2nd March 1997 – 11th November 2007
Main Region(s):Midlands (East, West)
Other Region(s):North West, East Anglia
Fleet size:156
Stations called at:232 (193 operated)
National Rail abbreviation:CT
Parent company:National Express Group
File:Central Trains.JPG

Central Trains was a train operating company in the United Kingdom, running local and long-distance services in central England. The company’s operations were centred on Birmingham in the West Midlands.

The longer-distance services were branded as Central Citylink.


The franchise covered 1,305 miles (2,100 km) of railway, and had in its last years more than 43 million passenger journeys per year, travelling a total of 930 million miles (1,495 million km).

On 19 October 2004, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced that at the end of the current franchise in 2006, Central Trains’ routes would be divided between the Silverlink, Chiltern, Virgin Cross Country, Midland Mainline and Northern Rail franchises.[1] The end of the franchise was delayed until 11 November 2007 when London Midland took over most of the routes.

From a low pre-privatisation base, the company ended with £74 million worth of new trains, replacing the slam-door rolling stock it inherited with the modern Class 350 ‘Desiros’, which it shared with sister-company Silverlink. It also refurbished many of its stations, introducing ticket gates and live information boards, and clamped down on vandalism on its trains.

Central Trains was owned by the National Express Group and employed over 2,400 staff.[2]

In 2006 the company took the step of producing posters with lists of names and addresses of those who had been fined for ticket evasion.[3]


Central Trains served 232 stations in the Midlands, North East, North West, Yorkshire and East Anglia. Most services were operated in Central Trains colours except for services in the West Midlands county which operated under contract to Network West Midlands, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive and operated in their livery. These are the main services they operated:

"Citylink" ServicesEdit

Main article: Central Citylink
  • Birmingham New Street - Liverpool Lime Street
  • Birmingham New Street - Preston (one evening peak service Northbound, no Southbound service)
  • Birmingham New Street - Stansted Airport
  • Cardiff Central - Nottingham
  • Liverpool - Norwich via Manchester & Nottingham

Regional ServicesEdit

  • West Coast Mainline : Northampton - Crewe/Preston
  • Birmingham New Street - Shrewsbury
  • Birmingham New Street - Coventry - Northampton
  • Birmingham New Street - Nuneaton - Leicester
  • Nuneaton - Coventry
  • Doncaster / Lincoln Central - Peterborough via Spalding
  • Newark North Gate - Lincoln - Grimsby/Cleethorpes
  • Leicester - Lincoln Central
  • Nottingham - Skegness
  • Derby - Matlock
  • Derby - Crewe via Stoke-on-Trent
  • Derby - Nottingham
  • Birmingham - Nottingham
  • Nottingham - Leicester
  • Nottingham - Mansfield Woodhouse / Worksop
  • Stafford - Hanley via Stoke-on-Trent (Bus service)

Network West Midlands ServicesEdit

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


Considering the difficulties with which Central Trains contended with, including sharing tracks with so many other operators, Central Trains had not performed 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[4]. This was an improvement over the same period last year, during which they achieved 82.7%. Their final MAA was 86.6%[5]. 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 StockEdit

When National Express Group took over Central Trains in 1997, the company started to dispose of its last 1960s and 70s ‘slam door’ trains. By 2000, all older trains were out of service,[6] and the franchise operated a fleet of one and two carriage Diesel multiple unit railcars, mostly inherited from Regional Railways, the division of British Rail that preceded Central.

These 'Sprinters' were introduced during the 1980s, in line with a policy of replacing locomotive-hauled trains with shorter but more frequent single class rail car services. Soon after the franchise was awarded in March 1997, 33 new Class 170 100mph air-conditioned Turbostar trains were ordered.

Central Trains had recently taken delivery of 30 new 100mph Class 350 Desiro units, which were shared with Silverlink County for use on the West Coast Main Line between Euston and Northampton/Liverpool via Tamworth. The additions were part of a £100 million investment by the SRA to improve comfort, convenience, speed and accessibility.

The majority of Central Trains services were operated by diesel trains, as lines they operated were not electrified.

Final fleetEdit

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 150 Sprinter 100px diesel multiple unit 75 120 34 Network West Midlands (non-electro)

Dorridge/Shirley/Stratford Upon Avon/Leamington Spa - Worcester/Great Malvern/Hereford

Class 153 Super Sprinter HPIM0808 diesel multiple unit 75 120 16 Lincolnshire Rural Services , Coventry-Nuneaton And Stourbridge Branch Line 1987 - 1988
Class 156 Super Sprinter 100px diesel multiple unit 75 120 11 Local Mid-Distance Service 1987 - 1989
Class 158 Express Sprinter 100px diesel multiple unit 90 145 21 Mostly Routes in the East Midlands 1989 - 1992
Class 170 Turbostar 100px diesel multiple unit 100 160 53 On almost all Central Trains' routes 1999 - 2002
Class 321 100px electric multiple units 100 160 4 Birmingham - Northampton

Birmingham International - Walsall

1988 - 1991
Class 323 100px electric multiple units 90 145 26 Cross City Lines 1992 - 1993
Class 350 Desiro 100px electric multiple units 100 160 301 Liverpool - Birmingham , Northampton - Birmingham / Crewe 2004 - 2005
  1. Built for Central Trains and Silverlink regional express services and Central Citylink services on the southern section of the West Coast Main Line.

The endEdit

It was announced in October 2005 that the Central franchise would end in April 2007 (later extended to November 2007[7]), as part of a programme to reduce the number of franchises in the Midlands.[1] Central Trains was split into three parts, each of which was amalgamated with another franchise:

The future of the problematic Liverpool to Norwich service now appears relatively secure: previous suggestions to split the service into two separate services between Liverpool and Nottingham, and Nottingham and Norwich, have been abandoned,[8] and the service has become part of the East Midlands franchise.

Recently Central Trains in the Centro area, which covered the West Midlands, Class 150s have been repainted in a livery similar to the Central Trains services. However, it is not known if the Class 323s will also be painted in the same livery.

It was announced on Thursday 21 June 2007 that many of Central Trains services (including Snow Hill lines), would be run under a new franchise operated by London Midland[9] whose parent company is Govia.

It was announced on Thursday 22 June 2007 that many of Central Trains services (including local services in the East Midlands), would be run under a new franchise operated by East Midlands Trains[10][11] whose parent company is Stagecoach Group.

It was announced on 10th of July 2007 that many of Central Trains services (including Cardiff - Nottingham, Birmingham - Stansted Airport and Hereford - Nottingham), would be run under a new franchise operated by CrossCountry[12] whose parent company is Arriva.

This came into action as of Sunday 11 November 2007.


External linksEdit


Preceded by
Regional Railways
As part of British Rail
Operator of Central franchise
1997 - 2007
Succeeded by
Cross-Country franchise
Succeeded by
London Midland
West Midlands franchise
Succeeded by
East Midlands Trains
East Midlands franchise