
Run by London Overground Rail Operations (MTR Corporation/DB Regio) on behalf of Rail for London
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)
Superseded by London Overground
 
Franchise New CrossCountry
Trading as Crosscountry
GB timetable code XC
Run by XC Rail (Arriva)
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)
 
Franchise West Midlands
Trading as London Midland
GB timetable code LM
Run by London and Birmingham Railway (Govia)
Dates 11 November 2007 to 19 September 2015 (original franchise)
20 September 2015 to 31 March 2016 (franchise extension)
1 April 2016 to xx October 2017 (franchise extension, originally to xx June 2017)
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Trading as National Express East Coast
GB timetable code GR
Run by NXEC Trains (National Express)
Dates 9 December 2007 to 13 November 2009 (originally to run until 31 March 2015)
Superseded by East Coast
 
Franchise Network South Central
Trading as New Southern Railway
GB timetable code GX (Gatwick Express-branded services)
SN (Southern-branded services)
Run by Southern Railway (Govia)
Dates 22 June 2008 to 19 September 2009
Superseded by Southern
 
Franchise Network South Central
Trading as Southern
GB timetable code GX (Gatwick Express-branded services)
SN (Southern-branded services)
Run by Southern Railway (Govia)
Dates 20 September 2009 to 25 July 2015 (option to July 2017 not exercised)
Superseded by Govia Thameslink Railway
Notes Remains as a separate brand within subsequent franchises
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Trading as East Coast
GB timetable code GR
Run by East Coast Main Line Company (Directly Operated Railways (Secretary of State for Transport))
Dates 14 November 2009 to 8 December 2013 (original franchise)
9 December 2013 to 28 February 2015 (franchise extension)
Superseded by Virgin Trains East Coast
 
Franchise Tyne & Wear Metro
Trading as Metro
GB timetable code TW
Run by DB Regio Tyne & Wear
Dates 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2017
Superseded by Tyne & Wear Metro
Notes Not a 'national' operator, but does access national network track around Sunderland/Pelaw
 
Franchise Greater Anglia
Trading as Greater Anglia (to 7 December 2013)
Abellio Greater Anglia (from 8 December 2013)
GB timetable code LE
SX (Stansted Express-branded services)
Run by Abellio 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)
Superseded by London Overground (inner suburban West Anglia services)
Crossrail (inner suburban Great Eastern services)
Greater Anglia (remaining services)
 
Franchise InterCity West Coast
Trading as First West Coast
GB timetable code (none)
Run by First West Coast
Dates 9 December 2012 to 31 March 2026 (option to extend to 31 December 2027)
Superseded by Virgin West Coast
Notes Franchise award was cancelled on 3 October 2012 resulting in a further extension to Virgin Trains
 
Franchise Thameslink Southern Great Northern
Trading as Govia Thameslink Railway
GB timetable code GN (Great Northern-branded services)
GX (Gatwick Express-branded services)
SN (Southern-branded services)
TL (Thameslink-branded services)
TL (all services from 13 December 2015) (in public all line timetable only; other online systems retain separate branded codes)
Run by Govia Thameslink Railway
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)
 
Franchise Essex Thameside
Trading as c2c
GB timetable code CC
Run by NXET Trains (National Express) (to 9 February 2017)
NXET Trains (Trenitalia) (from 10 February 2017)
Dates 9 November 2014 to 10 November 2029
 
Franchise InterCity East Coast
Trading as Virgin Trains East Coast
GB timetable code GR
Run by Inter City Railways (Stagecoach/Virgin)
Dates 1 March 2015 to 31 March 2023
 
Franchise Caledonian Sleeper
Trading as Caledonian Sleeper
GB timetable code CS
Run by Serco Caledonian Sleepers
Dates 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2030
 
Franchise ScotRail
Trading as ScotRail
GB timetable code SR
Run by Abellio ScotRail
Dates 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2025
 
Franchise Crossrail
Trading as TfL Rail (to 2017)
Crossrail (from 2017)
GB timetable code XR
Run by MTR Corporation Crossrail
Dates 31 May 2015 to 2023 (two year extension possible)
 
Franchise TransPennine
Trading as First Transpennine Express
GB timetable code TP
Run by First TransPennine Express
Dates 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2023
 
Franchise Northern
Trading as Arriva Rail North
GB timetable code NT
Run by Arriva Rail North
Dates 1 April 2016 to 14 October 2017 (Barton on Humber service)
1 April 2016 to 31 March 2025 (remaining services)
Superseded by East Midlands Trains (Barton on Humber service)
(remaining franchise still current)
 
Franchise Greater Anglia
Trading as Greater Anglia
GB timetable code LE
SX (Stansted Express-branded services)
Run by Abellio East Anglia
Dates 16 October 2016 to October 2025
 
Franchise London Overground
Trading as London Overground
GB timetable code LO
Run by Arriva Rail London
Dates 13 November 2016 to xx May 2024
 
Franchise Tyne & Wear Metro
Trading as Metro
GB timetable code TW
Run by Nexus (local authorities)
Dates 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2019
Notes Not a 'national' operator, but does access national network track around Sunderland/Pelaw
 
Franchise South Western
Trading as South Western Railway
GB timetable code SW
Run by First MTR South Western Trains
Dates 20 August 2017 to xx August 2024 (11 month extension possible)

 

Non-franchised and pre-privatisation companies

Company GB timetable code UK network operating dates
Devon & Cornwall Railway DC  
European Passenger Services EP  
Eurostar EP (original)
ES (later)
14 November 1994 to date
Grand Central GC 18 December 2007 to December 2026
Great North Western Railway   2018 to ??
Heathrow Connect HC 12 June 2005 to date
Heathrow Express HX 23 June 1998 to date
Hull Trains (to July 2008)
First Hull Trains (from July 2008, to May 2015)
Hull Trains (from May 2015)
HT 25 September 2002 to date
InterCity East Coast EC  
London Transport/London Underground LT  
Network Rail NR n/a
Network SouthCentral NS  
North Yorkshire Moors Railway NY April 2007 to date
Railtrack RT n/a
South Eastern Train Co SE  
Stobart Rail XS 18 July 2011 to date
West Coast Railways WR 1998 to date
Wrexham & Shropshire Railway
Wrexham Shropshire & Marylebone Railway
WS 28 April 2008 to 28 January 2011
Freight and miscellaneous operators ZZ n/a
Christmas Special service XM Spoof code used around 24/25 December for 'Santa's delivery service

Further information is available on this Rail Chronology page.  Timetable change dates appear on another Rail Chronology page.

Introduction | Rail franchise operators | Light rail system operators