The franchise was initially awarded to Serco-Abellio.
In 2016, the franchise was awarded to Arriva. On 29 January 2020, the Department for Transport announced the franchise was to be taken over by an operator of last resort, taking effect from 1 March 2020. The existing Northern name and branding was retained.
| Current franchises|
Chiltern | East Anglia (Stansted Express) | East Midlands | Essex Thameside | Greater Western | InterCity East Coast | InterCity West Coast | Merseyrail | New Cross Country | Northern | ScotRail | South Eastern | South Western (Island Line) | Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (Gatwick Express) | TransPennine | Wales and Borders | West Midlands
Defunct British Rail sectors