Franchise(s):Midland Mainline
April 1996 – November 2007
Main Region(s):East Midlands,
Yorkshire and the Humber
Other Region(s):East of England
Fleet size:23 Class 222 Meridian sets
28 HST power cars
Stations called at:27 (7 operated)
National Rail abbreviation:ML
Parent company:National Express Group
Midland Mainline route map
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Wakefield Westgate
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Meadowhall 10px
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Sheffield 10px
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Burton upon Trent
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Langley Mill
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Nottingham 10px
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Long Eaton
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East Midlands Parkway
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Market Harborough
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Luton Airport Parkway
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London St Pancras London Underground

Midland Mainline (MML) was a British train operating company owned by the National Express Group and based in Derby. It was created after the privatisation of British Rail. Midland Mainline services operated from April 1996 to November 2007.

Midland Mainline ran fast and semi-fast passenger services from London to the East Midlands and Yorkshire, on the Midland Main Line. Trains ran from London St Pancras which it used exclusively. Most services ran between London and either Sheffield, Derby, or Nottingham. Some services extended to Leeds, York, Barnsley and Burton upon Trent.

On 22 June 2007, the Department for Transport announced that Midland Mainline had lost the franchise to operate these services from 11 November 2007. Services were transferred to East Midlands Trains, operated by Stagecoach Group. Midland Mainline then ceased to operate.[1]

Service patternsEdit

The off peak service pattern, upon conclusion of the franchise in November 2007, consisted of four departures per hour from St Pancras. There were two 'fast' and two 'semi-fast' trains per hour. The hourly pattern from St Pancras was as below:

xx00: semi-fast to Derby, calling at:

with a journey time of 1 hour 56 minutes.

with a journey time of 2 hours 26 minutes.

with a journey time around 3 hours 14 minutes.

with a journey time of 4 hours 46 minutes to Scarborough and 3 hours 56 minutes to York.

This service was operated by a four or five car Class 222 Meridian.

xx25: fast to Sheffield, generally calling just at:

with a journey time around 2 hours 21 minutes.

with a journey time of 3 hours 17 minutes

with a journey time of 2 hours 14 minutes from Leicester

This service was generally operated by a Class 43 High Speed Train, although a few diagrams use an eight car Class 222 Meridian

xx30: semi-fast to Nottingham, calling at:

with a journey time of 1 hour 56 minutes.

This service was operated by a four or five car Class 222 Meridian

xx55: fast to Nottingham, generally calling at:

with a journey time of 1 hour 41 minutes.

This service was generally operated by an eight car Class 222 Meridian although sometimes a diagram uses a Class 43 High Speed Train,

  • All Midland Mainline services (except The Master Cutler morning 'up' service) called at Leicester with the fastest journey time to and from London of 1 hour 9 minutes.

Limited ServicesEdit


Midland Mainline operated a limited service between London St Pancras and Leeds, with three early morning departures from Leeds and four evening return trips from St Pancras. This is principally because the main maintenance depot for the Midland Mainline HST power cars was the Maintrain depot at Neville Hill in Leeds.

The service did not compare favourably with the principal service from London to Leeds along the East Coast Main Line operated by GNER. The Midland Main Line has a much slower line speed. The journey time on the Midland route is around 3 hours 17 minutes.

Midland Mainline had plans for a regular service between London St Pancras and Leeds via Nottingham, the Erewash Valley, Sheffield and Barnsley but these were rejected by the Strategic Rail Authority.

A small number of trains operated between London St Pancras and Sheffield via Nottingham and along the Erewash Valley to Chesterfield serving Langley Mill and Alfreton.

There were also a small number of through trains between St Pancras and Burton upon Trent, Belper, and Barnsley.

Midland Mainline operated summer weekend services between London and Scarborough on Saturdays providing the only through service between the capital and the North Yorkshire coast, and York on Sundays.

Through trains between London St Pancras and Matlock were stopped when Class 222 Meridian units were introduced as they are not allowed on the Derwent Valley Line branch line, unlike the Class 170 Turbostar which previously operated the route.

There was also a Saturday service from London to York at 06:20 and arriving at 10:16. It formed the first service of the day out of St Pancras. The return trip was at 17:49 and arriving at London at 21:52. The service goes via Doncaster as opposed to Leeds. On Sunday, the service to York runs from Leicester rather than London, with the return service being via the Erewash Valley to Nottingham, where it reverses to call at all MML stations (except Loughborough and Luton Airport Parkway) to London.

Project Rio Edit

During 2003/4, Midland Mainline operated a temporary service between London St Pancras and Manchester Piccadilly whilst the West Coast Main Line between Manchester and Euston underwent engineering work. This service was known as Project Rio, named after the footballer Rio Ferdinand who had made a record transfer to Manchester United Football Club.

The service used the Midland Main Line as far as Trent Junction, before taking the Erewash Valley (avoiding Derby) to Clay Cross, rejoining the Midland Main Line until Dore South Curve, which linked trains onto the Hope Valley Line towards Manchester. It ran from May 2003 and finished in September 2004. Former Virgin Cross-Country Class 43 High Speed Train sets were used and were quickly painted into Midland Mainline livery.

The service was run at the request of, and underwritten by, the SRA for a period of 1 year. While perhaps popular with a niche market, the total number of passengers per train frequently fell below a dozen between Leicester and Stockport. The considered success (or failure) of Project Rio is perhaps down to the existing Virgin London service still remaining considerably faster than the Hope Valley route, even taking into account the diversions during the engineering works.

Named TrainsEdit

  • The Robin Hood on the 06:30 Sheffield to St. Pancras via Nottingham, and returning as the 17:00 St. Pancras to Nottingham.
  • The Master Cutler on the 06:14 Leeds to St Pancras which runs non stop from Chesterfield, and 16:55 St. Pancras to Leeds return.
  • The Midlands Express on the 07:05 Sheffield to St. Pancras.


Categorised as a long distance operator Midland Mainline compared favourably to other operators in its category. The last performance figures for Midland Mainline published by the Office of Rail Regulation were a Public Performance Measure of 92.9% for the third quarter of the financial year 2007/8 and a Monthly Annual Average of 92.4%[2]. Midland Mainline was also awarded Passenger Operator of the Year 2006[3].

Onboard serviceEdit

Midland Mainline trains boasted a buffet car, known as the "MM bar", which served hot and cold food and drinks. Midland Mainline was the only operator to offer complimentary free tea and coffee to all passengers, including those in standard class. In 2007, the company announced that it would be serving Fairtrade tea and coffee on its trains. 4.5 million cups were served to passengers each year.[4]

Rolling stockEdit

Midland Mainline's fleet consisted of the following trains at the time they ceased service.


Class Image Type Top speed Quantity Unit numbers Routes operated Built
 mph   km/h 
Class 43 High Speed Train 100px Diesel locomotive 125 200 28 43007 / 43043 - 43050 / 43052 / 43054 - 43055 / 43058 - 43061 / 43064 / 43066 / 43072 - 43076 / 43081 - 43083 / 43085 / 43104 / 43166 / 43178 / 43184 Midland Main Line 1976 - 1982
Class 222 Meridian 100px diesel electric multiple unit 125 200 23 222001 - 222023 Midland Main Line 2003
Mark 3 coach 100px Passenger carriage 125 200 Midland Main Line 1975 - 1988

Midland Mainline had the following named units / locos.

HST names
43049 Neville Hill
43069 Rio Enterprise
43072 Derby Etches Park
Meridian names
222004 City of Sheffield
222005 City of Nottingham
222006 City of Leicester
222007 City of Derby

Midland Mainline re-configured the Meridian units from the end of 2006 to the start of 2007, reducing the nine-car sets to eight-car sets and increasing seven of the four-car sets to five-car sets to better provide for seating demand.

Stations Edit

  • Midland Mainline operated at twenty seven stations, of which it managed eight:

London St Pancras, Wellingborough, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester, Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield.

  • Other stations served included:

Luton Airport Parkway, Luton, Bedford Midland, Loughborough, Long Eaton, Willington, Burton upon Trent, Beeston, Nottingham, Langley Mill, Alfreton, Dronfield, Meadowhall, Barnsley, Doncaster, Wakefield Westgate, Leeds,York, Scarborough.

  • Stations which used to be served but then had their Midland Mainline services stop before the franchise ended:

Duffield, Ambergate, Whatstandwell, Cromford, Matlock Bath, Matlock, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly.

The EndEdit

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The Midland Mainline franchise continued to operate until November 2007 before becoming part of the East Midlands franchise which includes former Central Trains services in the East Midlands.

On the 22 June 2007, the Department for Transport announced that Stagecoach had won the franchise. [5]

As National Express, the company that currently runs Midland Mainline, lost the franchise bid, on the 11 November 2007 all services transferred to East Midlands Trains and Midland Mainline ceased to exist.

References Edit


Preceded by
As part of British Rail
Operator of Midland Main Line franchise
1996 - 2007
Succeeded by
East Midlands Trains
East Midlands franchise
Preceded by
Train Operator of the Year
Succeeded by
Anglia Railways
Preceded by
London Underground
Passenger Operator of the Year