West Coast Main Line

The WCML running alongside the M1 at Watford Gap.

TypeCommuter rail, Intercity rail, High-speed rail, Heavy rail
SystemNational Rail
LocaleGreater London
North West England
South East England
West Midlands
TerminiLondon Euston
51°31′43″N 0°08′07″W / 51.5285°N 0.1353°W / 51.5285; -0.1353 (London terminus)
Glasgow Central
55°51′31″N 4°15′28″W / 55.8585°N 4.2579°W / 55.8585; -4.2579 (Scottish terminus)
OwnerNetwork Rail
Virgin Trains
London Midland
First TransPennine Express
Northern Rail
Arriva Trains Wales
Wrexham and Shropshire
First ScotRail
DB Schenker Rail (UK)
GB Railfreight
Freightliner Ltd
Direct Rail Services Ltd (DRS)
Rolling stockClass 390 "Pendolino"
Class 350 "Desiro"
Class 321
Class 221 "Super Voyager"
Class 220 "Voyager"
Class 185 "Desiro"
Class 90
Line length641.6 km (Template:Convert/mi) [1]
No. of tracksTwo-Four-Six
Track gauge{{#switch:sg
|3mm=3 mm (0.118 in)
|4mm=4 mm (0.157 in)
|4.5mm=4.5 mm (0.177 in)
|4.8mm=4.8 mm (0.189 in)
|6.5mm=6.5 mm (0.256 in)
|6.53mm=6.53 mm (0.257 in)
|8mm=8 mm (0.315 in)
|8.97mm=8.97 mm (0.353 in)
|9mm=9 mm (0.354 in)
|9.42mm=9.42 mm (0.371 in)
|10.5mm=10.5 mm (0.413 in)
|11.94mm=11.94 mm (0.470 in)
|12mm=12 mm (0.472 in)
|12.7mm=12.7 mm (0.5 in)
|13mm=13 mm (0.512 in)
|13.5mm=13.5 mm (0.531 in)
|14mm=14 mm (0.551 in)
|14.125mm=14.125 mm (0.556 in)
|14.2mm=14.2 mm (0.559 in)
|14.28mm=14.28 mm (0.562 in)
|14.3mm=14.3 mm (0.563 in)
|15.76mm=15.76 mm (0.620 in)
Loading gaugeW10
Electrification25kV 50hz AC OHLE
Operating speed125 mph (Template:Convert/outsep) maximum [2]

The West Coast Main Line (WCML)[3] is the busiest mixed-traffic railway route in Britain, and the country's most important rail backbone in terms of population served. It provides fast, long-distance inter-city passenger services between London, the West Midlands, the North West, North Wales and southern Scotland. Since the route was upgraded in recent years, large stretches of it have trains running at 125 mph (200 km/h), so it may be classed as a high-speed line.

The WCML is the most important intercity rail passenger route in the UK, connecting London with the major cities of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow as well as many other smaller towns and cities. In addition, several sections of the WCML form part of the suburban railway systems in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, with many more smaller commuter stations, as well as providing a number of links to more rural towns. In 2008 the WCML handled 75 million passenger journeys.[4]

The WCML is also one of the busiest freight routes in Europe, carrying 43% of all UK rail freight traffic.[4] It has been declared a strategic European route and designated a priority Trans-European Networks (TENS) route. It is the principal rail freight corridor linking the European mainland (via the Channel Tunnel) through London and south-east England to the West Midlands, north-west England and Scotland.[5]

Geography[edit | edit source]

Central to the WCML is its Template:Convert/LoffAoffDbSon-long core section between London Euston and Glasgow Central[1] with principal InterCity stations at Watford Junction, Milton Keynes, Rugby, Nuneaton, Stafford, Crewe, Warrington, Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith, Carlisle and Motherwell.

File:WCML ECML Midlands.png

A simplified diagram of the WCML (in black) in relation to the other main north-south railway routes.

Strictly speaking, this section alone is the West Coast Main Line,[6] but the term is now used to describe a complex system of branches and divergences, all connected from London Euston and serving also the major towns and cities of Northampton, Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stockport, Manchester, Runcorn, and Liverpool; there is also a link to Edinburgh, but this is not the direct route from London to Edinburgh.[7]

The WCML is not a single railway; rather it can be thought of as a network of routes which diverge and rejoin the central core between London and Glasgow. The route from Rugby to Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stafford was the original main line until the shorter line was built in 1847 via the Trent Valley. South of Rugby there is a loop that serves Northampton, and there is also a branch north of Crewe to Liverpool which is notable since Weaver Junction on this branch is the oldest flyover-type junction in use. Among the other diversions are loops that branch off to serve Manchester, one from Colwich Junction in the Trent Valley south of Stafford via Stoke-on-Trent, one north of Stafford also via Stoke-on-Trent, and one via Crewe and Wilmslow. A further branch at Carstairs links Edinburgh to the WCML, providing a direct connection between the WCML and the East Coast Main Line.

Because of opposition by landowners along the route, in places some railway lines were built so that they avoided large estates and rural towns, and to reduce construction costs the railways followed natural contours, resulting in many curves and bends. The WCML also passes through some hilly areas, such as the Chilterns (Tring cutting), the Watford Gap and Northampton uplands followed by the Trent Valley, the mountains of Cumbria with a summit at Shap, and Beattock Summit in southern Lanarkshire. This legacy of gradients and curves, and the fact that it was not originally conceived as a single trunk route, means the WCML was never ideal as a long-distance main line, with lower maximum speeds than the East Coast Main Line (ECML) route, the other major main line from London to Scotland.

In recent decades, the principal solution to the problem of the WCML's curvaceous line of route has been the adoption of tilting trains, formerly British Rail's ill-fated APT, and latterly the Class 390 Pendolino trains constructed by Alstom and introduced by Virgin Trains in 2003. A 'conventional' attempt to raise line speeds as part of the InterCity 250 upgrade in the 1990s would have relaxed maximum cant levels on curves and seen some track realignments; this scheme faltered for lack of funding in the economic climate of the time.

History[edit | edit source]

Early history[edit | edit source]

The WCML was not originally conceived as a single trunk route, but was a number of separate lines built by different companies between the 1830s and the 1880s. After the completion of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830, schemes were mooted to build a network of intercity lines. The first was the Grand Junction Railway connecting the Liverpool and Manchester to Birmingham, opening in 1837. This was followed by the London and Birmingham Railway in 1838, forming the skeleton of the southern section of the WCML.[8][9]

File:HLB Lok 2.jpg

'3020 Cornwall' An early LNWR express locomotive, circa 1860

These lines, together with the Trent Valley Railway (Rugby-Stafford), and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway (Crewe-Manchester), amalgamated operations in 1846 to form the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). Three other sections, the North Union Railway (Wigan-Preston), the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway and the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway were later absorbed by the LNWR.

North of Carlisle, the Caledonian Railway remained independent, and opened its main line from Carlisle to Beattock in September 1847, Edinburgh in February 1848 and Glasgow in November 1849.[10] Another important section, the North Staffordshire Railway (NSR), which opened in 1848 from Macclesfield (connecting with the LNWR from Manchester) to Norton Bridge and Colwich via Stoke-on-Trent also remained independent. Poor relations between the LNWR and the NSR meant that through trains did not run until 1867.[11]

The route to Scotland was marketed by the LNWR as 'The Premier Line'. Because the cross-border trains ran over the LNWR and Caledonian Railway. Through trains consisted of jointly-owned "West Coast Joint Stock" to simplify operations.[12] The first direct London to Glasgow trains in the 1850s took 12.5 hours to complete the Template:Convert/mi journey.[13]

The final sections of what is now the WCML were put in place over the following decades by the LNWR. A direct branch to Liverpool, bypassing the earlier Liverpool and Manchester line was opened in 1869, from Weaver Junction north of Crewe to Ditton Junction via the Runcorn Railway Bridge over the River Mersey.[14]

To expand capacity, the line between London and Rugby was widened to four tracks in the 1870s. As part of this, a new line, the Northampton Loop was built, opening in 1881, connecting Northampton before rejoining the main line at Rugby.[9]

LMS era[edit | edit source]

File:Royal Scot, 6137 Vesta (CJ Allen, Steel Highway, 1928).jpg

LMS express of the 1920s. Hauled by "Royal Scot" Locomotive, No.6137 "Vesta".

The whole of the present route came under the control of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) on on 1 January 1923 when railway companies were grouped, under the Railways Act 1921.

During the grouping era the LMS competed fiercely with the rival London and North Eastern Railway's East Coast Main Line for London to Scotland traffic (see Race to the North). Attempts were made to minimise end-to-end journey times for a small number of powerful lightweight trains that could be marketed as glamorous premium crack expresses, especially between London and Glasgow, such as the 1937-39 Coronation Scot, which made the journey in 6 hours 30 minutes,[15] making it competitive with the rival East Coast Flying Scotsman.

War-ravaged British Railways in the 1950s could not match this, but did achieve a London-Glasgow timing of 7 hours 15 minutes in the 1959-60 timetable by strictly limiting the number of coaches to eight and not stopping between London and Carlisle.[16]

British Rail era[edit | edit source]

In 1947, following nationalisation, the line came under the control of British Railways' London Midland and Scottish Regions, when the term "West Coast Main Line" came into use officially,[citation needed] although it had been used informally since at least 1912.[17] However, it is something of a misnomer as the line only physically touches the coast on a brief section overlooking Morecambe Bay between Lancaster and Carnforth for barely half a mile.

Modernisation by British Rail[edit | edit source]

Following the 1955 modernisation plan, the line was modernised and electrified in stages between 1959 and 1974. The first stretch to be electrified was Crewe to Manchester, completed on 12 September 1960. This was followed by Crewe to Liverpool, completed on 1 January 1962. Electrification was then extended southwards to London. The first electric trains from London ran on 12 November 1965, but full public service did not start until 18 April the following year. Electrification of the Birmingham line was completed on 6 March 1967. In March 1970 the government gave approval to electrification of the northern section from Weaver Junction (where the route to Liverpool diverges) to Glasgow, and this was completed on 6 May 1974.[18]

Once electrification was complete between London, the West Midlands and the North-West, a new set of high-speed long-distance services was introduced in 1966, launching British Rail's highly successful "Inter-City" brand [19] (the hyphen was later dropped) and offering such unprecedented journey times as London to Manchester or Liverpool in 2 hours 40 minutes (and even 2 hours 30 minutes for the twice-daily Manchester Pullman).[20] A significant new feature was that these fast trains were not just the occasional crack express but a regular-interval service throughout the day: hourly to Birmingham, two-hourly to Manchester, and so on.[21]

File:87020 Carlisle.jpg

A BR Class 87 electric locomotive, in original blue livery with a train of Mark 3 coaches. These, along with the similar Class 86 formed the backbone of express passenger services on the WCML from the 1970s until the 2000s

Along with electrification came the gradual introduction of modern coaches such as the Mark 2 and, following the northern electrification scheme's completion in 1974, the fully integral, air-conditioned Mark 3 design. These vehicles remained the mainstay of the WCML's express services until the early 2000s. Line speeds were raised to a maximum 110 mph (177 km/h), and these trains, hauled by powerful Class 86 and Class 87 electric locomotives, came to be seen as BR's flagship passenger product, immediately restoring the WCML to its premier position after a long period in the doldrums. Passenger traffic on the WCML doubled between 1962 and 1975.[22]

The modernisation also saw the demolition and redevelopment of several of the key stations on the line: BR was keen to symbolise the coming of the "electric age" by replacing the Victorian-era buildings with new structures built from glass and concrete. Notable examples were Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Stafford, Coventry and London Euston. To enable the latter, the famous Doric Arch portal into the original Philip Hardwick-designed terminus was demolished in 1962 amid much public outcry.[23] Recently, plans have been mooted to completely rebuild both New Street and Euston stations.

Electrification of the Edinburgh branch was carried out in the late 1980s as part of the ECML electrification project in order to allow InterCity 225 sets to access Glasgow via Carstairs Junction. The Preston-Manchester (via Bolton) and Crewe-Holyhead branches remain unelectrified.

Modernisation culminated in the adoption of air brakes for locomotive-hauled express trains. Also under British Rail, freight train operations and practices changed drastically, resulting in the virtual elimination of the traditional slow-moving and generally unbraked pick-up goods train and the introduction of faster-moving point-to-point trainload operations using air-braked vehicles.

The running of express passenger services on the WCML came under the Inter-City brand in the late 1960s, which following the "sectorisation" of British Rail in the 1980s became known as "InterCity West Coast". "InterCity CrossCountry", using the West Midlands sections of the WCML, was also greatly developed with the introduction of HST units transferred from the ECML after the latter's electrification.

File:APT at Crewe.jpg

The Advanced Passenger Train British Rail's ill-fated tilting train

Modernisation brought great improvements, not least in speed and frequency, to many WCML services but there have been some losses over the years. Locations and lines served by through trains or through coaches from London in 1947 but no longer so served include: Windermere; Barrow-in-Furness, Whitehaven and Workington; Huddersfield and Halifax (via Stockport); Blackpool; Colne (via Stockport); Morecambe and Heysham; Southport (via Edge Hill); and Stranraer Harbour. Notable also is the loss of through service from Liverpool to Scotland.

A less successful venture was the Advanced Passenger Train (APT); British Rail's attempt in the 1970s and 80s to introduce a tilting train to the West Coast Main Line, in order to overcome the problem of high speed running on the curvaceous route. In test service, the train proved that London-Glasgow journey times of less than 4 hours were possible, but the tilting technology suffered from numerous reliability problems, and would become a public relations embarrassment for BR, leading to the eventual scrapping of the project in the early 1980s.[24]

In the late 1980s British Rail put forward a more conventional scheme to raise speeds on the WCML; a proposed project called InterCity 250, which planned to re-engineer parts of the line in order to reduce curves and gradients in order to facilitate higher speed running, and which would have seen the introduction of new rolling stock derived from that developed for the East Coast electrification. The scheme was scrapped in 1992, a victim of the recession of the period and the intervention of privatisation.

Modernisation by Network Rail[edit | edit source]

File:Pendolino and Freight train.jpg

A Virgin Pendolino and EWS Class 66 freight train on the WCML

By the dawn of the 1990s, it was clear that further modernisation was required. Initially this took the form of the InterCity 250 project. But then the privatisation of BR intervened, which saw Virgin Trains win the franchise in 1996 for the running of long-distance express services on the line. The modernisation plan unveiled by Virgin and the new infrastructure owner Railtrack would have seen the upgrade and renewal of the line to allow the use of tilting Pendolino trains with a maximum line speed of 140 mph (Template:Convert/outsep), in place of the previous maximum of 110 mph (Template:Convert/outsep). Railtrack estimated that this upgrade would cost £2bn, be ready by 2005, and cut journey times to 1 hour for London to Birmingham and 1hr 45mins for London to Manchester.

However, these plans proved too ambitious and were subsequently aborted. Central to the implementation of the plan was the adoption of moving block signalling which had never been proven on anything more than simple metro lines and light rail systems - not on a complex high speed heavy rail network such as the WCML. Despite this, Railtrack made what would prove to be the fatal mistake of not properly assessing the technical viability and cost of implementing moving block prior to promising the speed increase to Virgin and the government. By 1999, with little headway on the modernisation project made, it became apparent to engineers that the technology was not mature enough to be used on the line.[25] The bankruptcy of Railtrack in 2001 and its replacement by Network Rail following the Hatfield crash brought a reappraisal of the plans, while the cost of the upgrade soared. Following fears that cost overruns on the project would push the final price tag to £13bn, scaling-down of the plans brought the cost down to between £8bn and £10bn, to be ready by 2008, with a maximum speed for tilting trains of a more modest 125 mph (Template:Convert/outsep) - equalling the speeds available on the East Coast route, but some way short of the original target, even further behind BR's original vision of >150 mph speeds with the APT.

The first phase of the upgrade, south of Manchester, opened on 27 September 2004 with journey times of 1 hour 21 minutes for London to Birmingham and 2 hours 6 minutes for London to Manchester. The final phase, introducing 125 mph (Template:Convert/outsep) running along most of the line, was announced as opening on 12 December 2005, bringing the fastest journey from London to Glasgow to 4 hours 25 mins (down from 5 hours 10 minutes).[2] However, considerable work remained, such as the quadrupling of the track in the Trent Valley, upgrading the slow lines, the second phase of remodelling Nuneaton, and the remodelling of Stafford, Rugby, Milton Keynes and Coventry stations, and these were completed in late 2008. The upgrading of the Crewe-Manchester line via Wilmslow was completed in summer 2006.

In September 2006, a new speed record was set on the WCML — a Pendolino train completed the Template:Convert/mi Glasgow Central — London Euston run in a record 3 hours 55 minutes, beating the APT's record of 4 hours 15 minutes, although the APT still holds the overall record on the northbound run.

December 2008 saw the final completion of the decade-long modernisation project.[26] This allowed Virgin's VHF (Very High Frequency) timetable to be progressively introduced through early 2009, the highlights of which are a three-trains-per-hour service to both Birmingham and Manchester during off-peak periods, and nearly all Anglo-Scottish timings brought under the 4 hours 30 minutes barrier — with one service (calling only at Preston) achieving a London-Glasgow time of 4 hours 10 minutes.

Infrastructure[edit | edit source]

Track[edit | edit source]

The main spine of the WCML is quadruple track almost all of the way from London to Crewe, (where the line diverges into sections to Manchester, North Wales, Liverpool, and Scotland) except for a short section between Rugby and Nuneaton on the Trent Valley Line which is three track.[4] The remaining sections are mainly double track, except for a few busy sections around Manchester and Liverpool.

The complete route has been cleared for W10 loading gauge freight traffic, allowing the use of higher shipping containers.[27][28]

Rolling stock[edit | edit source]

The majority of stock used on the West Coast Main Line is new-build, part of Virgin's initial franchise agreement having been a commitment to introduce a brand-new fleet of tilting Class 390 "Pendolino" trains for long-distance high-speed WCML services. The 53-strong Pendolino fleet, plus three tilting SuperVoyager diesel sets, were bought for use on these InterCity services. One Pendolino was written off in 2007 following the Grayrigg derailment. After the 2007 franchise "shake-up" in the Midlands, more SuperVoyagers were transferred to Virgin West Coast, instead of going to the new CrossCountry franchise. The SuperVoyagers are used on London-Chester and Holyhead services because the Chester/North Wales line is not electrified, so they run "under the wires" between London and Crewe. SuperVoyagers are also used on Virgin's Birmingham-Scotland services, even though this route is entirely electrified.

By 2012, the WCML Pendolino fleet will be strengthened by the addition of two coaches to 31 of the 52 existing sets, thus turning them into 11-car trains. Four brand new 11-car sets are also part of this order, one of which will replace the set lost in the Grayrigg derailment. Although the new stock has been supplied in Virgin livery, it is as yet unclear if they will enter traffic before the InterCity West Coast franchise is re-let in 2012. One unit is presently earmarked for a 9-month trial on the East Coast Main Line in 2010.

Previous franchisees Central Trains and Silverlink (operating local and regional services partly over sections of the WCML) were given 30 new "Desiros", originally ordered for services in the south-east. Following Govia's successful bid for the West Midlands franchise in 2007, another 37 Desiros were ordered to replace its older fleet of 321s.

The older BR-vintage locomotive-hauled passenger rolling stock still has a limited role on the WCML, with the overnight Caledonian Sleeper services between London Euston and Scotland using Mark 3 and Mark 2 coaches. Virgin has also retained and refurbished one of the original Mark 3 rakes with a Driving Van Trailer and a Class 90 locomotive as a standby set to cover for Pendolino breakdowns.

The following table lists the rolling stock which forms the core passenger service pattern on the WCML serving its principal termini; it is not exhaustive since many other types use sections of the WCML network as part of other routes - notable examples include the InterCity 125 HST on certain CrossCountry services (primarily through the West Midlands area) and the InterCity 225 uses the Edinburgh branch in order to reach Glasgow Central.

Class Image Type Cars per set Top speed Number Operator Routes Built
mph km/h
Class 390 Pendolino 100px EMU 9 (31 soon to be 11) 140 (limited to 125) 225 52 Avanti West Coast All services from London Euston to; Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow 2001–2004
Class 221 SuperVoyager 100px DEMU 4/5 125 200 3 4 car
18 5 car
Avanti West Coast All services from London Euston to: North Wales, Chester. All services from Birmingham to Scotland 2000–2002
Class 90 100px Electric locomotive 1 110 180 3 First ScotRail (x2)
Hired from
DB Schenker

All Caledonian Sleeper services from London Euston as far as Glasgow & Edinburgh
Mark 2 Coach 100px Lounge Car
Seated Sleeper
6 100 161 22 First ScotRail All Caledonian Sleeper services from London Euston to Scottish destinations 1971–1974
Class 321/4 100px EMU 4 100 160 7 London Midland Birmingham - Northampton, Birmingham International - Walsall, London - Milton Keynes/Northampton
Watford Junction - St. Albans Abbey
Class 350/1 Desiro 100px EMU 4 100 160 30 London Midland London Euston to Tring, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Birmingham
Birmingham to Liverpool.
Class 350/2 Desiro 100px EMU 4 100 160 37 London Midland London Euston to Tring, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Birmingham
Birmingham to Liverpool.
Class 185 Desiro 100px DMU 3 100 160 51 First TransPennine Express TransPennine North West 2006
Class 377 Electrostar 100px EMU 4 100 160 Southern Milton Keynes Central to East Croydon 2002–2009

Operators[edit | edit source]

Avanti West Coast[edit | edit source]

The current principal train operating company on the West Coast Main Line is Avanti West Coast, which runs the majority of long-distance services on the route. Virgin operates 9 trains per hour from London Euston, with three trains per hour to each of Birmingham and Manchester, one train per hour to each of Chester and Liverpool, 13 trains per day to Glasgow, and 6 trains per day to Holyhead. There is also one daily train in each direction to Wrexham. Additional terminating services run from London to Preston, Lancaster and Carlisle.

In addition, Avanti operates one train per hour from Birmingham New Street to either Glasgow or Edinburgh (alternating each hour).[29][30]

Average Journey Times [31]

Route Fastest Journey Time Average Journey Time
London Euston-Birmingham New Street 1hr 11mins 1hr 24mins
London Euston-Manchester Piccadilly 1hr 58mins 2hrs 8mins
London Euston-Liverpool Lime Street 2hrs 1mins 2hrs 8mins
London Euston-Glasgow Central 4hrs 08mins 4hrs 31mins
London Euston-Chester 1hr 58mins 2hrs 2mins
London Euston-Holyhead 3hrs 38mins 3hrs 46mins

London Northwestern Railway[edit | edit source]

London Northwestern Railway provides commuter and some long-distance services on the route, most of which terminate at London Euston. They are all operated under the "Express" brand. There is one train every 30 mins from London to Northampton, calling at the majority of stations en route, one of these per hour being extended to Birmingham. This London-Birmingham stopping service is roughly one hour slower, end to end, than the Virgin Trains fast service.

LNWR also operates an hourly service from London to Crewe, serving Watford Junction, Milton Keynes Central, Northampton, Rugby, Nuneaton, Atherstone, Tamworth, Lichfield, Rugeley, Stafford, Stone, Stoke-on-Trent, Alsager and Crewe. This service was introduced in 2008 to coincide with the withdrawal of the similar Virgin Trains service.

A service to Tring is provided every 20 minutes from Euston, calling at Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted, with an hourly extension to Milton Keynes Central, calling additionally at Cheddington, Leighton Buzzard and Bletchley.

During peak periods London Midland offers "The Watford Shuttle", which operates between Euston, Harrow and Wealdstone, Bushey, and Watford Junction. One service in each direction is extended to Tring and Milton Keynes.

LNWR also operates an hourly stopping train on the Marston Vale Line as well as a 45-minute service on the St Albans Branch Line. These are both local branches off the WCML.

After the Central Trains franchise was revised, London Midland took over services running on the WCML between Birmingham and Liverpool.

TransPennine Express[edit | edit source]

As part of its North West route, TransPennine Express provides services along the WCML between Preston and Glasgow/Edinburgh (alternating serving each roughly every 2 hours) as part of its Manchester Airport to Scotland service.

Current developments[edit | edit source]

Felixstowe and Nuneaton freight capacity scheme[edit | edit source]

Main article: Birmingham to Peterborough Line

A number of items of work are proposed to accommodate additional freight traffic between the Haven ports and the Midlands including track dualling and the 'Nuneaton North Chord' which will simplyify access for some trains between the Birmingham to Peterborough Line and the WCML.

Proposed development[edit | edit source]

Increased line speed[edit | edit source]

Virgin Trains put forward plans in 2007 to increase the line speed in places on the WCML — particularly along sections of the Trent Valley Line between Stafford and Rugby from 125 to 135 mph (200 to 218 km/h) after the quadrupling of track had been completed. This would permit faster services and possibly allow additional train paths. Template:Convert/mi/h was claimed to be achievable by Pendolino trains while using existing lineside signalling without the need for cab signalling via the use of the TASS system (Tilt Authorisation and Speed Supervision) to prevent overspeeding. In practice regulations introduced by the HMRI (now ORR) at the time of the ECML high-speed test runs in 1991 are still in force prohibiting this. Network Rail was aware of Virgin Train's aspirations;[32] however, on 4 November 2009 Chris Mole MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Transport) announced that there were no plans for this to happen and thus for the foreseeable future the maximum speed will remain at Template:Convert/mi/h.[33]

In promoting this proposal, Virgin Trains reported that passenger numbers on Virgin West Coast increased from 13.6 million in 1997/98 to 18.7 million in 2005/6, while numbers on CrossCountry grew from 12.6 million to 20.4 million over the same period.[citation needed]

Accidents[edit | edit source]

See also: List of rail accidents in the United Kingdom

The route in detail[edit | edit source]

See also: Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford Line, Trent Valley Line, and Stafford to Manchester Line

Network Rail, successor from 2001 to Railtrack plc, in its business plan published in April 2006,[32] has divided the national network into 26 'Routes' for planning, maintenance and operational purposes.[35] Route 18 is named as 'that part of the West Coast Main Line that runs between London Euston and Carstairs Junction' although it also includes several branch lines that had not previously been considered part of the WCML.[36] The northern terminal sections of the WCML are reached by Routes 26 (to Motherwell and Glasgow) and 24 (to Edinburgh). This therefore differs from the "classic" definition of the WCML as the direct route from London Euston to Glasgow Central.

The cities and towns served by the WCML are listed in the tables below. Stations on loops and branches are marked **. Those stations in italics are not served by main-line services run by Virgin Trains but only by local trains. Between Euston and Watford Junction the WCML is largely but not exactly paralleled by the operationally independent Watford DC Line, a local stopping service now part of London Overground, with 17 intermediate stations, including three with additional platforms on the WCML.

The final table retraces the route specifically to indicate the many loops, branches, junctions and interchange stations on Route 18, which is the core of the WCML, with the new 'Route' names for connecting lines.

The North Wales Coast Line from Crewe to Holyhead and the line from Manchester to Preston are not electrified. Services from London to Holyhead and from Manchester to Scotland are mostly operated either by Super Voyager tilting diesel trains or, in the case of one of the Holyhead services, by a Pendolino set hauled from Crewe by a Class 57/3 diesel locomotive.

London to Glasgow and Edinburgh (Network Rail Route 18)[edit | edit source]

File:Vt and lm.svg

A Map of Virgin Trains (red), London Midland Express (green) and First Transpennine Express (purple) Services on the WCML showing the current service pattern each hour.

Town/City Station Ordnance Survey
grid reference
Branches and loops
London London Euston Template:Gbmappingsmall
Wembley Wembley Central Template:Gbmappingsmall
Harrow Harrow and Wealdstone Template:Gbmappingsmall
Bushey Bushey Template:Gbmappingsmall
Watford Watford Junction Template:Gbmappingsmall
Apsley Apsley Template:Gbmappingsmall
Kings Langley Kings Langley Template:Gbmappingsmall
Hemel Hempstead Hemel Hempstead Template:Gbmappingsmall
Berkhamsted Berkhamsted Template:Gbmappingsmall
Tring Tring Template:Gbmappingsmall
Cheddington Cheddington Template:Gbmappingsmall
Leighton Buzzard Leighton Buzzard Template:Gbmappingsmall
Bletchley Bletchley Template:Gbmappingsmall
** Bedford ** Bedford Template:Gbmappingsmall Marston Vale Line spur
Milton Keynes (centre) Milton Keynes Central Template:Gbmappingsmall
Wolverton Wolverton Template:Gbmappingsmall
** Northampton ** Northampton Template:Gbmappingsmall Northampton Loop diverges north of Wolverton
** Long Buckby ** Long Buckby Template:Gbmappingsmall Northampton Loop rejoins south of Rugby
Rugby Rugby Template:Gbmappingsmall Rugby-Birmingham-Wolverhampton-Stafford
(see separate table below)
Nuneaton Nuneaton Template:Gbmappingsmall
Atherstone Atherstone Template:Gbmappingsmall
Polesworth Polesworth Template:Gbmappingsmall
Tamworth Tamworth Template:Gbmappingsmall
Lichfield Lichfield Trent Valley Template:Gbmappingsmall
Rugeley Rugeley Trent Valley Template:Gbmappingsmall
Stafford Stafford Template:Gbmappingsmall Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford rejoins
Manchester via Stoke-on-Trent diverges
either before or after Stafford (two routes)
** Stoke-on-Trent ** Stoke-on-Trent Template:Gbmappingsmall
** Congleton ** Congleton Template:Gbmappingsmall
** Macclesfield ** Macclesfield Template:Gbmappingsmall
** Stockport ** Stockport Template:Gbmappingsmall
** Manchester ** Manchester Piccadilly Template:Gbmappingsmall
Crewe Crewe Template:Gbmappingsmall Crewe-Manchester-Preston and
Crewe-Chester-North Wales-Holyhead
(see separate tables below)
Winsford Winsford Template:Gbmappingsmall
Northwich Hartford Template:Gbmappingsmall
Acton Bridge Acton Bridge Template:Gbmappingsmall Liverpool route diverges north of Acton Bridge
** Runcorn ** Runcorn Template:Gbmappingsmall
** Liverpool ** Liverpool Lime Street Template:Gbmappingsmall
Warrington Warrington Bank Quay Template:Gbmappingsmall
Wigan Wigan North Western Template:Gbmappingsmall
Preston Preston Template:Gbmappingsmall Crewe-Manchester-Preston rejoins
**Blackpool Blackpool North
Lancaster Lancaster Template:Gbmappingsmall
Oxenholme (Kendal) Oxenholme Lake District Template:Gbmappingsmall
Penrith Penrith Template:Gbmappingsmall
Carlisle Carlisle Template:Gbmappingsmall
Lockerbie Lockerbie Template:Gbmappingsmall
Carstairs Carstairs Junction Template:Gbmappingsmall
Then either
Motherwell Motherwell Template:Gbmappingsmall
Glasgow Glasgow Central Template:Gbmappingsmall
Edinburgh (Haymarket/West End) Haymarket Template:Gbmappingsmall
Edinburgh Edinburgh Waverley Template:Gbmappingsmall

Branches and loops[edit | edit source]

The WCML is noted for the diversity of branches served from the London to Edinburgh and Glasgow main line. The following map deals with the very complex network of lines in the West Midlands that link the old route via Birmingham with the new WCML route via the Trent Valley (i.e. 1830s versus 1840s):

File:Rugby-Stafford rail routes.png

Map of the Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford line and other local routes.

In the following tables, related to the WCML branches, only the Intercity stations are recorded:

Rugby-Birmingham-Wolverhampton-Stafford (Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford Line) (Network Rail Route 17)[edit | edit source]
Main article: Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford Line
Town/City Station Ordnance Survey
grid reference
Crewe-Holyhead (North Wales Coast Line) (Network Rail Route 22)[edit | edit source]
Town/City Station Ordnance Survey
grid reference
Crewe-Manchester-Preston (Network Rail Route 20)[edit | edit source]
Town/City Station Ordnance Survey
grid reference

Network Rail Route 18 (WCML) - Branches and junctions[edit | edit source]

Location Type Route Details
Camden Jnct Branch 18 Watford DC Line (WDCL)
+ Junction 6 North London Line from Primrose Hill joins WDCL and WCML
Willesden Jnct Junction 6 North London Line from West Hampstead joins WDCL and WCML
+ Junction 2 West London Line from Clapham Junction joins WCML
+ Junction 6 North London Line from Richmond joins WCML
Willesden Junction Interchange 6 North London Line with Watford DC Line
Watford Junction Branch 18 Watford DC Line terminates at separate bay platforms
+ Branch 18 St Albans Branch Line (AC single line single section) to St Albans
Bletchley Branch 18 Marston Vale Line to Bedford
Bletchley High Level (Denbigh Hall South Jnct) Branch 16 Freight only line to Newton Longville (remnant of mothballed Varsity Line to Oxford)
Hanslope Junction Loop 18 Northampton Loop leaves a few miles north of Wolverton and rejoins just south of Rugby
Rugby Junction 17 West Midlands Main Line to Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stafford
Nuneaton Junction 19 The Birmingham to Peterborough Line from Peterborough
+ Junction 17 The Coventry to Nuneaton Line
+ Junction 17 The Birmingham to Peterborough Line to Birmingham
Tamworth Interchange 17 The Cross Country Route (MR) Bristol and Birmingham to Derby and the North East
Lichfield Trent Valley Interchange 17 The Cross-City Line Redditch to Lichfield
+ Junction 17 north of the station
Rugeley Trent Valley Junction 17 The Chase Line from Birmingham to Rugeley
Colwich Junction Branch 18 to Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester (Route 20 from Cheadle Hulme)
Stafford Junction 17 West Midlands Main Line from Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton
Norton Bridge Branch 18 to Stone to join line from Colwich Jnct to Manchester (Route 20 from Cheadle Hulme)
Stoke-on-Trent Junction 19 from Derby
Kidsgrove Branch 18 to Alsager and Crewe
Cheadle Hulme - 20 Route 18 London — Manchester Line becomes Route 20 through to Manchester
Crewe Branch 18 from Kidsgrove (diesel service from Skegness, Grantham, Nottingham Derby and Stoke-on-Trent)
+ Junction 14 The Welsh Marches Line from South Wales, Hereford and Shrewsbury
+ Junction 22 to Chester and the North Wales Coast Line
+ Junction 20 to Wilmslow, Manchester Airport, Stockport and Manchester
Hartford North Junction 20 (freight only) from Northwich
Weaver Jnct Branch 18 to Runcorn and Liverpool (Route 20 from Liverpool South Parkway railway station)
Liverpool South Parkway - 20 Route 18 London to Liverpool Line becomes Route 20 to Liverpool Lime Street
Warrington Junction 22 from Llandudno and Chester to Manchester
Winwick Jnct Junction 20 to Liverpool, Earlestown and Manchester
Wigan Junction 20 from Manchester
+ Junction 20 The Liverpool to Wigan Line
Euxton Jnct Junction 20 The Manchester to Preston Line from Manchester
Farington Jnct Junction 23 East Lancashire Line and Caldervale Line
Farington Curve Jnct Junction 23 Ormskirk Branch Line, East Lancashire Line and Caldervale Line
Preston Dock Junction 23 west
Preston Junction 20 to Blackpool
Morecambe South Jnct Junction 23 to Morecambe
Hest Bank Jnct Junction 23 from Morecambe
Carnforth Jnct Junction 23 Furness Line to Barrow-in-Furness and also the Leeds to Morecambe Line to Leeds
Oxenholme Junction 23 to Windermere
Penrith Junction 23 Route 23 uses two junctions to the north of the station
Carlisle Junction 23 Route 23 Settle-Carlisle Railway and Route 9 from Newcastle
+ Junction 23 The Cumbrian Coast Line from Barrow-in-Furness
Gretna Jnct Junction 26 to the Glasgow South Western Line
Carstairs South Jnct Junction 24 Route 18 West Coast Main Line becomes Route 24 to Edinburgh
Carstairs South - 26 Route 18 West Coast Main Line becomes Route 26 to Glasgow

The length of the WCML's main core section is nominally quoted as being 401.25 miles (645.7 km). The basis of this measurement is taken as being the distance between the midpoint of Platform 18 of London Euston to that of Platform 1 of Glasgow Central, and has historically been the distance used in official calculations during speed record attempts.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 West Coast Main Line Pendolino Tilting Trains, United Kingdom. railway-technology.com. Retrieved on 2010-12-01.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "High-speed tilting train on track", BBC News Online, 12 December 2005.
  3. West Coast Main Line, Department for Transport.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Network Rail media centre, December 2008.
  5. West Coast Main Line, Network Rail, October 2007.
  6. Electric all the way, British Rail, 1974.
  7. History of the West Coast Main Line, Virgin Trains, July 2004.
  8. Grand Junction Railway: History of the West Coast Main line, Virgin Trains 2004.
  9. 9.0 9.1 London and Birmingham Railway: History of the West Coast Main line, Virgin Trains 2004.
  10. Over Shap and Beattock: History of the West Coast Main line, Virgin Trains 2004.
  11. The Manchester Lines: History of the West Coast Main line. Virgin Trains (2004).
  12. London and North Western Railway Society
  13. Thomas, John (1971). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain. Volume VI Scotland: The Lowlands and the Borders (1st ed.). Newton Abbot: David & Charles. OCLC 650446341. 
  14. Lines in Lancashire: History of the West Coast Main line. Virgin Trains (2004).
  15. railalbum.co.uk
  16. Template:Cite news
  17. Template:Cite news
  18. Marshall, John (1979). The Guinness Book Of Rail Facts & Feats. Enfield: Guinness Superlatives. ISBN 0900424567. 
  19. Wolmar, Christian (2007). Fire and Steam, A New History of the Railways in Britain. London: Atlantic. ISBN 9781843546290. 
  20. Passenger Timetable 1 May 1972 to 6 May 1973. British Railways Board, London Midland Region, 83, 06. 
  21. British Railways Board (April 1966).Your New Railway: London Midland Electrification. Information booklet.
  22. (1986) Research and development: British Rail's fast trains, Design and Innovation, Block 3. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 12. ISBN 9780335172733. 
  23. Template:Cite news
  24. 'Queasy Rider:' The Failiure of the Advanced Passenger Train.
  25. Template:Cite news
  26. Template:Cite news
  27. West coast main line upgrade. Corus rail. Retrieved on 16 May 2009.
  28. Freight Route Utilisation Stategy — March 2007. Network Rail. Retrieved on 25 November 2009.
  29. Network Rail timetable.
  30. Department for Transport.
  31. WCML 2008 timetable Virgin Trains. Virgin Trains.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Business plan 2007, Network Rail.
  33. Hansard (House of Commons), 4 November 2009.
  34. Ministry of Transport Accident Report Between Grayrigg and Oxenholme, L.M.S.R., 18 May 1947. Retrieved on 18 February 2008.
  35. Route plans, Network Rail.
  36. Network Rail Route 18.
  • Buck, Martin. and Rawlinson, Mark (2000). Line By Line: The West Coast Main Line, London Euston to Glasgow Central. Swindon: Freightmaster Publishing. ISBN 0953754006

External links[edit | edit source]

Template:Main inter-regional railway lines in Great Britain Template:Railway lines in London Template:Railway lines in North West England

Template:Transport in Buckinghamshire Template:High-speed railway lines

Coordinates: 52°10′41″N 0°55′27″W / 52.17801°N 0.92405°W / 52.17801; -0.92405 Template:Use dmy dates

cs:West Coast Main Line de:West Coast Main Line es:West Coast Main Line fr:West Coast Main Line hu:West Coast Main Line ja:ウェスト・コースト本線 no:West Coast Main Line pl:West Coast Main Line simple:West Coast Main Line

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