World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Central Trains

Central Trains
Franchise(s): Central Trains
2 March 1997 – 11 November 2007
Main Region(s): Midlands (East, West)
Other Region(s): North West England, East Anglia, South East Wales
Stations called at: 232 (193 operated)
National Rail abbreviation: CT
Parent company: National Express Group
Central Trains' earliest logo, drawing on that of predecessor Regional Railways

Central Trains[1] was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by National Express that operated the Central Trains franchise from March 1997 until November 2007.


  • Overview 1
  • Network 2
    • "Citylink" Services 2.1
    • Regional Services 2.2
    • Network West Midlands Services 2.3
  • Performance 3
  • Rolling stock 4
    • Fleet: March 1997 4.1
    • Fleet: September 2007 4.2
  • Expiry of the Central franchise 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Created out of the Central division of Regional Railways, Central Trains passed into the private sector on 2 March 1997.[2] The franchise was awarded to National Express Group, who maintained control of the company until its eventual demise in 2007. Central Trains employed over 2,400 staff.[3]

The company invested significantly in rolling stock, with significant orders for new trains placed and the fleet later further grown through the acquisition of trains made surplus by other companies. Despite a reduction in the area covered during the ten years of its existence, the company grew its core fleet from fewer than 300[2] passenger vehicles to a total of 379[3][4] - a capacity increase of over 28%. It also refurbished a number of its stations, introducing ticket gates, help points and live information boards.

Central Trains also clamped down on vandalism on its trains and fare evasion, including through a controversial poster campaign publicising the names and addresses of passengers who had been fined for not having valid tickets.[5]

The franchise gained a reputation for poor timekeeping: its best performing period between 2000 and 2007 still saw one in six trains five minutes late or more,[6] with punctuality dropping as low as 61% in 2003.[7] The company also suffered from ongoing staff relations problems which led to extensive and long-lasting cancellations of Sunday services.[8][9][10]

Following a government policy announced in 2004, Central Trains was eventually disbanded in November 2007 with its services dispersed amongst London Midland, East Midlands Trains and Cross Country.


At its greatest extent, Central Trains operated 253 stations and provided services covering 1,534 miles of the UK's railway network, covering most of central England and Mid Wales.[11] In its last years, the company saw 43 million passenger journeys and a total of 930 million miles travelled every year.

Services ranged from rural and local services to flagship express services originally branded as Alphaline and later developed into Central Citylink. In the West Midlands, the company also operated the extensive urban rail service known as Centro and later Network West Midlands under contract to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive.

In the late 1990s, Central Trains offered many through services between routes which had previously been shown as self-contained in public timetables. For example, where a train had previously been timetabled to work a Shrewsbury to Birmingham service followed by a Birmingham to Leicester service, the workings were combined and shown as a single direct Shrewsbury - Birmingham - Leicester service in the public timetable. This resulted in some particularly lengthy services such as those from Aberystwyth in Mid Wales to Grimsby on the opposite coast of the UK.[12][13] This also gave rise to the nickname "The Barmouth to Yarmouth Railway" due to the fact Central Trains operated services in both Mid Wales and East Anglia (certain services were extended from Norwich to Great Yarmouth in the summer).

The period of the franchise saw both additions to and losses from the network: services in Mid Wales were transferred away to Wales & Borders in 2001, but the company also reintroduced direct services to Stansted Airport from the north. Central Trains also inherited some Birmingham to Northampton services from Silverlink.

Central Trains had a major shakeup between 2004-05 to prepare them for the eventual break up of the franchise. The first part of this was done in 2001 when the Birmingham New Street – Chester & Mid Wales and Cambrian Coast Line was transferred into what is now the Arriva Trains Wales franchise. In 2004 services from Leamington Spa to Birmingham Snow Hill & Stratford upon Avon were transferred into Chiltern Railways, although there was no real service improvement and Central, like its successor London Midland maintain a peak hours only service to Leamington Spa. Services on the Snow Hill lines had only one loss, and several gains. The service between Birmingham and Stourbridge was increased to every 10 minutes, and this in turn increased the Kidderminster service. There was little or no improvement on services towards Worcester and the Birmingham New Street to Worcester via Stourbridge was discontinued meaning passenger started changing at Smethwick Galton Bridge to allow them to get to New Street. Liverpool Lime Street to Birmingham New Street services originally ran through and became one service to Stansted Airport, similar to their service from Liverpool to Norwich via Nottingham (now part of East Midlands Trains). Due to problems with delays the service was split at Birmingham New Street, the Liverpool service is now part of London Midland and Stansted Airport trains are operated by Cross Country.

Previously Central Trains ran services from Birmingham New Street to Nottingham via Leicester as well as Derby, this service was split, the Leicester to Nottingham service was merged with the hourly Ivanhoe Line service to Loughbourgh and was extended past Nottingham all stations to Lincoln. During 2004 Central’s Trent Valley local services that ran generally from Stafford or Nuneaton (some from Coventry) were discontinued due to a Driver shortage and not restored until over year later, when they were replaced by an electric service from Northampton to Crewe. Another fatality of the ‘lack of Drivers’ was the service between Rugeley Trent Valley and Stafford, services were cut back now to this day only run Birmingham to Rugeley Trent Valley. Coventry to Nottingham via Leicester services were discontinued after engineering work at Nuneaton station made it impossible for trains from Coventry to join the line towards Leicester and no attempt was ever made to rectify this. This service was restored in 2005 as an hourly shuttle to Nuneaton, with passengers requiring changing at Nuneaton for Leicester (and change again at Leicester for Nottingham). Cross Country operated all trains between Birmingham and Nuneaton to Leicester with London Midland operating the shuttle service between Coventry and Nuneaton. Central discontinued their single Northampton service a day which ran to Nottingham and other East Midlands locations via Birmingham once they gained the Birmingham to Northampton route from sister company Silverlink Trains in 2004/05. Two trains per hour from Birmingham New Street – London Euston via Northampton was replaced by one train per hour to Northampton which connected badly with onward services to London Euston, although a few trains a day did run straight through to London from Birmingham. The service started off as an hourly express service until it was merged with the local service to Coventry adding more journey time.

The local service to and from Coventry to Wolverhampton calling all stations was also changed in 2004, it was split at Birmingham New Street as Central Trains starting operating Class 321 EMUs on the service and they were too long to fit into the bay platform 5 at Wolverhampton. A later development was implemented that had trains running express from New Street to Birmingham International (with some stops at Marston Green) then all station to Coventry and services to Walsall were extended to Birmingham International calling all stations, Adderely Park station was cut down to one train per hour shortly after this. This service is now entirely part of London Midland and operates hourly through to London Euston, with three trains per hour between Coventry and Birmingham during a weekday.

"Citylink" Services

A map of the Citylink routes

Citylink was the brand applied to principal express and long distance services including the key routes:

  • Birmingham New Street - Liverpool Lime Street
  • Birmingham New Street - Stansted Airport
  • Cardiff Central - Birmingham New Street - Nottingham
  • Liverpool Lime Street - Nottingham - Norwich

Regional Services

  • Birmingham New Street - Leicester (from 2004)
  • Birmingham New Street - Derby - Nottingham
  • Birmingham New Street - Shrewsbury
  • Northampton - Birmingham/Crewe/Preston (from 2004)
  • Coventry-Skegness via Nuneaton
  • Nuneaton - Coventry (from 2005)
  • Nottingham - Skegness
  • Doncaster / Lincoln Central - Peterborough via Spalding
  • Newark North Gate - Lincoln - Cleethorpes
  • Leicester - Lincoln Central (from 2004)
  • Derby - Crewe / Nottingham / Matlock
  • Nottingham - Mansfield Woodhouse / Worksop
Central Trains' 158855 at Oxford in 2003. Central Trains briefly ran an experimental service between Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford, via Warwick, Leamington Spa and Banbury, between 2002 and 2003.

Network West Midlands Services

  • Coventry - Birmingham New Street - Wolverhampton
  • Cross City Line: Redditch/Longbridge - Four Oaks/Lichfield Trent Valley
  • Snow Hill Lines: Great Malvern/Worcester/Kidderminster - Dorridge/Shirley/Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Chase Line: Birmingham - Walsall / Stafford
  • Walsall - Wolverhampton
  • Stourbridge Junction - Birmingham New Street


Considering the difficulties with which Central Trains contended, including sharing tracks with so many other operators, it did not perform too badly in its twilight months. The last figures released by the ORR (Office of Rail Regulation) rated Central Trains' performance at 84.8% for the PPM (Public Performance Measure) over the third quarter of the financial year 2007/8.[14] This was an improvement over the same period last year, during which they achieved 82.7%. Their final MAA was 86.6%.[14] They have always had a reputation for being poor performing with bad customer service though, and this may have been partly why they lost the franchise.

Rolling stock

Central Trains' 156402 in Regional Railways livery at Coventry in 2000. The direct service from Coventry to Skegness ceased in 2004.

Central Trains' fleet was primarily made up of diesel multiple unit trains, with an additional fleet of electric trains in use around Birmingham.

The awarding of the franchise was soon followed by multiple orders for a total of 33 new air-conditioned, 100 mph Turbostar trains, intended to boost the fleet and replace older rolling stock. Though a large number of 1980s and 1990s diesel multiple unit trains inherited from British Rail remained, the last 1960s and 70s 'slam door' trains had been retired by 2000.[15]

Over the course of the franchise, a number of the older Class 156 and Class 158 trains were transferred away to other operators including Wales & Borders and One. This was balanced by the acquisition of additional Turbostar trains no longer required by sister company Midland Mainline as well as additional Class 150 and Class 158 units made surplus by other operators. Over the years, both Class 150 and 158 trains were shuffled between two and three carriage formations to meet changing needs.

The Strategic Rail Authority decision to divert rolling stock originally intended for South West Trains[16] also saw the company benefit from a fleet of 30 new 100 mph Class 350 Desiro units, which were shared with Silverlink for use on the West Coast Main Line between Euston and Northampton/Liverpool via Tamworth.

Fleet: March 1997

Rolling stock in 1997 consisted entirely of trains inherited from British Rail. Some, such as Class 310 and Class 312 trains were in the process of withdrawal at privatisation.[2]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 150 Sprinter diesel multiple unit 75 120 29× 2 car

9× 3 car

Some Centro services.

Dorridge/Shirley/Stratford Upon Avon/Leamington Spa – Worcester/Great Malvern/Hereford. Some non Centro routes Crewe to Skegness, Derby to Matlock and Nottingham to Worksop

Class 153 Super Sprinter diesel multiple unit 75 120 21 Lincolnshire and Mid Wales rural services, Stourbridge branch line, Skegness to Crewe & Derby to Matlock and Nottingham to Birmingham New Street/Shrewsbury via Derby 1987–1988
Class 156 Super Sprinter diesel multiple unit 75 120 20 Aberystwyth and Chester to Birmingham New Street, Hereford to Birmingham New Street, Birmingham New Street to Leicester, Nottingham, Lincoln Central & Grimsby Town, Nottingham to Worksop, Crewe to Skegness. 1987–1989
Class 158 Express Sprinter diesel multiple unit 90 145 36 Norwich to Liverpool, Stansted to Birmingham, Nottingham to Cardiff, Grimsby to Birmingham, Birmingham to Liverpool 1989–1992
Class 310 electric multiple unit 75 121 10 Already being withdrawn at privatisation, remained as backup for the newly introduced Class 323. 1966
Class 312 electric multiple units 90 145 4 1976
Class 323 electric multiple units 90 145 26 Cross City Lines 1992–1993

Fleet: September 2007

By the final months of the franchise, Central Trains had a significantly more modern fleet.[4] It was also supplementing its fleet with Class 321 and new Class 350 electric trains shared with sister company Silverlink.

Class Image Type Top speed Number Usual routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 150 Sprinter diesel multiple unit 75 120 18× 2 car

18× 3 car

Non-electric services for Network West Midlands, plus some services to Worcester, Malvern and Hereford. 1984–1987
Class 153 Super Sprinter diesel multiple unit 75 120 16 Lincolnshire rural services, Coventry–Nuneaton and Stourbridge branch line. 1987–1988
Class 156 Super Sprinter diesel multiple unit 75 120 10 Middle distance services, mainly in the East Midlands. 1987–1989
Class 158 Express Sprinter diesel multiple unit 90 145 13× 2 car

8× 3 car

Middle distance services and some Citylink duties. 1989–1992
Class 170 Turbostar diesel multiple unit 100 160 31× 2 car

22× 3 car

Citylink services and general use across the franchise area. 1999–2002
Class 323 electric multiple units 90 145 26 Birmingham Cross City Lines 1992–1993

Expiry of the Central franchise

In October 2004, the Department for Transport unveiled plans designed to streamline rail franchises which included the abolition of the Central Trains franchise and the transfer of its services to other operators.[17] It was announced that the franchise would end in April 2007, although there was a later extension until November 2007[18]).

On 11 November 2007, Central Trains ceased to exist and its services transferred to three new train operating companies:

  • Local and urban services around the West Midlands were merged with former Silverlink services to form London Midland
  • The Liverpool - Nottingham - Norwich service (which had been threatened with a split[19]) and local trains in the East Midlands were combined with Midland Mainline services to form East Midlands Trains
  • Other primary express and Citylink services became the responsibility of CrossCountry


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007938 Central Trains Limited
  2. ^ a b c Knight, Steven, ed. (1997). "A comprehensive guide to Britain's new railway". Peterborough: EMAP Apex Publications.  
  3. ^ a b "Key Facts and Figures". Central Trains. 
  4. ^ a b "Fleet Lists". The Junction. Archived from the original on 16 September 2007. 
  5. ^ "Train firm tackles fare dodging". BBC News. 29 August 2006. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Train firm's timekeeping improves". BBC News. 29 March 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  7. ^ "Train punctuality plummets". BBC News. 13 March 2003. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  8. ^ "No drivers means no Sunday trains". BBC News. 16 December 2005. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  9. ^ "Driver shortage disrupts trains". BBC News. 17 December 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  10. ^ "Rail travellers face disruption". BBC News. 12 August 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  11. ^ Johnston, Howard, ed. (2001). "The comprehensive guide to Britain's railways". Peterborough: EMAP Active.  
  12. ^
  13. ^ "National Rail Timetable 28 May to 23 September 2000". London: Railtrack plc. 2000.  
  14. ^ a b PPM actual "Office of Rail Regulation - National Rail Trends" (PDF). ORR. 
  15. ^ "Our Fleet". Central Trains. 
  16. ^ "Press Release". Angel Trains. 
  17. ^ "Rail franchising arrangements, October 2004". Department for Transport. 
  18. ^ "Central Trains franchise extended". BBC News. 2 April 2006. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  19. ^ "‘Nottingham split’ scrapped, but hourly Norwich – Liverpool service under threat". The Norfolk Railway Society. 

External links

  • National Express Group website

Preceded by
Regional Railways
As part of British Rail
Operator of Central Trains franchise
1997 - 2007
Succeeded by
New CrossCountry franchise
Succeeded by
London Midland
West Midlands franchise
Succeeded by
East Midlands Trains
East Midlands franchise
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.