Franchise(s):Part of the Central Franchise
1997 – November 2007
Main Region(s):Midlands
Other Region(s):North West, East Anglia
Fleet size:100 (see below)
Stations called at:32
National Rail abbreviation:CT
Parent company:Central Trains (National Express Group)

Central Citylink was the brand name used from 2003 by Central Trains for their long distance services across the Midlands rail network. Citylink services were clearly distinguished in station announcements and timetables. Citylink also had a separate logo (right) and had a section of the Central Trains website.

The brand was very similar to British Rail's "Alphaline" brand, both in the type of services (expresses, but not "InterCity") and in the level of on-board service. The "Citylink" brand came to an end during 2007, in preparation for the ending of the Central Trains franchise in November 2007.



The four Central Citylink routes [1]were:

  1. Birmingham - Liverpool*
  2. Liverpool - Norwich
  3. Birmingham - Stansted Airport
  4. Nottingham - Cardiff
  • There was also one evening peak Birmingham to Preston service- but with no return service.

Commencement of servicesEdit

Central Trains long distance services were re-branded as "Central Citylink" services in 2003. This was part of the re-franchising agreement that extended the Central franchise from 2003 to 2006. The plan was to operate fast and frequent express services operated by air-conditioned, modern trains, as opposed to the local commuter trains in the Birmingham area- these would remain just as "Central Trains" services. To give the service more of an "Intercity" feel it was decided that seats would be reservable in advance, and most services would offer at-seat catering. [2] [3][4] Central created a logo, unique adverts and a section of the Central Trains website for the brand. Announcements started distinguishing Citylink services soon after. Central Trains' Guide 1 timetable was designated for all Citylink services, and highlight the special features of the brand. [5]

End of servicesEdit

It was announced that the Central franchise would end in November 2007, as part of a programme to reduce the number of franchises in the Midlands. The Central Trains franchise was to be split into three parts, with each amalgamated with another existing franchise. The Cross Country franchise from Nottingham to Cardiff Central and Birmingham New Street to Stansted Airport Central Citylink services were taken over by Arriva under the name CrossCountry. The East Midlands franchise from Norwich to Liverpool was taken over by Stagecoach operating under the name East Midlands Trains. Additionally, the West Midlands franchise from Liverpool to Birmingham New Street service was taken over by Govia under the name London Midland.

The full transition took place in November 2007. After this, Central Citylink became a Defunct UK Train Operating Company (sub brand).

File:350120 kingsthorpe 220407 d adkins.jpg
File:158788 at Cambridge.jpg


Due to the length of many of the routes (Liverpool to Norwich = 5 hours), services were prone to delays later on in the day, when delays had built up . This was not helped by the fact that Central Citylink operated on certain East-West cross country lines, which are slow and poorly maintained when compared to the higher speed North-South lines from London. They also competed with other rail companies on some routes, restricting flexibility of the timetable. They played second fiddle to the InterCity operators – if a Virgin train (for example) was to be running late, it would get priority over a Citylink Train. This normally meant sitting idle on a stretch of track, waiting for that Virgin Train to go past. Many Citylink trains started off on time, but ended up delayed, purely as a result of giving way to an InterCity train.


On the electrified route (Birmingham to Liverpool) Class 350 Desiro units were used. On the other, non- electrified routes, Class 170 Turbostar units and Class 158 Express Sprinter units were used. All these units were used in conjunction with Central Trains other services.

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 170 Turbostar 100px diesel multiple unit 100 160 53 The non-electrified routes (2-4) 1999
Class 158 Express Sprinter 100px diesel multiple unit 90 145 21 The non-electrified routes (2-4) 1989 - 1992
Class 350 Desiro 100px electric multiple units 100 160 30 The electrified route (1) 2004 - 2005

Preceded by
Regional Railways
As part of British Rail
Part of Central franchise
1997 - 2007
Succeeded by
Cross-Country franchise
From 11th November 2007
Succeeded by
London Midland
West Midlands franchise
From 11th November 2007
Succeeded by
East Midlands Trains
East Midlands franchise
From 11th November 2007

See AlsoEdit


  1. A guide to Central Citylink
  2. National Express Group
  3. BBC News
  4. A guide to Central Citylink
  5. Central Trains' timetables