Railway Operators in Great Britain


BR - British Railways Board ("British Rail")

Network length, gauge and electrification (2008):

The former network of BR has been split up between different private railway companies that could bid for franchises. The rolling stock of the passenger companies is owned by leasing companies like Angel, Porterbrook, Forward Trust and Fragonset Railways.
In 2009/2010 all passenger operating companies together produced 51.1 billion passenger-km, 0.6% more than in the previous year. Only Virgin and London Midland saw substantial growth.

Website: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

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ATW - Arriva Trains Wales Ltd./Trenau Arriva Cymru Cyf.

Network length, gauge and electrification (2008):

The franchise that is run by Arriva Trains Wales consists of the former "Valley Lines" part of the Wales and Borders franchise (originally the Cardiff Railway Company Ltd., running local trains around Cardiff), and the Welsh part of the original Wales and West, Central Trains and North West Regional Railways franchises.
The franchise of the first was taken over from Prism Rail by National Express, that operated this franchise until November 2003 when Arriva took over. Arriva will operate the new franchise for Wales until October 2018. ATW transports about 21.9 million passengers per year, in 2009/2010 they produced 1.034 billion passenger-km(+2.0%).

Website: http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/

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AXC - Arriva CrossCountry

Network length, gauge and electrification (2007):

On 11 November 2007 Arriva has taken over the (slightly modified) CrossCountry franchise from Virgin Trains. The franchise was extended in 2016 until November 2019.

CrossCountry stretches from Aberdeen to Penzance, and from Stansted to Cardiff. It covers around 1,500 route miles and calls at more than 100 stations. With Birmingham at its core, CrossCountry provides fast services to the major English cities including Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and Southampton, as well as the capitals of Wales and Scotland. It provides direct links to major UK airports at Birmingham, Southampton and Stansted. Regular hourly services are to be provided from December 2008 on Plymouth-Edinburgh via Leeds, Reading-Newcastle via Doncaster, Manchester-Bournemouth and Manchester-Bristol.

In 2009/2010 AXC produced 3.0 billion passenger-km, 0.1% more than the previous year.

Website: http://www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk/

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c2c - c2c Rail Ltd. (former LTS Rail Ltd.)

Network length, gauge and electrification (1999):

This company operates trains on the London, Tilbury & Southend line, from London Fenchurch Street through Upminster or Tilbury Town to Southend Central and Shoeburyness. About 25 million passengers travel with c2c every year, in 2009/2010 they produced 905 million passenger-km (-1.5%).
The franchise was originally let to Prism Rail, which in the mean time sold out to National Express Group PLC. The franchise expired in November 2014, but c2c will continue to operate the trains of this franchise (Essex Thameside) for another 15 years, up to 2029.

Website: http://www.c2c-online.co.uk/

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CR - Chiltern Railways Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (1999):

This company operates trains over the Chiltern Line out of London Marylebone station to Aylesbury and Birmingham Snow Hill-Kidderminster, on the branch to Stratford-upon-Avon plus a shuttle service between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury. CR transports about 1.1 million passengers per year, in 2009/2010 they produced 945 million passenger-km (-2.3%).
The franchise of this company has been let to M40 Railways (Management Team). This was renewed in 2002 for an extra 20 years and now runs up to December 2021. In October 2006 German insurance company Allianz Infrastructure Holdings took over the shares from John Laing, they now own the company. In early 2008 the German Railways (DBAG) took over and now operates Chiltern Railways.

Website: http://www.chilternrailways.co.uk/

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Crossrail - MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Limited

Network length, gauge and electrification (2014):

 In May 2015 the Crossrail franchise has started. It was won by Mass Transit Railway from Hong Kong. At first only the existing London Liverpool Street - Shenfield service has opened, with new lines through the Crossrail tunnels following in 2017.

Websites: http://www.mtrcrossrail.co.uk/ and http://www.crossrail.co.uk/

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CLR - Colas Rail Ltd

Network length, gauge and electrification (2007):

Colas Rail is a maintenance train operator, which later also started freight services in the UK. It is a subsidiary of French holing company Colas, which is amongst others the parent company of French infrastructure train operator Seco Rail (in the mean time also renamed into Colas).

Website: http://www.colasrail.co.uk/

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DB - DB Cargo (UK)

Network length, gauge and electrification (2011):

In 2007 DB Schenker (from Germany) became the owner of the then largest UK freight train operator, EWS (English, Welsh & Scottish Railway Ltd.), after buying all the shares.
EWS (actually Wisconsin Central from the USA) bought the former BR freight train operating units Loadhaul, Mainline Freight, Rail Express Systems and Transrail. In spring 1997 they also acquired Railfreight Distribution such that freight traffic was almost in the hand of one company again. In addition they acquired National Power transportation and locomotives in April 1998.
In 2006 EWS formed 4 divisions: EWS Energy, EWS Industrial, EWS Construction and EWS Network.
In June 2010 DB Schenker has taken over the operation of the mail trains from GBRf. In 2016 DB Schenker Rail was renamed into DB Cargo.

Website: http://www.rail.dbschenker.co.uk/

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DCR - Devon & Cornwall Railways Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (2011):

DCR is a new freight operating company, subsidiary of British American Railway Services (BARS) that e.g. also runs the Weardale and Dartmoor Railways.

Website: http://www.rmslocotec.com/dcr/

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DRS - Direct Rail Services Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (2011):

This company is owned by British Nuclear Fuels. It transports radioactive waste trains between Sellafield, Barrow Docks and Drigg and chemical trains to Northwich. At the end of 2007 DRS took over the operations of Victa Westlink Rail, a company that emerged after the end of operations of FM Rail.

Website: http://www.directrailservices.com/

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EIL – Eurostar International Ltd. (LCR Ltd. - ICRR Ltd.)

Network length, gauge and electrification (1999):

Eurostar UK Ltd. was the successor of British Rail for the operation of British-Continental passenger services through the Channel Tunnel. On 22nd January 1990, British Rail [BR] set up 2 wholly-owned subsidiaries: Whereas EPS was to team up with French SNCF and Belgian SNCB/NMBS, ENS was also to co-operate with Dutch NS and German DB. On 28th October 1992, EPS, SNCF and SNCB/NMBS unveiled the brand for the forthcoming daytime high-speed services: Eurostar. On 1st April 1994, as BR ceased to be a railway operator, EPS ownership passed to the British government, while BR stake in ENS passed to EPS. ENS shareholding was restructured afterwards, as partner continental operators had joined the original shareholder: EPS started the operation of daytime services (Eurostar) to/from Paris and Brussels on 14th November 1994. Shortly thereafter, ENS projected services (Nightstar) were scaled back to Paris-Glasgow*/Swansea/Manchester/Plymouth and London-Amsterdam/Cologne, while Regional Eurostar services were cut back to Paris-Glasgow**/Manchester/Birmingham and Brussels-Birmingham-Manchester.
In April 1994, the British government had already invited tenders for the funding and construction of High Speed 1 (London-Channel Tunnel HSL), jointly with the privatisation of EPS. 4 bidders out of 9 were shortlisted. The contract was awarded in 1996 to London & Continental Railway Ltd. [LCR], a grouping which originally included Bechtel Corp., Ove Arup and Partners, Sir William Halcrow and Partners Blue Circle Properties plc, National Express Group plc, and which Virgin Group Ltd., London Electricity plc and Systra/SNCF later joined. As a result, EPS was transferred to LCR and renamed Eurostar UK Ltd. [EUKL] in October 1996. This transfer also included assets actually paid for in whole by the British government: As Eurostar traffic figures had fallen well behind original forecasts (4 million passengers in 1997 instead of 13 million expected), EUKL recorded sharp losses. In view of this, EUKL operating results could not fund howsoever HS1, while its parent company LCR was in the black and therefore unable first to re-register as a public limited company, then to issue shares to be traded at the London Stock Exchange.
As both EUKL and LCR were nearing insolvency in late-1997, the British government imposed a new funding scheme for HS1 and a thorough restructuring of EUKL, through an all-out split of ownership and management. Whereas LCR retained ownership of EUKL, management of that operator was awarded in June 1998 (following an open competition with Virgin Trains) for 12 years to a new company, Inter-Capital & Regional Railway Ltd. [ICRR], jointly held by: EUKL, SNCF and SNCB/NMBS also decided to cancel plans for Nightstar services (ENS) in 1998 and Regional Eurostar services in 1999. However, Eurostar seasonal services began to run in 1997 on London-Bourg St Maurice (daytime and overnight) and in 2002 on London-Avignon (daytime).>br> In September 1999, the 3 partner operators set up Eurostar Group Ltd so as to ensure single management of commercial policies: Ridership has been steadily rising since 2003, i.e. when the first stage of HS1 went into service, from 5.4 million to 9.1 million in 2008. In 2011 9.7 million passengers travelled by Eurostar, 2% more than in 2010.
SNCF shaped Project Jupiter in 2002, under which it would gain control of ICRR (with National Express leaving in stages), but those plans remain subject to approval from the British government. Whereas not a single Nightstar service has ever run, ENS and its parent companies TNT and GRUK are still incorporated with active status.

(*) Via the WCML
(**) Via ECML and Edinburgh

In 2010 Eurostar International Ltd. was created, and in the mean time all trainsets are operated by EIL and no longer by SNCF, SNCB or Eurostar UK Ltd. EIL is owned by SNCF (55%), Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) (30%), Hermes Infrastructure (10%) and SNCB (5%).

Website: http://www.eurostar.com/

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EMT - East Midlands Trains Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (2007):

East Midlands Trains Ltd. - a subsidiary of Stagecoach - operates the former Midland Mainline franchise out of London St. Pancras and the eastern part of the Central Trains franchise, now combined in the new East Midlands Franchise. The franchise runs from November 2007 up to March 2018, after an extension in 2015. In 2009/2010 EMT produced 1.945 million passenger-km, 1.3% less than the previous year.

Website: http://www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk/

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FHT - First Hull Trains Ltd

Network length, gauge and electrification (2000):

In the early-90s, BR cut its Intercity through-services on London-Hull from 2 down to 1 daily, while GNER would focus on major routes after taking over the Inter-City East Coast franchise in 1996. In view of this, Hull Trains Ltd. was set up in 2000 by GB Railways Ltd. (80%) and Renaissance Trains Ltd. (20%), so as to operate open-access services on London-Hull.

In September 2000, Hull Trains started 3 daily through-services, actually the very first ever running in the UK on an open-access basis under the Railways Act 1993. In 2004, FirstGroup plc. took over GB Railways. Hull Trains Ltd. used to eye other open-access services, connecting Cleethorpes and Lincoln with London, but these will be operated by another subsidiary of Renaissance Trains Ltd., i.e. Humber Coast & City Railway Ltd., which has recently applied for paths to Network Rail.
In summer 2008 the company was officially renamed to First Hull Trains.

Website: http://www.hulltrains.net/

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FTPE - First TransPennine Express Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (2004):

The Trans-Pennine Express franchise has been created in February 2004. FGK, a consortium of First Group and Keolis, operates this franchise until 1 April 2016. 51 new 3-car diesel trainsets have entered service, to replace the old fleet of class 158 and 175 DMUs. In 2009/2010 TPE produced 1.4 billion passenger-km, 5.9% more than in the previous period.

From 1 April 2015 until March 2023 (with an option for 2 more years) First Trans Pennine Express Ltd - now without Keolis - will operate the franchise. 44 new 5-car 200km/h trainsets will enter service by 2019.

Website: http://www.tpexpress.co.uk/

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FL - Freightliner Ltd.

This company was sold to a Management Team. They mainly operate container and other intermodal trains. In June 2008 the company was sold to investment firm Arcapita based in Bahrain. In 2013 it was announced that Freightliner will take over ERS Railways (The Netherlands) from Maersk Line. ERS mainly operates freight trains from the port of Rotterdam to Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

Website: http://www.freightliner.co.uk/

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GA - Greater Anglia (Abellio)

Network length, gauge and electrification (2008):

Since 5 February Abellio operates the East Anglia franchise, taken over from National Express, and before 'one' - London Eastern Railway Ltd. On the 1st of April 2004 'one' started operating the Greater Anglia franchise, consisting of the "old" Anglia Railways, first Great Eastern and the West Anglia half of West Anglia Great Eastern. This company operates all trains out of London Liverpool Street station. These consist of InterCity trains to Norwich, and many local trains to the northeast of London like Harwich, Lowestoft, Cambridge and Peterborough.

Since 5 February 2012 the East Anglia franchise is operated by Abellio Greater Anglia (a subsidiary of the Dutch Railways NS) until October 2016. From October 2016 Abellio will continue to operate the East Anglia franchise until 2025. All trains will be replaced or modernised, with 660 new Aventra EMU coaches ordered from Bombardier and 383 dual-mode FLIRT coaches ordered from Stadler.

Website: http://www.greateranglia.co.uk/

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GBRf - GB Railfreight Ltd.

This new company started in March 2001. It is was subsidiary of GB Railways Group PLC, intended for freight operation. GB Railways Group PLC was acquired by First Group PLC in 2003.
From June 2010 the mail trains operated by GBRf were taken over by DB Schenker. In the beginning of June 2010 it was announced that Eurotunnel was to take over GBRf from First, becoming part of the Europorte 2 freight operations of this (French) company. In 2016 the company was sold to investment fund EQT Infrastructure II that also owns Hector Rail from Sweden.

From 2015 GBRf operates the Caledonian Sleeper night trains from London to Scotland for Serco, using electric locomotives class 92 and diesel locomotives class 73/9.

Website: http://www.gbrailfreight.com/

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GCR - Grand Central Railway Ltd.

Grand Central Railway Ltd. [GCR] was set up in 2000, so as to avail on the opportunities for open-access contemplated in the Railways Act 1993, with a particular view to operating mainline services in Northern England , on routes either ignored or poorly served by BR and its franchised successors.

In 2003, GCR had applied for paths so as to run services on Newcastle-Preston (for Blackpool), via Sunderland, York , Wakefield , Brighouse, Rochdale and Manchester , using 5-car HSTs, running 4 times a day. The SRA and the ORR rebuked this attempt in 2004, but GCR quickly stroke back and sought paths for:

Later on, GCR offered to use 5-car Meridian DMUs, so that Bradford and Sunderland services could jointly run on London-Doncaster.

On 23rd March, the ORR upheld the application for London-Sunderland, and granted 3 daily paths each way to GCR, for 5 years (2007/2011). GCR is to start those services on 20th May 2007, using refurbished HSTs, and still eyes other open-access services:

The service actually started on 18 December 2007.

At the end of 2011 Grand Central was bought by Arriva. The Grand Central brand will still be used in the future.

Website: http://www.grandcentralrail.com/

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GTR - Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (2014):

In 2014 the former Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchises were combined and let to Govia. Govia will operate the company in 4 different parts reflecting the old franchises: Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express. The franchise will run for 7 years.

Southern consists of mainly 3rd rail electric trains out of London Bridge and London Victoria station. The also operate services along the south coast from Brighton up to Eastbourne/Ashford and to Southampton/Bournemouth.
Gatwick Express operates trains from London to Gatwick Airport, now mainly continuing towards Brighton.

Thameslink consists of services from Bedford through London St. Pancras and Blackfriars to Sutton, Brighton and Sevenoaks.
Great Northern services consist of trains running from London King's Cross or Moorgate towards Hertford North, Peterborough and Cambridge-King's Lynn.

Websites: http://www.gtrailway.com

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GWR - Great Western Trains Company Ltd. ("Great Western Railway")

Network length, gauge and electrification (2006):

From 1 April 2006 until 2013 (extended in several steps until April 2019) FirstGroup PLC operates the new Greater Western franchise. This franchise consists of the old Great Western Franchise (now GWR Express), First Great Western Link/Thames Trains (GWR Link) and Wessex Trains (GWR Local) and now runs until April 2019.
GWR Express provides InterCity Services between London, South Wales, the Cotswold and the West of England. They operate out of London Paddington Station. GWR Link operates the important Thames Valley commuter trains, as well as longer-distance services to Stratford-upon-Avon and Hereford, and the important Reading-Gatwick Airport link. GWR Local operates regional trains in Wessex.
In 2009/2010 GWR produced 5.2 billion passenger-km, 0.5% more than in the previous year.

Website: http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/

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HX - Heathrow Express Operating Company Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (1999):

The Heathrow Express service between London Paddington station and Heathrow Airport is operated by BAA plc, the airport authority. Since June 1998 trains are operated between Paddington and the airport, every 15 minutes.

Website: http://www.heathrowexpress.com/ and http://www.heathrowconnect.com/

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LM - London Midland (London & Birmingham Rail Ltd.)

London & Birmingham Rail Ltd. - a subsidiary of Govia - has won the competition for the new West Midlands franchise. This franchise consists of the Siverlink County services between London Euston and Northampton, and regional West Midlands services formerly operated by Central Trains. The franchise runs from November 2007 to Oktober 2017 (after extension).
The brand name London Midland City will be used for West Midlands cities and region services, and London Midland Express for longer distance services.

In 2009/2010 passenger levels grew by 8.5% to 1.7 billion passenger-km.

Website: http://www.londonmidland.com/

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LO - London Overground Rail Operations Ltd

The new concession for London Overground (East London and North London lines) was let to MTR Laing Metro Ltd., partly owned by Laing Rail known of the Chiltern franchise and MTR from Hong Kong. In early 2008 DBAG from Germany took over Laing Rail so now owns 50% of London Overground. The concession will run from 11 November 2007 for 7 years (until November 2014), extended in early 2013 to 12 November 2016. Currently major investment is taking place in the lines to be operated, and new trainsets have been ordered.
The network of London Overground consists of two groups of lines: North London Railway (Richmond-Stratford (North London Line), Gospel Oak-Barking, Clapham Jn.-Willesden Jn. (West London Line) and Euston-Watford Jn.) and East London Railway (Dalston Jn.-West Croydon/Crystal Palace).

In 2009/2010 LO produced 437 million passenger-km, 2.2% more than in the previous year.

From November 2016 LO will be operated by Arriva for 7.5 years, with an option for 2 more years.

Website: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

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MD - Mendip Rail

This company is owned by Hanson(ARC) and Aggregate Industries (that took over Foster-Yeoman Ltd. in 2006). Class 59/1 has been repainted in Hanson livery in 1999.

Website: http://www.aggregate.com/

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ME - Merseyrail Electrics (2003) Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (1999):

This company operates 3rd rail electric trains on Merseyrail around Liverpool. The original franchise was let to MTL Trust Holdings Ltd. which sold out to Arriva PLC. The company was then renamed to Arriva Trains Merseyside. This franchise ended in 2003. The new franchise has been let for a period of 25 years to NedRailways (Dutch Railways) and Serco. In 2009/2010 343 million passenger-km were produced, 9.2% less than in the year before.

Website: http://www.merseyrail.org/

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NR - Network Rail

Network Rail is the new British infrastructure managament company, after Railtrack went bankrupt. Since summer 2010 the Network Rail test trains are operated by DB Schenker (previously by Serco).

Website: http://www.networkrail.co.uk/

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NRL - Northern Rail Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (2004):

In December 2004 Serco/NedRailways took over the operation of Arriva Trains Northern and First North Western in the new Northern franchise. This franchise will last until February 2016.
Northern Rail runs passenger trains in the northeast and northwest of England, among which are commuter services around Liverpool and Manchester but also regional trains in very rural areas.
In 2009/2010 Northern produced 1.95 billion passenger-km, 1.2% less than in the previous period.

Since 1 April 2016 the Northern franchise  operated by Arriva Rail North Ltd until March 2025. With 98 new 160km/h trainsets (281 cars) all "Pacer" diesel trainsets will be replaced by 2020.

Website: http://www.northernrail.org/

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NYMR - North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Network length, gauge and electrification (2007):

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is one of the most popular museum railways in the UK. They operate trains on the museum line Grosmont-Pickering. In early 2007 they received a passenger train operating license from Network Rail, and from April 2007 they operate regular trains on Whitby-Grosmont-Glaisdale(-Battersby) with heritage stock.

Website: http://www.nymr.co.uk/

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RV - Riviera Trains Ltd

Network length, gauge and electrification (2005):

Riviera Trains mainly operates charter passenger trains all over the UK, with their own locomotives. The locomotives are also for hire. The company is based in Crewe.

Website: http://www.riviera-trains.co.uk/

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SE - Southeastern Railway

Network length, gauge and electrification (1999):

SE operates mainly 3rd rail electric trains in South Eastern England (Kent), serving London Victoria, Blackfriars, Cannon Street and Charing Cross. From 2009 high-speed commuter services over the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will be added. In 2009/2010 SE produced 3.8 billion passenger-km, 2.3% less than in the year before.
Due to (financial) problems with the franchise of Connex, the SRA took over the operation of this company (CSE) in November 2003. Since April 2006 the Integrated Kent Franchise (including former SET) is operated by GoVia until June 2018. GoVia will keep on using the brand name "Southeastern".

Website: http://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/

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SR - ScotRail Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (2014):

ScotRail operates both long-distance trains in Scotland and commuter trains around Edinburgh and Glasgow. In April 2015 the franchise was taken over by Abellio from the First group.
In 2014 92.7 million passengers travelled with ScotRail.

Website: http://www.scotrail.co.uk/

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SWT - South West Trains Ltd.

Network length, gauge and electrification (1999):

This company operates mainly 3rd rail electric trains out of London Waterloo to the Southwest (e.g. Portsmouth). The franchise was awarded to Stagecoach Holdings PLC, and also the extension for 10 more years from 2007 (might be cut back to 7 years) was won by Stagecoach. The franchise will now run until April 2019.
Since February 2007 also the Island Line is part of the SWT franchise. The Island Line runs between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin on the Isle of Wight and is operated using rebuilt London Underground trainsets. In 2009/2010 SWT produced 5.28 billion passenger-km, 1.2% less than in the year before.

Website: http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/

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VTEC - Virgin Trains East Coast

Network length, gauge and electrification (2007):

Virgin Trains East Coast is a train operating company in the United Kingdom that operates the InterCity East Coast franchise on the East Coast Main Line between London, Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland. It commenced operations on 1 March 2015 (for 8 years), taking over from East Coast. Virgin Trains East Coast is owned by Stagecoach (90%), and Virgin (10%), the franchise was let to ICR (InterCity Railway) that now used the Virgin brand.

Website: http://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/

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VWC - Virgin West Coast (Virgin Trains Ltd.)

Network length, gauge and electrification (2007):

For many years Virgin trains operated the former InterCity West Coast and Cross Country franchises. In November 2007 the Cross Country franchise was taken over by Arriva, but the line Birmingham-Preston-Glasgow/Edinburgh was added to the West Coast franchise. In 2009/2010 Virgin produced 5.255 billion passenger-km, 18% more than in the year before.
West Coast Trains Ltd. provides InterCity train services between London Euston and the West Midlands, the North West and North Wales and over the border into Scotland. There are regular weekday services every 30 minutes between London and Birmingham, every hour between London and Manchester, Liverpool and Preston. The West Coast franchise lasts until December 2012 (extended from the original date 31 March 2012) but due to problems with the process of selecting a new operator, Virgin will continue for some time. New end date is February 2015.

The extension of 21 Pendolino sets to 11 cars and the introduction of 4 extra sets has taken place in 2012.

Website: http://www.virgintrains.co.uk/

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WCRC - West Coast Railway Company

Network length, gauge and electrification (2005):

WCRW operates passenger charter trains, especially the "Jacobite" steam trains between Fort William and Mallaig in Scotland. The company is based in Carnforth, Lancashire.

Website: http://www.westcoastrailways.co.uk/

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Last update: 04-02-2017