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Midland Mainline

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Midland Mainline

Midland Mainline
Franchise(s): Midland Mainline
28 April 1996 - 10 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

Midland Mainline[1] was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by National Express that operated the Midland Main Line franchise from April 1996 until November 2007. Midland Mainline ran fast and semi-fast passenger services from London to the East Midlands and Yorkshire, on the Midland Main Line. Most services ran between London St Pancras and either Derby, Nottingham or Sheffield. Some services extended to Burton upon Trent, Matlock, Barnsley, Leeds, York and Scarborough.


  • History 1
  • Service patterns 2
    • Limited services 2.1
  • Project Rio 3
  • Named trains 4
  • Rolling stock 5
    • Final fleet 5.1
    • Previous fleet 5.2
  • Stations 6
  • Depot 7
  • Demise 8
  • References 9


The Midland Mainline franchise was awarded by the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising to National Express for a period of ten years with operations commencing on 28 April 1996. In May 1999 Midland Mainline was able to extend it sphere of operation after receiving new rolling stock. In August 2000 the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority awarded a two-year extension in return for National Express committing to invest including ordering new rolling stock and running an hourly service to Leeds.[2]

Service patterns

The off peak service pattern, upon conclusion of the franchise in November 2007, consisted of four departures per hour from London St Pancras. There were two fast and two semi-fast trains per hour. The hourly pattern from St Pancras was as below:[3]

xx00: semi-fast to Derby, calling at:

This service was operated by four or five carriage Class 222 Meridians.

xx25: fast to Sheffield, generally calling just at:

This service was generally operated by High Speed Trains, although a few diagrams use eight-carriage Class 222 Meridians

xx30: semi-fast to Nottingham, calling at:

with a journey time of 1 hour 56 minutes

This service was operated by four or five carriage Class 222 Meridians

xx55: fast to Nottingham, generally calling at:

with a journey time of 1 hour 41 minutes

This service was generally operated by eight-carriage Class 222 Meridians although sometimes a Class 43 High Speed Train was used.

  • 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 services

Midland Mainline rail bus link ran between Corby town centre and Kettering railway station

Midland Mainline operated a limited service between St Pancras and Leeds, with three early morning departures from Leeds and four evening return trips from St Pancras. This was principally because Midland Mainline's HSTs were maintained at Neville Hill depot. The timings did not compare favourably with the principal service from London King's Cross to Leeds along the East Coast Main Line with the Midland Main Line having a much slower line speed. The journey time on the Midland route is around 3 hours 15 minutes vs 2 hours 15 minutes via the East Coast.[4]

In July 1996 a bus service between Kettering and Corby was introduced.[5]

From May 1999 a small number of through trains from St Pancras to Burton upon Trent and Barnsley were introduced as well as stops at Belper and Meadowhall.[4]

From May 2000 through trains between St Pancras and Matlock were introduced, ceasing in December 2004 when Class 222s were introduced, as they were not allowed on the Derwent Valley Line branch line.[6][7] Also in May 2000 Midland Mainline began operating one Saturday service between St Pancras and York via Doncaster. In summer it would continue to Scarborough. On Sunday a service to York started at Leicester, with the return service being via the Erewash Valley Line to Nottingham, where it reversed before proceeding to St Pancras.[6]

A small number of trains operated between St Pancras and Sheffield via Nottingham and along the Erewash Valley Line to Chesterfield serving Langley Mill and Alfreton.[3]

Project Rio

From May 2003 until September 2004 Midland Mainline operated an hourly service between St Pancras and Manchester Piccadilly at the request of the Strategic Rail Authority whilst the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Manchester underwent engineering work using former Virgin CrossCountry High Speed Trains.[8][9] This service was named Project Rio after footballer Rio Ferdinand who had recently crossed the Pennines in a £30 million record transfer to from Leeds United to Manchester United.

The service used the Midland Main Line as far as Trent Junction, before taking the Erewash Valley Line (avoiding Derby) to Clay Cross, rejoining the Midland Main Line until Dore South Curve, before heading west along the Hope Valley Line towards Manchester Piccadilly. South of Leicester the service ran in the path of the xx:30 semi-fast Nottingham train, with an additional Leicester to Nottingham service introduced using the displaced Class 170 Turbostar.

Named trains

  • 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.[3]

Rolling stock

Midland Mainline inherited a fleet of High Speed Trains from British Rail. Enhancements were carried out to the power cars of the HSTs, most notably a revised lighting cluster.

In April 1997 Midland Mainline ordered 13 (later extended to 17) Class 170 Turbostars to operate stopping services.[10] Originally all were ordered as two-carriage sets before it was decided to increase 10 to three-carriage sets. The first entered service in May 1999 and allowed a new timetable with increased frequencies to be introduced with the Class 170s operating most of the all stops south of Leicester, allowing the High Speed Trains to be better used on the longer distance services.

To cover for a shortage of High Speed Trains Midland Mainline hired two Fragonset Class 47s to top and tail a HSBC Rail Mark 2 set on a morning service from Nottingham to St Pancras and evening return to Sheffield from February 2002.[11] In October 2002 Midland Mainline was able to replace these after leasing an additional five Class 43s and two sets of Mark 3 carriages that had been released by Virgin CrossCountry.[12]

In February 2002 Midland Mainline ordered sixteen four-carriage and seven nine-carriage Class 222 Meridian trains based on the Virgin CrossCountry Class 220 Voyager, but with developments to improve passenger comfort and address some of the criticisms aimed at the Voyager.[13] The first entered service in May 2004.[14] The four-carriage sets were to replace the Class 170 Turbostars while the nine-carriage sets were ordered to operate a new service from St Pancras to Leeds via Nottingham and the Erewash Valley Line.[3]

After the Strategic Rail Authority decided the Leeds service could no longer be justified it appeared that the nine-carriage units may have been used elsewhere.[15][16] Eventually they did begin to enter service from July 2005 releasing one HST for hire to First Great Western while it refurbished its fleet and others to GNER, ironically to let it run extra services to Leeds from May 2007.[17] In 2006/07 the nine-carriage sets each had one carriage removed and inserted into a four-carriage set.

To operate the Project Rio services to Manchester Piccadilly, 23 Class 43s and associated Mark 3 carriages were transferred from Virgin CrossCountry in May 2003.[18] Whilst these were undergoing overhaul, a First Great Western High Speed Train was hired from May 2003 until February 2004.[19] When Project Rio concluded in September 2004, some were transferred to First Great Western and GNER, others went into store.[9]

Midland Mainline's fleet consisted of the following trains at the time they ceased operating:

Final fleet

Class Image Type Top speed Quantity Unit numbers Routes operated Built
 mph   km/h 
Class 43 High Speed Train Diesel locomotive 125 200 31 43007/043-050/052/054-055
Midland Main Line 1976–1982
Class 222 Meridian diesel electric multiple unit 125 200 23 222001 – 222023 Midland Main Line 2003–2005
Mark 3 carriage Passenger carriage 125 200 Midland Main Line 1975–1982

Previous fleet

Class Image Type Top speed Quantity Unit numbers Routes operated Built Withdrawn
 mph   km/h 
Class 170 Turbostar diesel multiple unit 100 160 17 170101 - 170117
(170397 for a brief period)
Midland Main Line 1999 2004 all transferred to Central Trains

Midland Mainline had the following named units / locos:

HST names
43049 Neville Hill
43055 Sheffield Star
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 operated at twenty-seven stations, of which it managed eight:[3]

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

  • Other stations served included:[3]

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.


Midland Mainline's HSTs were maintained at Neville Hill with the rest of the fleet at Derby Etches Park.


As part of a redrawing of the rail franchise map from November 2007, the Midland Mainline franchise was combined with some Central Trains services into a new East Midlands franchise.[20]

In September 2006 the Department for Transport announced the shortlisted bidders for the new franchise, National Express being included.[21][22] In June 2007 the Department for Transport awarded the East Midlands franchise to Stagecoach with the services operated by Midland Mainline transferring to East Midlands Trains on 11 November 2007.[23]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007934 Midland Main Line Limited
  2. ^ Statement re Midland Mainline Shadow Strategic Rail Authority 10 August 2000
  3. ^ a b c d e f National Rail Timetable 20 May - 8 December 2007 Network Rail
  4. ^ a b "MML serves 6 new stations" Rail Magazine issue 355 21 April 1999 page 355
  5. ^ "MML re-launches" Railway Magazine October 1996 page 8
  6. ^ a b "Midland Mainline run to Scarborough this summer" Rail Magazine issue 384 14 June 2000 page 4
  7. ^ "Mistimed, daunting...but still a top table" Rail Magazine issue 502 8 December 2004 page 36
  8. ^ Project Rio: Network Licence Conditions 12 and 13 - Consent of the Regulator Office of the Rail Regulator 16 May 2003
  9. ^ a b Privatisation 1993 - 2005 125 Group
  10. ^ "14 October 1997 - Midland Mainline orders more trains". National Express. October 14, 1997. 
  11. ^ Rail Magazine issue 430 6 March 2002 page 12
  12. ^ Rail Magazine issue 447 30 October 2002 page 55
  13. ^ Rail firm orders 23 new trains BBC News 14 February 2002
  14. ^ Rail Magazine issue 489 9 June 2004 page 6
  15. ^ New train fleet left sitting idle BBC News 29 October 2004
  16. ^ Rail Magazine issue 485 14 April 2004 page 12
  17. ^ Class 222 Meridian / Pioneer Railway UK website
  18. ^ Rail Magazine issue 465 9 July 2003 page 40
  19. ^ Rail Magazine issue 463 11 June 2003 age 406
  20. ^ Central Trains franchise extended BBC News 2 April 2006
  21. ^ Hong Kong bid to run Midland trains The Telegraph 19 September 2006
  22. ^ Virgin prepares for rail franchise battle The Guardian 19 September 2006
  23. ^ Department for Transport announces winner of East Midlands franchise Department for Transport 22 June 2007

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
Succeeded by
South West Trains

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