The TransPennine Express brand was launched in the early 1990s by British Rail's Regional Railways sector. It became part of Regional Railways North East and on 2 March 1997 was privatised with Northern Spirit and its successor, Arriva Trains Northern maintaining the brand.
In August 2014, the Department for Transport announced FirstGroup, Keolis/Go-Ahead and Stagecoach had been shortlisted to bid for the next franchise. In December 2015, FirstGroup was awarded the franchise with TransPennine Express taking over on 1 April 2016. The franchise will run until 31 March 2023 with an option to extend for two years.
As part of a recasting of the franchise map by the Department for Transport, services from Manchester Airport to Blackpool North, Manchester Airport to Barrow in Furness and Oxenholme to Windermere were transferred to the Northern franchise on 1 April 2016
The TransPennine Express routes are subdivided into three sections:
North TransPennine, which includes all routes that pass through the core section between Manchester and Leeds;
South TransPennine, which includes services running on the Hope Valley line and the South Humberside Main Line;
TransPennine North West, which consists of services on the West Coast Main Line.