Silverlink: Wikis


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Silverlink logo.png
313101 at Kilburn High Road.jpg
Franchise(s): 2 March 1997 - 10 November 2007
Main Region(s): North London
Other Region(s): Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire,
Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire
Fleet size: 67
Stations called at: 88
National Rail abbreviation: SL
Parent company: National Express Group

Silverlink Train Services Ltd was a train operating company in the United Kingdom. It operated routes in North London and from London to Northampton (and until 2004, to Birmingham via Coventry). It was owned by National Express Group plc.



The franchise was awarded to National Express on 7 February 1997, when it was agreed they would take over North London Railways Ltd, a shadow franchise created when the Network SouthEast sector of British Rail began to be prepared for privatisation on 1 April 1994.[1] The franchise began on 3 March 1997 and was due to end on 15 October 2006, but on 11 August 2006 the DfT extended the franchise to finish on 11 November 2007[2].

The company's name was changed to Silverlink in September 1997[3]. The name is taken from the first of the LNER A4 steam locomotives (a member of which holds the world speed record for steam traction) which was called Silver Link.[4] Ironically, Silverlink trains operated on the route to the north of the old LMS, the LNER's greatest rival.


Silverlink trains had two sub-brands:

  • Silverlink Metro -operating services between Stratford and Richmond, Willesden Junction and Clapham Junction, London Euston to Watford Junction via Queen's Park and Willesden Junction, and Gospel Oak and Barking.

Silverlink Metro

Silverlink Metro operated the following services.

Note: Changes during the franchise period are noted but changes to the lines before and after the franchise are not.

North London Line

  Richmond (change for District Line)
  Kew Gardens (change for District Line)
  Gunnersbury (change for District Line)
  South Acton
  Acton Central
  Willesden Junction (change for Bakerloo Line, West London Line and Watford DC Line)
  Kensal Rise
  Brondesbury Park
  West Hampstead (change for Jubilee Line and First Capital Connect)
  Finchley Road & Frognal
  Hampstead Heath
  Gospel Oak (change for Gospel Oak - Barking Line)
  Kentish Town West
  Camden Road
  Caledonian Road & Barnsbury
  Highbury & Islington (change for Victoria Line)
  Dalston Kingsland
  Hackney Central
  Hackney Wick
  Stratford (change for Central Line, Jubilee Line, Docklands Light Railway, c2c and National Express East Anglia)
  West Ham
  Canning Town
  Custom House
  North Woolwich

† At the end of service on Saturday 9 December 2006 the line between Stratford and North Woolwich closed, as much of the route is duplicated by the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee Line, leaving Stratford as the eastern terminus of the North London Line.[5]

West London Line

  Willesden Junction (change for North London Line, Watford DC Line and Bakerloo Line)
  Kensington (Olympia) (change for District Line and Southern)
  West Brompton (change for District Line and Southern)
  Clapham Junction (change for South West Trains and Southern)

Shepherd's Bush station on the West London Line was due to open under the franchise (with signage in Silverlink colours installed), but platform widening work meant that it finally opened in September 2008 under London Overground management, the signage being replaced with the London Overground roundels by that time.

Watford DC Line

  London Euston (change for Northern Line, Victoria Line, London Midland and Virgin)
  South Hampstead
  Kilburn High Road
  Queen's Park
  Kensal Green
  Willesden Junction † (change for North London Line and West London Line)
  Stonebridge Park
  Wembley Central † (change for Southern during the peaks)
  North Wembley
  South Kenton
  Harrow & Wealdstone † (change for Northampton Line and Southern)
  Headstone Lane
  Hatch End
  Carpenders Park
  Watford High Street
  Watford Junction (change for Northampton Line, St Albans Abbey Line, Virgin and Southern)

† = also served by the Bakerloo Line.

Gospel Oak to Barking Line

  Gospel Oak (change for North London Line)
  Upper Holloway
  Crouch Hill
  Harringay Green Lanes
  South Tottenham
  Blackhorse Road (change for Victoria Line)
  Walthamstow Queens Road
  Leyton Midland Road
  Leytonstone High Road
  Wanstead Park
  Woodgrange Park
  Barking (change for District Line, Hammersmith & City Line and c2c)

Silverlink County

Northampton Line

Northampton Line services ran on the slow lines of the West Coast Main Line.

  London Euston (change for Watford DC Line and Virgin)
  Harrow and Wealdstone (change for Watford DC Line and Southern)
  Watford Junction (change for Watford DC Line, St Albans Abbey Line, Virgin and Southern)
  Kings Langley
  Hemel Hempstead
  Leighton Buzzard
  Bletchley (change for Marston Vale Line)
  Milton Keynes Central
  Northampton (change for Central Trains)
  Long Buckby
  Birmingham International
  Birmingham New Street

† Services north of Northampton were taken over by Central Trains from 2005. The route shared rolling stock and parent company with Silverlink, and some through services remained.

St Albans Abbey Line

  Watford Junction (change for Northampton Line, Virgin, Watford DC Line and Southern)
  Watford North
  Bricket Wood
  How Wood
  Park Street
  St Albans Abbey

Marston Vale Line

  Bletchley (change for Northampton Line)
  Fenny Stratford
  Bow Brickhill
  Woburn Sands
  Aspley Guise
  Kempston Hardwick
  Bedford St Johns
  Bedford (change for First Capital Connect and East Midlands Trains)


Silverlink was categorised as a London and South East operator by the Office for Rail Regulation (ORR) and was one of the best performing TOCs in this sector with a PPM (Public Performance Measure) of 90.8% for the last quarter of the financial year 2006/7 [6]. This figure is for the whole of the day, as opposed to just peak services for which their performance is lower. The figures are slightly down from last year, but remain above the sector level of 89.0%.

Silverlink Metro service levels

Despite published performance figures[7] the Silverlink Metro franchise on the North London Line was regarded by frequent travellers as offering a poor service,[8] with extremely congested trains and an unreliable service[9] with some trains cancelled shortly before they are due to arrive. A recent London Assembly report described the service as "shabby, unreliable, unsafe and overcrowded". The recent transfer of the service to Transport for London (TfL) has the potential to improve the quality of the service [10] due to upgrade plans [11] which coincide with the extension of the East London line.

A report on the future of the line can be found on the London Assembly website[12].

Rolling stock

Metro services were operated by class 313 25kV AC/750 V DC electric multiple units on the electrified routes, with three class 508/3 750 V DC electric multiple units used exclusively on the Euston-Watford Junction service. Class 150 Sprinter diesel multiple units were used on the non-electrified Gospel Oak-Barking route. They replaced elderly class 121 and Class 117 units in 2000.

County services to Northampton were operated by class 321/4 electrical multiple units introduced in 1988. They were joined by new class 350/1 Desiro units built by Siemens AG in summer 2005, which operate as a shared fleet with Central Trains.

The St Albans Abbey line was operated for many years by class 313 electric multiple units, but were usually operated by class 321 units with Silverlink Metro drivers and Silverlink County guards.

The non-electrified County Marston Vale Line used class 150 diesel units. Prior to the year 2000 this rout was also worked by Class 121 and 117 units.


Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built Period used Notes
mph km/h
Class 121 Bubble Car diesel multiple unit 70 112 4 Gospel Oak - Barking Line
Marston Vale Line
1959 ?-2001 Replaced by Class 150
Class 150/1 Sprinter 150129 at Euston.jpg diesel multiple unit 75 120 8 Silverlink Metro:
Gospel Oak - Barking Line

Silverlink County:
Marston Vale Line

1981 - 1985 2000 - 2007 Remained in service after end of franchise
Class 313 313101 at Kilburn High Road.jpg electric multiple unit 75 120 21 Silverlink Metro:
North London Line
West London Line
Watford DC Line
1975 - 1978
1998 - 1999
? - 2007 Remained in service after end of franchise
Class 321/4 321409 HarrowWealdstone.jpg electric multiple unit 100 160 37 Silverlink County:
Northampton Line
St Albans Abbey Line
1988 - 1989 ? - 2007 Remained in service after end of franchise
Class 350/1 Desiro 350115 at Euston 1.jpg electric multiple unit 100 160 301 Silverlink County:
Northampton Line
2004 - 2005 2004 - 2007 Remained in service after end of franchise
Class 508/3 508302 at South Hampstead.jpg electric multiple unit 75 120 3 Silverlink Metro:
Watford DC Line
1979 - 1980
2003 - 2007 Remained in service after end of franchise
  1. Built for Central Trains and Silverlink regional express services and Central Trains CityLink services on the southern section of the West Coast Main Line

Silverlink in the News

  • On Tuesday 24 January 2006, London Mayor Ken Livingstone called for all Silverlink stations to be staffed after the murder of City lawyer Thomas Rhys Pryce near Kensal Green station.[13]
  • On Friday 16 July 2004, Virgin Trains announced that it was withdrawing most of its stops at Milton Keynes Central, which were used by up to 6000 passengers a day. Commuters became unhappy at the prospect of switching to older Silverlink trains, a longer journey. Silverlink countered this with the temporary usage of ex-Virgin stock, still in Virgin colours.[14]
  • On Monday 7 June 2004, a Silverlink train carrying about 50 passengers derailed as it entered Northampton. No-one was injured.[15]

Reorganisation of former Silverlink Services

The Silverlink franchise ended in November 2007.[16] Henceforward, Silverlink's operations were split between Transport for London and the new West Midlands franchise. Therefore, Silverlink County and Silverlink Metro have become Defunct UK Train Operating companies (sub-brands).

London Overground

Silverlink Metro services (the North London Line, the West London Line, the Watford DC Line and the Gospel Oak to Barking line) have come under the control of Transport for London under the banner of the London Overground.

Four prospective operators were initially pre-selected for the London Overground concession:

In December 2006, Govia and MTR Laing were selected to submit "best and final offers" for the concession. MTR Laing was selected on 19 June 2007[17] and began operations from 11 November 2007.

West Midlands Franchise

Silverlink County services were merged with part of Central Trains to form the new West Midlands franchise. The Department for Transport announced on 19 September 2006 that three parties had pre-qualified for the new franchise.[18]

Subsequently, MTR withdrew. In June 2007, the Government announced that Govia had been awarded the franchise, to be operated under the name London Midland.[19]

Willesden depot

Alstom had proposed to withdraw from the Willesden train maintenance depot. Closure would have left the Class 313 trains homeless. On 12 May 2007, Silverlink took over direct running of the depot and its staff for the final six months of its franchise.[20]. Alstom will continue to operate four depots on the West Coast Main Line, at Wembley, Oxley, Longsight, and Polmadie.


  1. ^ "NX Awarded North London Railways Franchise". National Express Group. 7 February 1997.  
  2. ^ "Silverlink franchise extended to November 2007" (PDF). 11 August 2006.  
  3. ^ "UK Activity Report - National Express". 30 September 1997.  
  4. ^ The Gresley A4 Pacifics The London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) Encyclopedia
  5. ^ "Stratford-North Woolwich service to be withdrawn". Silverlink. 8 December 2006.  
  6. ^ "National Rail Trends 2006-2007 Q4" (PDF).  
  7. ^ "Silverlink rises to second position in the national performance league". 18 September 2006. Retrieved 26 October 2007.   Association of Train Operating Companies [1] Press Releases
  8. ^ Sharp, Rachel (24 October 2007). "TfL to take on rail network". Ealing Times. Retrieved 26 October 2007.  
  9. ^ "Braced for rail strikes". Hackney Gazette. 26 October 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2007.  
  10. ^ London Assembly - Light at end of the tunnel for London's forgotten railway
  11. ^ Always Touch Out - London Overground & Orbirail
  12. ^ London Assembly - London's forgotten railway (PDF)
  13. ^ "Night staff for unmanned stations". BBC. 24 January 2006. Retrieved 26 January 2007. "We will not consider any bid for a franchise that does not include that complete commitment that staff will be at every station throughout its entire opening hours"  
  14. ^ "Commuters angry over train switch". BBC. 16 July 2004. Retrieved 25 January 2007.  
  15. ^ "Train with 50 passengers derails". BBC. 7 June 2004. Retrieved 25 January 2007.  
  16. ^ Transport for London (14 February 2006). "Mayor welcomes Tfl control of first London passenger rail services". Press release. Retrieved 25 January 2007. "From Autumn 2007, the London rail services to be managed by TfL"  
  17. ^ "Milestone reached in transformation of London's overland rail network as operator is announced". 19 June 2006.  
  18. ^ Department for Transport (12 September 2006). "Department for Transport announces pre-qualified bidders for 3 new franchises". Press release. Retrieved 26 January 2007.  
  19. ^ "Department for Transport announces winner of new West Midlands franchise". Department for Transport.  
  20. ^ Silverlink takes over Willesden TMD Silverlink, 11 May 2007; Retrieved 14 May 2007

External links

Preceded by
Network SouthEast
As part of British Rail
Operator of North London Railways franchise
1997 — 2007
Succeeded by
London Midland
West Midlands franchise
Succeeded by
London Overground


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