| Part of the Central Franchise
1997 – November 2007|
North West, East Anglia
Central Trains (National Express Group)
Central Trains (National Express)
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 was axed during 2007, in preparation for the ending of the Central Trains franchise in November 2007.
Central Citylink Wikipedia
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. 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.
The four Central Citylink routes were:
- Birmingham - Liverpool
- Liverpool - Norwich
- Birmingham - Stansted Airport
- Nottingham - Cardiff
There was also one evening peak service from Birmingham to Preston, but with no equivalent Southbound service.
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 Citylink services were affected in the following way:Cross Country Franchise - this took the Nottingham / Cardiff and the Birmingham / Stansted Central Citylink services. Arriva took over the franchise under the name "CrossCountry."
East Midlands Franchise - this took the Norwich / Liverpool service. Stagecoach took over operation of the services under the name "East Midlands Trains."
West Midlands Franchise - this took the Liverpool / Birmingham service. Govia took over operation of these services under the name "London Midland."
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.
Class 350 Desiro units were used on the electrified route between Birmingham and Liverpool. Class 170 Turbostar units and Class 158 Express Sprinter units were used on other non-electrified routes. These were all used in conjunction with other Central Trains services.