West Coast Main Line

The West Coast Main Line (WCML) is one of the most important railway corridors in the United Kingdom, connecting the major cities of London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is one of the busiest mixed-traffic railway routes in Europe, carrying a mixture of intercity rail, regional rail, commuter rail and rail freight traffic. The core route of the WCML runs from London to Glasgow, with branches diverging to Northampton, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, totalling a route mileage of 700 miles (1,127 km).[3][4] Services from London to North Wales and Edinburgh also run via the WCML; however the main London-Edinburgh route is the East Coast Main Line. In addition, several sections of the WCML form part of the suburban railway systems in London, Coventry, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow, with many more smaller commuter stations, as well as providing links to more rural towns.

West Coast Main Line
The WCML running alongside the M1 at Watford Gap
SystemNational Rail
TerminiLondon Euston
OwnerNetwork Rail
Operator(s)Passenger: Freight:
Rolling stock
Line length399 mi (642 km)[1]
Number of tracks
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Loading gaugeW10
Electrification25 kV 50 Hz AC OHLE
Operating speed
  • 125 mph (201 km/h) for tilting trains[2]
  • 110 mph (177 km/h) for standard trains
Route map

Edinburgh Waverley ( St Andrew Sq.)
Glasgow Central ( St Enoch)
Carstairs South Junction
Oxenholme Lake District
for Windermere
for Blackpool North
Euxton Junction
Wigan North Western
Warrington Bank Quay
Liverpool Lime Street
Liverpool South Parkway
Manchester Piccadilly
for Dublin Ferry Port
Cheadle Hulme Junction
Crewe North Junction
North Wales Coast Line
Stone Junction
Norton Bridge Junction
Stafford South Junction
Lichfield Trent Valley
Cross-City Line
Birmingham New Street
Cross Country Route
Birmingham International
Rugby Trent Valley Junction
Hillmorton Junction
Hanslope Junction
Milton Keynes Central
Watford Junction
London Euston
All WCML routes shown.
A detailed diagram of the core route can be
found at West Coast Main Line diagram.
(interactive map)

It is one of the busiest freight routes in Europe, carrying 40% of all UK rail freight traffic. The line 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] The line has been declared a strategic European route and designated a priority Trans-European Networks (TENS) route.

Much of the line has a maximum speed of 125 mph (201 km/h), meeting the European Union's definition of an upgraded high-speed line,[6] although only Class 390 Pendolinos and Class 221 Super Voyagers with tilting mechanisms operated by Avanti West Coast travel at that speed. Other traffic is limited to 110 mph (177 km/h).


The core section between London Euston and Glasgow Central is 399 miles (642 km) long,[1] with principal InterCity stations at Milton Keynes Central, Rugby, Stafford, Crewe, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith and Carlisle.

The central core[7] has branches serving 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 between London and Edinburgh.[8]

The route between Rugby and Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stafford was the original main line until the Trent Valley Line was built in 1847. 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. A loop branches off to serve Manchester, another between 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.

The geography of the route was determined by avoiding large estates, and 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 South Lanarkshire. This legacy means the WCML has limitations as a long-distance main line, with lower maximum speeds than the East Coast Main Line (ECML) route, the other major main line between London and Scotland. The principal solution has been the adoption of tilting trains, initially with British Rail's 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.


Early history

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 successful Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830, schemes were mooted to build more inter-city lines. The business practice of the early railway era was for companies to promote individual lines between two destinations, rather than to plan grand networks of lines, as it was considered easier to obtain backing from investors. And so this is how the early stages of the WCML evolved.

The first stretch of what is now the WCML was the Grand Junction Railway connecting Liverpool and Manchester to Birmingham, via Crewe, Stafford and Wolverhampton, opening in 1837. The following year the London and Birmingham Railway was completed, connecting to the capital via Coventry, Rugby and the Watford Gap. The Grand Junction and London and Birmingham railways shared a Birmingham terminus at Curzon Street station, so that it was now possible to travel by train between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.[9][10]

These lines, together with the Trent Valley Railway (between Rugby and Stafford, avoiding Birmingham) 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 on 10 September 1847, connecting to Edinburgh in February 1848, and to Glasgow in November 1849.[11]

Another important section, the North Staffordshire Railway (NSR), which opened its route in 1848 from Macclesfield (connecting with the LNWR from Manchester) to Stafford 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.[12]

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.[13] The first direct London to Glasgow trains in the 1850s took 12.5 hours to complete the 400-mile (640 km) journey.[14]

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.[15]

To expand capacity, the line between London and Rugby was widened to four tracks in the 1870s. As part of this work, a new line, the Northampton Loop, was built, opening in 1881, connecting Northampton before rejoining the main line at Rugby.[10]

The worst-ever rail accident in UK history, the Quintinshill rail disaster, occurred on the WCML during World War I, on 22 May 1915, between Glasgow Central and Carlisle, in which 227 were killed and 246 injured.

LMS era

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

The LMS competed fiercely with the rival LNER'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, hauled by streamlined Princess Coronation Class locomotives, which made the journey in 6 hours 30 minutes,[16] making it competitive with the rival East Coast Flying Scotsman. (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.[17])

British Rail era

In 1948, 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, although it had been used informally since at least 1912.[18]

Modernisation by British Rail

As part of 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 south to London. The first electric trains from London ran on 12 November 1965, with full public service from 18 April 1966. Electrification of the Birmingham line was completed on 6 March 1967. In March 1970 the government approved electrification between Weaver Junction (where the route to Liverpool diverges) and Glasgow, and this was completed on 6 May 1974.[7][19] The announcement, after five years of uncertainty, was made 48 hours before the writ was issued for a by-election in South Ayrshire.[20] The Observer commented that, if the £25 million decision was politically rather than financially motivated, it would have the makings of a major political scandal.[20]

A new set of high-speed long-distance services was introduced in 1966, launching British Rail's highly successful "Inter-City" brand[21] (the hyphen was later dropped) and offering 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).[22] A new feature was that these fast trains were offered on a regular-interval service throughout the day: hourly to Birmingham, two-hourly to Manchester, and so on.[23] With the completion of the northern electrification in 1974, London to Glasgow journey times were reduced to 5 hours.[7]

Along with electrification came modern coaches such as the Mark 2 and from 1974 the fully integral, air-conditioned Mark 3 design. These remained the mainstay of express services until the early 2000s. Line speeds were raised to a maximum 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), and these trains, hauled by Class 86 and Class 87 electric locomotives, came to be seen as BR's flagship passenger product. Passenger traffic on the WCML doubled between 1962 and 1975.[24]

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.[25]

Electrification of the Edinburgh branch was carried out in the late 1980s as part of the East Coast Main Line electrification project in order to allow InterCity 225 sets to access Glasgow via Carstairs Junction.[26]

Modernisation brought great improvements in speed and frequency. However some locations and lines were no longer served by through trains or through coaches from London, such as: Windermere; Barrow-in-Furness, Whitehaven and Workington; Huddersfield, Bradford Interchange, Leeds and Halifax (via Stockport); Blackpool South; Colne (via Stockport); Morecambe and Heysham; Southport (via Edge Hill); Blackburn and Stranraer Harbour. Notable also is the loss of through services between Liverpool and Scotland; these were due to be reinstated in December 2018 but have now been further delayed until at least May 2019.[27][28]

British Rail introduced the Advanced Passenger Train APT project, which proved that London-Glasgow WCML journey times of less than 4 hours were achievable and paved the way for the later tilting Virgin Pendolino trains.[29]

In the late 1980s British Rail put forward a track realignment scheme to raise speeds on the WCML; a proposed project called InterCity 250, which entailed realigning parts of the line in order to increase curve radii and smooth gradients in order to facilitate higher-speed running. The scheme, which would have seen the introduction of new rolling stock derived from that developed for the East Coast electrification, was scrapped in 1992.

Modernisation by Network Rail

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, under which Virgin Trains won a 15-year 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 involved the upgrade and renewal of the line to allow the use of tilting Pendolino trains with a maximum line speed of 140 mph (225 km/h), in place of the previous maximum of 110 mph (177 km/h). Railtrack estimated that this upgrade would cost £2 billion, be ready by 2005, and cut journey times to 1 hour for London to Birmingham and 1 hr 45 mins for London to Manchester.

However, these plans proved too ambitious and were subsequently cancelled. 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.[30] 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 £13 billion, the plans were scaled down, bringing the cost down to between £8 billion and £10 billion, to be ready by 2008, with a maximum speed for tilting trains of a more modest 125 mph (201 km/h) – equalling the speeds available on the East Coast route, but some way short of the original target, and even further behind BR's original vision of 155 mph (250 km/h) speeds planned and achieved 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 (201 km/h) running along most of the line, was announced as opening on 12 December 2005, bringing the fastest journey between London and 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 401-mile (645 km) 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.

The decade-long modernisation project was finally completed in December 2008.[31] 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 8 minutes.

Some projects that were removed from the modernisation as a result of the de-scoping, such as a flyover at Norton Bridge station, were later restarted. A £250 million project to grade-separate the tracks at Norton Bridge that would allow for increased service frequency as well as improved line-speeds was completed in spring 2016.[32] Other projects such as the replacement of a weak bridge in Watford will allow line-speeds to be increased from 90 mph (145 km/h) to 125 mph (201 km/h) in the coming years to decrease journey times.[33]



The main spine of the WCML is quadruple track almost all of the route from London to Weaver junction, south east of Runcorn. At Hanslope Junction (near Milton Keynes), the line divides with one pair going direct to Rugby and the other pair diverting via Northampton to rejoin at Rugby. The spine continues north in quadruple track until Winsford, where it reduces to double track through the town, reverting to quadruple track thereafter. The spine reduces to double track at Weaver junction (where a double track spur to Liverpool branches off). After Weaver junction the line continues north to Scotland in double track.[34] There is a busy section around Glasgow in quadruple track.

The WCML is noted for the diversity of branches served from the spine, notably those to/from the West Midlands and North Wales, Greater Manchester, and Liverpool. These are detailed below.

The complete route has been cleared for W10 loading gauge freight traffic, allowing use of higher 9 ft 6 in (2,896 mm) hi-cube shipping containers.[35][36]


Nearly all of the WCML is electrified with overhead wires at 25 kV AC.[37] Several of the unelectrified branches of the WCML in the North West have recently been electrified such as the Manchester to Preston Line and the Preston to Blackpool North Line. The Wigan to Lostock branch is also scheduled to be electrified.[38]

Rolling stock

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 were also used on Virgin's London-Scotland via Birmingham services, even though this route is entirely electrified – this situation is however changing since the expansion of the Pendolino fleet; from 2013 onward Class 390 sets have been routinely deployed on Edinburgh/Glasgow-Birmingham services.

By 2012, the WCML Pendolino fleet was 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 replaced the set lost in the Grayrigg derailment. Although the new stock is to be supplied in Virgin livery, it was not expected to enter traffic before 31 March 2012, when the InterCity West Coast franchise was due to be re-let, though the date for the new franchise was later put back to December 2012,[39] and any effect of this on the timetable for introducing the new coaches remains unclear.

Previous franchisees Central Trains and Silverlink (operating local and regional services partly over sections of the WCML) were given 30 new "Desiro" Class 350s, originally ordered for services in the south-east. Following Govia's successful bid for the West Midlands franchise in 2007, another 37 Class 350s were ordered to replace its older fleet of Class 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. This set was retired from service on 25 October with a rail tour the following day. In November 2014 the "Pretendolino" was transferred to Norwich Crown Point depot to enter service with Abellio Greater Anglia having come to the end of its agreed lease to Virgin Trains.

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 London North Eastern Railway InterCity 225 between Edinburgh and Glasgow Central.

Commuter Trains

Class Image Type Cars per set Top speed Number Operator Routes Built
mph km/h
Class 67 Diesel-electric locomotive 1 + 4 + 1 125 200 3 Transport for Wales Manchester Piccadilly to Holyhead 1999—2000
Mark 3 carriage Passenger coach 12 1988–91
Driving Van Trailer Driving Van Trailer 3 1988–91
Class 153 DMU 1 75 120 8 East Midlands Railway
West Midlands Railway
Derby to Crewe 1987–1988
Class 156 DMU 2 75 120 90 Abellio ScotRail
Settle to Carlisle Line, Glasgow South Western Line, Shotts Line 1987–89
Class 158 DMU 2 90 145 61 Northern
Transport for Wales
N: Settle to Carlisle Line
TfW: Birmingham International to Shrewsbury, Aberystwyth, Pwllheli, Chester and Holyhead.
3 8
Class 175 Coradia DMU 2 100 161 11 Transport for Wales Holyhead to: Cardiff Central and Llanelli via Llandudno, Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly to Bangor via Llandudno, Manchester Piccadilly, Crewe, Chester to Cardiff Central, Swansea, Milford Haven 1999–2001
3 16
Class 185 Pennine DMU 3 100 160 51 TransPennine Express TransPennine North West 2005–2006
Class 318 (gangway removed) EMU 3 90 145 21 Abellio ScotRail Glasgow Central to Lanark/Carstairs 1985–86
Class 319 EMU 4 100 160 39 London Northwestern Railway
LNR: Watford Junction to: St Albans Abbey, London Euston to Milton Keynes (Peak Hours)
N: Liverpool and Warrington Bank Quay to Preston, Manchester Victoria to Liverpool via Earlestown
Class 320/3 EMU 3 90 145 22 Abellio ScotRail North Clyde Line, Argyle Line, Whifflet Line 1990
Class 320/4 (ex-Class 321/4) 3[40] 100 161 7 1989–90
Class 323 EMU 3 90 145 26 West Midlands Railway Birmingham New Street to: Redditch, Lichfield Trent Valley, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Four Oaks, Longbridge
and Birmingham International
Class 334 Juniper EMU 3 90 145 40 Abellio ScotRail Glasgow Central to Lanark/Carstairs 1999–2002
Class 350/1, 350/2 & 350/3 Desiro
Class 350/4 Desiro

EMU 4 110 180 30 London Northwestern Railway
TransPennine Express
LNR: London Euston to Tring, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Birmingham
Birmingham to Liverpool.
TPE: Manchester Airport to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
100 160 37 2008–2009
110 177 10 2014
110 180 10 2013–2014
Class 377/2 Electrostar EMU 4 100 160 12 Southern Milton Keynes Central to South Croydon 2003–2004
Class 377/7 Electrostar EMU 5 100 160 8 Southern Milton Keynes Central to South Croydon 2013–14
Class 378/2 Capitalstar EMU 5 75 120 37 London Overground London Euston to Watford Junction 2008–11
Class 380/0 Desiro EMU 3 100 161 22 Abellio ScotRail Ayrshire Coast Line, Inverclyde Line, North Berwick Line,

Paisley Canal Line, Argyle Line, Cathcart Circle Line

Class 380/1 Desiro 4 16

High Speed Trains

Class Image Type Cars per set Top speed Number Operator Routes Built
mph km/h
Class 43 HST InterCity 125 Diesel locomotive XC: 2 + 7

LNER: 2 + 9
125 200 42 CrossCountry
London North Eastern Railway
XC: Birmingham New Street to: York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, Bristol, Exeter, Paignton, Plymouth and Penzance
LNER: Glasgow Central to: Edinburgh, Newcastle, York and London King's Cross
Mark 3 Coach Passenger coach 170 1975–88
Class 91 Intercity 225 Electric locomotive 1 + 9 + 1 140 225 31 London North Eastern Railway Glasgow Central to: Edinburgh, Newcastle, York and London King's Cross 1988—91
Mark 4 carriage Passenger coach 302 1988–91
Driving Van Trailer Driving Van Trailer 31 1988–91
Class 220 Voyager DEMU 4 125 200 34 CrossCountry Glasgow Central to: Newcastle, Edinburgh and Leeds via the ECML.
Birmingham New Street to: Coventry, Oxford, Reading, Southampton and Bournemouth, Manchester, Bristol, Exeter, Paignton, Plymouth and Penzance
Class 221 SuperVoyager DEMU 5 125 200 20 Avanti West Coast Services between London Euston to: North Wales, Chester, Shrewsbury, Blackpool, Chester, Edinburgh and Glasgow Central. 2001–2002
22 CrossCountry XC: Glasgow Central to: Newcastle, Edinburgh and Leeds via the ECML.
Birmingham New Street to: Coventry, Oxford, Reading, Southampton and Bournemouth, Manchester, Bristol, Exeter, Paignton, Plymouth and Penzance.
Class 390 Pendolino EMU 9 or 11 140 (limited to 125) 225 (limited to 200) 56 Avanti West Coast Services from London Euston to Manchester, Liverpool, West Midlands, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Selected Glasgow Central/Edinburgh services to Birmingham New Street 2001–2004
Class 397 Civity EMU 5 125 201 12 TransPennine Express TPE: Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street to Glasgow and Edinburgh. 2019

Sleeper Trains

Class Image Type Cars per set Top speed Number Operator Routes Built
mph km/h
Class 92 Electric locomotive 1 87 140 6 Caledonian Sleeper (x6)
Hired from GB Railfreight
All Caledonian Sleeper services between London Euston as far as Glasgow & Edinburgh 1993–1996
Mark 5 Coach Lounge car
Seated Sleeper
Sleeping car
16 100 161 75 Caledonian Sleeper All Caledonian Sleeper services between London Euston to Scottish destinations[41] 2016-2018

Future Trains

Class Image Type Cars per set Top speed Number Operator Routes Built
mph km/h


Avanti West Coast

The current principal train operating company on the West Coast Main Line is Avanti West Coast, which runs the majority of long-distance services under the InterCity West Coast rail franchise. During 2011–2012 the Department for Transport conducted a franchise competition for the InterCity West Coast franchise, announcing that FirstGroup had been awarded the new franchise, but then cancelled the competition, before any contracts were signed. Subsequently, the contract for Virgin Trains to operate the InterCity West Coast franchise has been extended by between 9 and 13 months, while a competition for a new interim franchise agreement is run.[42]

Avanti operates nine trains per hour on the WCML from London Euston, with three trains per hour to each of Manchester and Birmingham, one train per hour to each of Chester, Liverpool and Glasgow via the Trent Valley (however one Birmingham train per hour continues to Scotland via Wolverhampton), five trains on a weekday to Holyhead and three trains on a weekday to Bangor. There is also one weekday train in to/from Wrexham General. Additional peak terminating services run between London Euston and Preston, Wolverhampton, Crewe, Birmingham International, Lancaster and Carlisle. Virgin also operates a service between Edinburgh or Glasgow and Euston via Birmingham over the WCML once every two hours, with additional trains during the early morning, late evening, rush hour and night that terminate or start at Birmingham. From December 2014, Virgin Trains have also introduced two daily services between London Euston and Shrewsbury and one daily (Monday to Friday) service between London Euston and Blackpool North.

Off-peak departure pattern from London Euston[43]
TimeDestinationviaDurationCalling pattern
xx:00Manchester PiccadillyStoke-on-Trent2hr 07minStoke-on-Trent; Macclesfield; Stockport; Manchester Piccadilly
xx:03Birmingham New Street1hr 24minRugby; Coventry; Birmingham International; Birmingham New Street
xx:07Liverpool Lime StreetCrewe2hr 14minStafford; Crewe; Runcorn; Liverpool Lime Street
xx:10Chester or HolyheadCrewe2hr 03minMilton Keynes Central; Crewe; Chester; (Flint; Prestatyn; Rhyl; Colwyn Bay; Llandudno Junction; Bangor; Holyhead)
xx:20Manchester PiccadillyStoke-on-Trent2hr 08minMilton Keynes Central; Stoke-on-Trent; Stockport; Manchester Piccadilly
xx:23Birmingham New Street1hr 24minWatford Junction (pick up only); Coventry; Birmingham International; Birmingham New Street
xx:30Glasgow CentralTrent Valley4hr 31minWarrington Bank Quay; Wigan North Western; Preston; Lancaster; (Oxenholme Lake District or Penrith North Lakes); Carlisle; Glasgow Central
xx:40Manchester PiccadillyCrewe2hr 09minCrewe; Wilmslow; Stockport; Manchester Piccadilly
xx:43 (odd hours)Glasgow CentralBirmingham New Street5hr 34 minMilton Keynes Central; Coventry; Birmingham International; Birmingham New Street; Sandwell & Dudley; Wolverhampton; Crewe; Warrington Bank Quay then as per the xx:30 Glasgow Central
xx:43 (even hours)Edinburgh WaverleyBirmingham New Street5hr 39minMilton Keynes Central; Coventry; Birmingham International; Birmingham New Street; Sandwell & Dudley; Wolverhampton; Crewe; Warrington Bank Quay; Wigan North Western; Preston; Lancaster; (Oxenholme Lake District or Penrith North Lakes); Carlisle; Haymarket; Edinburgh Waverley

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Trains provides commuter and long-distance services on the route, which terminate at London Euston. They are all operated under the London Northwestern Railway brand. There are two trains an hour from London to Birmingham; one calling at the majority of stations en route and one calling only at Watford Junction, Milton Keynes Central, Northampton, Rugby, Coventry, Tile Hill, Hampton-in-Arden, Birmingham International and Marston Green. There are three trains per hour from Birmingham New Street to London Euston. These London-Birmingham stopping services are roughly one hour slower, end to end, than the Virgin Trains fast service. There is also an hourly service from London Euston to Northampton calling at Leighton Buzzard, Bletchley, Milton Keynes Central and Wolverton.

West Midlands Trains also operates an hourly service between London and Crewe, serving Watford Junction, Milton Keynes Central, Northampton (peak times and Sundays only), Rugby, Nuneaton, Atherstone, Polesworth (once a day on Mondays to Saturdays), Tamworth, Lichfield Trent Valley, Rugeley Trent Valley, Stafford, Stone, Stoke-on-Trent, Kidsgrove, Alsager and Crewe. Some services also call at Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring, Cheddington, Leighton Buzzard and Bletchley. Trains also call at Long Buckby (Sundays only). This service was introduced in 2008 to coincide with the withdrawal of the similar Virgin Trains service. Under 'Project 110' this service was reconfigured in December 2012 and to operate 10 mph faster using enhanced British Rail Class 350/1 units.

A service to Tring is provided half-hourly from Euston; one calling at Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted and one calling at Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamstead. An hourly service operates to Milton Keynes Central calling at Watford Junction, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamstead, Tring, Cheddington, Leighton Buzzard and Bletchley.

West Midlands Trains also operates an hourly stopping train on the Marston Vale Line from Bletchley to Bedford as well as a 45-minute service on the Abbey Line to St Albans Abbey. These are both local branches off the WCML and classified as part of it.

After the Central Trains franchise was revised, London Midland took over services running on the WCML between Birmingham and Liverpool. In August 2017, London Midland lost the West Midlands franchise; West Midlands Trains took over in December 2017. Services on the WCML are all branded London Northwestern Railway services, and all local services around Birmingham are branded West Midlands Railway services.

TransPennine Express

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


Southern provide an hourly service between East Croydon and Milton Keynes Central, which calls at all stations then Clapham Junction via Selhurst, then all stations on the West London Line then Shepherd's Bush, Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone, Watford Junction, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring, Leighton Buzzard, Bletchley and Milton Keynes Central.

London North Eastern Railway

London North Eastern Railway operates one train per day between Glasgow Central and London King's Cross via Edinburgh Waverley,[44] operating over the West Coast Main Line route between Edinburgh and Glasgow.


CrossCountry operates services from Plymouth, Bournemouth and Bristol Temple Meads to Manchester Piccadilly; these trains run also the West Coast Main Line between Coventry and Manchester Piccadilly. Some trains from Manchester Piccadilly to Bristol Temple Meads are extended to Paignton and Plymouth, and on summer weekends to Penzance and Newquay. CrossCountry services between Reading and Newcastle also use a small portion of the West Coast Main Line between Coventry and Birmingham New Street. Services towards Reading are often extended to Southampton Central (or occasionally Bournemouth) and 1 train per day towards Reading is extended to Guildford.

CrossCountry also operates a 2 hourly service to/from Glasgow Central, which operates to either Penzance, Plymouth, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bristol Temple Meads or Birmingham New Street. On summer weekends trains from Glasgow Central also operate to Paignton, Penzance and Newquay. These services use the West Coast Main Line from Edinburgh to Glasgow Central.

Abellio ScotRail

Abellio ScotRail operates services on sections of the West Coast Main Line for example near Glasgow with Argyle Line trains running on the section from Cambuslang to Carluke before veering off on the short branch to Lanark or heading along till Carstairs. The North Berwick Line runs from Glasgow Central High Level via Motherwell to Carstairs and onto Haymarket, Edinburgh Waverley and North Berwick.

At Carlisle the Glasgow South Western Line runs for several miles before heading west towards Dumfries, Kilmarnock, Ayr and Stranraer.

Caledonian Sleeper

Caledonian Sleeper operates services down the length of the West Coast Main Line, providing an overnight service between London and Scotland.

Recent developments

Felixstowe and Nuneaton freight capacity scheme

A number of items of work are under way or proposed to accommodate additional freight traffic between the Haven ports and the Midlands including track dualling. The 'Nuneaton North Chord' was completed and opened on 15 November 2012.[45][46] The chord will ease access for some trains between the Birmingham to Peterborough Line and the WCML. The Ipswich chord was opened at the end of March 2014 allowing trains to run without reversing from Felixstowe towards the Midlands.[47]

Stafford Area Improvements Programme

Planned flying junction and 2.5 mi (4.0 km) track diversion in the StaffordNorton Bridge area. This will replace the current level junction where the Stafford to Manchester via Stoke-on-Trent line diverges from the trunk route at Norton Bridge, avoiding conflicting train movements to enhance capacity and reduce journey times, additional freight capacity will also be provided around Stafford station. There will be two extra off-peak trains per hour from Euston to the North West, one extra train per hour from Manchester to Birmingham and one additional freight train per hour. The resignalling work associated with this project is due to be completed in summer 2015 and the Norton Bridge work was complete in December 2016, followed by a new timetable introduced in December 2017.[48]

Weaver Junction to Liverpool signalling

Re-signalling work the WCML spur track from Liverpool to Weaver Junction was underway in 2016. Signal control will move to the Manchester Rail Operating Centre removing five local signal boxes. The signal improvements will improve journey times on this section of track.[49]

Proposed development

Increased line speed

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 217 km/h) after the quadrupling of track had been completed. This would permit faster services and possibly allow additional train paths. 135 mph (217 km/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;[51] however, in November 2009 Chris Mole MP (then 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 125 mph (201 km/h).[52]

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.[53]

Crossrail extension

In the London & South East Rail Utilisation Strategy (RUS) document published by Network Rail in 2011, a proposal was put forward to extend the Crossrail lines, currently under construction in central London, along the West Coast Main Line as far as Tring and Milton Keynes Central. The scheme would involve the construction of a tunnel in the vicinity of the proposed new station at Old Oak Common in West London connecting the Crossrail route to the WCML slow lines with a potential for interchange with the planned High Speed 2 line. Under current plans, a proportion of westbound Crossrail trains will terminate at Paddington due to capacity limitations; the RUS recommends the WCML extension as it will enable these services to continue beyond Paddington, maximising the use of the central London tunnels. The RUS also notes that diversion of WCML regional rail services via Crossrail into central London would alleviate congestion at Euston station, and consequently reduce the need for infrastructure work on the London Underground network which would be required to accommodate HS2 passengers arriving at Euston. The Crossrail extension proposal has not been officially confirmed or funded.[50] In August 2014, the government launched a study into the Crossrail extension.[54]



Network Rail, successor from 2001 to Railtrack plc, in its business plan published in April 2006,[51] has divided the national network into 26 'Routes' for planning, maintenance and operational purposes.[56] 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.[57] 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 between London Euston and 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 inter-city services run by Avanti West Coast 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 between Crewe and Holyhead and the line between Manchester and Preston are not electrified. Services between London and Holyhead and those between Manchester and 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)

Town/City Station Ordnance Survey
National Grid Reference
Branches and loops
London London Euston TQ295827
Wembley Wembley Central TQ182850
Harrow Harrow and Wealdstone TQ154894
Bushey Bushey TQ118953
Watford Watford Junction TQ109973
Kings Langley Kings Langley TL080019
Apsley Apsley TL062048
Hemel Hempstead Hemel Hempstead TL042059
Berkhamsted Berkhamsted SP993081
Tring Tring SP950122
Cheddington Cheddington SP922185
Leighton Buzzard Leighton Buzzard SP910250
Milton Keynes (Bletchley area) Bletchley SP868337
** Bedford ** Bedford TL042497 Marston Vale Line spur
Milton Keynes (centre) Milton Keynes Central SP841380
Milton Keynes (at Wolverton area Wolverton SP820414
** Northampton ** Northampton SP623666 Northampton Loop diverges north of Wolverton
** Long Buckby ** Long Buckby SP511759 Northampton Loop rejoins south of Rugby
Rugby Rugby SP511759 Rugby-Birmingham-Wolverhampton-Stafford
(see separate table below)
Nuneaton Nuneaton SP364921
Atherstone Atherstone SP304979
Polesworth Polesworth SK264031
Tamworth Tamworth SK213044
Lichfield Lichfield Trent Valley SK136099
Rugeley Rugeley Trent Valley SK048191
Stafford Stafford SJ918229 Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford rejoins
Manchester via Stoke-on-Trent diverges
either before or after Stafford (two routes)
** Stoke-on-Trent ** Stoke-on-Trent SJ879456
** Congleton ** Congleton SJ872623
** Macclesfield ** Macclesfield SJ919736
** Stockport ** Stockport SJ892898
** Manchester ** Manchester Piccadilly SJ849977
Crewe Crewe SJ711546 Crewe-Manchester-Preston and
Crewe-Chester-North Wales-Holyhead
(see separate tables below)
Winsford Winsford SJ670660
Northwich Hartford SJ631717
Acton Bridge Acton Bridge SJ598745 Liverpool route diverges north of Acton Bridge
** Runcorn ** Runcorn SJ508826
** Liverpool ** Liverpool South Parkway
** Liverpool ** Liverpool Lime Street SJ352905
Warrington Warrington Bank Quay SJ599878 Earlestown & Newton Loop diverges at Winwick Junction, rejoining at Golborne Junction
Wigan Wigan North Western SD581053
Euxton Euxton Balshaw Lane
Leyland Leyland
Preston Preston SD534290 Crewe-Manchester-Preston rejoins
Lancaster Lancaster SD471617
Carnforth Carnforth
Oxenholme (Kendal) Oxenholme Lake District SD531901
Penrith Penrith NY511299
Carlisle Carlisle NY402554
Lockerbie Lockerbie NY137817
Carstairs Carstairs Junction NS952454
Then either
Motherwell Motherwell NS750572
Glasgow Glasgow Central NS587651
Edinburgh (Haymarket/West End) Haymarket NT239731
Edinburgh Edinburgh Waverley NT257738

Branches and loops

The WCML is noted for the diversity of branches served between the London 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):

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

Rugby-Birmingham-Wolverhampton-Stafford (Network Rail Route 17)
Town/CityStationOrdnance Survey
grid reference
Crewe-Holyhead and Chester-Wrexham (Network Rail Route 22)
Town/CityStationOrdnance Survey
grid reference
Crewe-Manchester-Preston (Network Rail Route 20)
Town/CityStationOrdnance Survey
grid reference

Tunnels, viaducts and major bridges

Major civil engineering structures on the West Coast Main Line include the following.[58][59][60][61][62]

Tunnels, viaducts and major bridges on the West Coast Main Line
Railway Structure Length Distance from Carlisle ELR Location
Clyde Bridge 8 chains 102 miles 04 chains – 101 miles 76 chains WCM2 South of Glasgow Central station
Eglinton Street Tunnels 200 yards (183 m) 101 miles 22 chains – 101 miles 13 chains
Clyde Viaduct No. 37 94 miles 16 chains North of Uddingston station
Orbiston Viaduct No. 24 (River Calder) 5 chains 90 miles 62 chains – 90 miles 57 chains Between Uddingston and Motherwell stations
Mouse Water Viaduct 5 chains 76 miles 13 chains – 76 miles 08 chains WCM1 Between Carluke and Carstairs
Float Viaduct (River Clyde) 5 chains 72 miles 52 chains – 72 miles 47 chains Between Carstairs South Junction and Lockerbie
Lamington Viaduct (River Clyde) 6 chains 62 miles 70 chains – 62 miles 64 chains
Crawford Viaduct (River Clyde) 5 chains 55 miles 62 chains – 55 miles 57 chains
Harthorpe Viaduct (Elvan Water) 6 chains 47 miles 06 chains – 47 miles 00 chains
Elvan Water Viaduct 42 miles 78 chains
Cogrie Viaduct (River Annan) 4 chains 35 miles 70 chains – 35 miles 66 chains
Dryfe Water Viaduct 4 chains 27 miles 32 chains – 27 miles 28 chains
Milk Water Viaduct 7 chains 23 miles 75 chains – 23 miles 68 chains Between Lockerbie and Carlisle stations
Mein Water Viaduct 17 miles 65 chains
Kirtle Water Viaduct 15 miles 60 chains
Sark Viaduct (Scotland/England Border) 8 miles 55 chains
Esk Viaduct 7 chains 6 miles 50 chains – 6 miles 43 chains
Eden Viaduct 3 chains 1 mile 23 chains – 1 mile 20 chains
Caldew Viaduct 7 chains 0 miles 66 chains – 0 miles 59 chains
Distance from Lancaster
Eamont Viaduct 5 chains 50 miles 12 chains – 50 miles 07 chains CGJ7 Between Penrith and Oxenholme stations
Lowther Viaduct 7 chains 48 miles 57 chains – 48 miles 50 chains
Birkbeck Viaduct 33 miles 28 chains
North Lune Viaduct 32 miles 20 chains
River Lune 31 miles 55 chains
Docker Garth's Viaduct 6 chains 24 miles 03 chains – 23 miles 77 chains
Beela Viaduct 13 miles 02 chains Between Oxenholme and Lancaster stations
Lune Viaduct 12 chains 0 miles 38 chains – 0 miles 26 chains
Distance from Preston
Lancaster Canal 20 miles 36 chains CGJ6
Conder Viaduct 16 miles 76 chains Between Lancaster and Preston stations
Wyre Viaduct 13 miles 01 chains
Barton Viaduct 4 miles 30 chains
Fylde Road Viaduct 0 miles 64 chains
Distance from Newton-le-Willows Junction
Ribble Viaduct 12 chains 21 miles 33 chains – 21 miles 21 chains CGJ5 Between Preston and Wigan NW stations
River Yarrow Viaduct 5 chains 14 miles 55 chains – 14 miles 50 chains
Leeds Liverpool Canal 4 chains 6 miles 04 chains – 6 miles 00 chains Between Wigan NW and Warrington Bank Quay
7 chains 4 miles 24 chains −4 miles 17 chains
Distance from London Euston
River Mersey 181 miles 25 chains CGJ2 South of Warrington Bank Quay station
Acton Grange Viaducts (Manchester Ship Canal) 5 chains 180 miles 40 chains – 180 miles 35 chains
Preston Brook Tunnel 78 yards (71 m) 176 miles 07 chains – 176 miles 04 chains North of Weaver junction
Birdswood Tunnel (Up Liverpool flyover) 1 chain 175 miles 44 chains – 175 miles 43 chains CGJ1 Weaver junction
Dutton Viaduct (River Weaver) 22 chains 174 miles 18 chains – 173 miles 76 chains North of Acton Bridge station
Vale Royal Viaduct (River Weaver) 6 chains 168 miles 72 chains – 168 miles 66 chains South of Hartford station
River Sow 137 miles 52 chains LEC4 Between former Norton Bridge and Stafford stations
Baswich Viaducts (Staffs. & Worc. Canal and River Penk) 7 chains 131 miles 57 chains – 131 miles 50 chains LEC2 Between Stafford and Rugeley TV stations
Shugborough Tunnel 777 yards (710 m) 129 miles 01 chains – 128 miles 46 chains
Shugborough Viaduct (River Trent) 3 chains 127 miles 71 chains – 127 miles 68 chains
Trent & Mersey Canal 127 mile 22 chains
River Trent Viaduct 4 chains 122 miles 18 chains – 122 miles 14 chains Between Rugeley TV and Lichfield TV stations
Trent & Mersey Canal 121 miles 29 chains
Coventry Canal 115 miles 18 chains Between Lichfield TV and Tamworth stations
River Tame 4 chains 112 miles 36 chains – 112 miles 32 chains
Tamworth Viaduct (River Anker) 109 miles 70 chains South of Tamworth station
Polesworth North Viaduct 4 chains 106 miles 53 chains – 106 miles 49 chains North of Polesworth station
Polesworth South Viaduct (River Anker) 4 chains 105 miles 75 chains – 105 miles 71 chains Between Polesworth and Atherstone stations
Coventry Canal 105 miles 59 chains
102 miles 05 chains
River Anker Viaduct 2 chains 96 miles 38 chains – 96 miles 36 chains Between Nuneaton and Rugby stations
Ashby Canal 94 miles 61 chains
Oxford Canal 89 miles 61 chains
88 miles 10 chains
85 miles 54 chains
Avon Viaduct 5 chains 84 miles 09 chains – 84 miles 04 chains
Oxford Canal 82 miles 16 chains HNR Northampton line, between Rugby and Long Buckby stations
Crick Tunnel 595 yards (544 m) 79 miles 47 chains – 79 miles 20 chains
Grand Union Canal 78 miles 60 chains
Watford Lodge Tunnel 115 yards 78 miles 52 chains – 78 miles 47
River Nene Viaduct 5 chains 67 miles 77 chains – 67 miles 72 chains Northampton line, between Long Buckby and Northampton stations
River Nene Viaduct 5 chains 66 miles 09 chains – 66 miles 04 chains
Earl Cowpers (River Nene) 6 chains 65 miles 19 chains – 65 miles 13 chains Northampton line, between Northampton and Wolverton stations
Grand Junction Canal 4 chains 65 miles 11 chains – 65 miles 07 chains
Hunsbury Hill Tunnel 1152 yards (1053 m) 64 miles 54 chains – 63 miles 70 chains
Roade Cutting ‘Birdcage’ support structure 49 chains 60 miles 76 chains – 60 miles 27
Oxford Canal 79 miles 71 chains LEC1 Between Rugby and Wolverton stations
Kilsby Tunnel 1 mile 656 yards (2209 m) 78 miles 13 chains – 76 miles 64 chains
Leicester Branch Canal 75 miles 11 chains
Grand Union Canal 73 miles 09 chains
Weedon Viaduct 4 chains 69 miles 15 chains – 69 miles 11 chains
Stowe Hill Tunnel 491 yards (449 m) 68 miles 32 chains – 68 miles 09 chains
Grand Union Canal 62 miles 59 chains
Wolverton / Haversham Viaduct 9 chains 53 miles 01 chains – 52 miles 72 chains
Grand Union Canal 2 chains 52 miles 42 chains – 52 miles 40 chains North of Wolverton station
52 miles 18 chains South of Wolverton station
Linslade Tunnels 287 yards (262 m), down fast 283 yards (259 m) 40 miles 73 chains – 40 miles 60 chains North of Leighton Buzzard station
Grand Union Canal 34 miles 53 chains Between Cheddington and Tring stations
Northchurch Tunnels 349 yards (319 m) 29 miles 12 chains – 28 miles 76 chains North of Berkhamsted station
Grand Union Canal 25 miles 21 chains Between Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead stations
22 miles 26 chains Between Apsley and Kings Langley stations
Watford Slow Tunnel 1 mile 230 yards (1820 m) 19 miles 44 chains – 18 miles 33 chains North of Watford Junction station
Watford Fast Tunnel 1 mile 55 yards (1660 m) 19 miles 40 chains – 18 miles 38 chains
Colne Viaduct 3 chains 16 miles 66 chains – 16 miles 63 chains North of Bushey station
Bushey Arches 6 chains 16 miles 11 chains – 16 miles 05 chains
Brent Viaducts 6 miles 77 chains West of Stonebridge Park station
Kensal Green Tunnels 320 yards (293 m) 4 miles 59 chains – 4 miles 45 chains West of Kensal Green station
Primrose Hill Tunnel (Fast) 1182 yards (1081 m) 2 miles 27 chains – 1 mile 54 chains North-West of London Euston station
Primrose Hill Tunnel (Slow) 1170 yards (1070 m) 2 miles 27 chains – 1 mile ? chains
Lower Park Street Tunnel 127 yards (116 m) 0 miles 68 chains – 0 miles 62 chains
Upper Park Street Tunnel 162 yards (148 m) 0 miles 67 chains – 0 miles 60 chains


Network Rail Route 18 (WCML) – Branches and junctions

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
Golborne Jnct Junction 20 to Liverpool, Newton-le-Willows and Manchester
Ince Moss/Springs Branch Junct Junction 20 The Liverpool to Wigan Line
Wigan Junction 20 from Manchester
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

See also


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  2. "High-speed tilting train on track", BBC News Online, 12 December 2005.
  3. "Railways: West Coast Main Line". parliament.uk. House of Commons Library. 16 March 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  4. "Supplement to the October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2 Technical Annex: Demand and Capacity Pressures on the West Coast Main Line" (PDF). gov.uk. Department for Transport. November 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  5. West Coast Main Line, Network Rail, October 2007.
  6. "General definitions of highspeed". International Union of Railways. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  7. British Railways Board (1974).Electric All The Way. Information booklet.
  8. History of the West Coast Main Line, Virgin Trains, July 2004.
  9. Grand Junction Railway: History of the West Coast Main line, Virgin Trains 2004.
  10. London and Birmingham Railway: History of the West Coast Main line, Virgin Trains 2004.
  11. Awdry, Christopher (1990). Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-049-7. OCLC 19514063.
  12. The Manchester Lines: History of the West Coast Main line. Virgin Trains (2004).
  13. "Carriages of LNWR Photographs". lnwrs.org.uk.
  14. 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.
  15. Lines in Lancashire: History of the West Coast Main line. Virgin Trains (2004).
  16. "Rail Album – LMS Steam Locos – Streamlined Princess Coronation Class Pacifics – Part 1". railalbum.co.uk.
  17. "The winter timetables of British Railways: The West Coast speed-up". Trains Illustrated. Hampton Court: Ian Allan. December 1959. p. 584.
  18. "Auction Announcements of Messrs. Knight, Frank, and Rutley". The Times. London. 27 April 1912. p. 22. "The Abington and Crawford Estates ... extending as they do for some 12 miles either side of the main road and the West Coast Main Line to the North, with Abington and Crawford Stations on the Estate.
  19. Marshall, John (1979). The Guinness Book Of Rail Facts & Feats. Enfield: Guinness Superlatives. ISBN 0-900424-56-7.
  20. Beloff, Nora; Eglin, Roger; Haworth, David (1 March 1970). "£25 million railway scheme shocks economists". The Observer. p. 1. Retrieved 27 February 2019.  via newspapers.com (subscription required)
  21. Wolmar, Christian (2007). Fire and Steam, A New History of the Railways in Britain. London: Atlantic. ISBN 978-1-84354-629-0.
  22. Passenger Timetable 1 May 1972 to 6 May 1973. British Railways Board, London Midland Region. pp. 83, 06.
  23. British Railways Board (April 1966).Your New Railway: London Midland Electrification. Information booklet.
  24. Potter, Stephen; Roy, Robin (1986). Research and development: British Rail's fast trains. Design and Innovation, Block 3. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-335-17273-3.
  25. Stamp, Gavin (1 October 2007). "Steam ahead: the proposed rebuilding of London's Euston station is an opportunity to atone for a great architectural crime". Apollo: the international magazine of art and antiques. Archived from the original on 1 November 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  26. Semmens, Peter (1991). Electrifying the East Coast Route. ISBN 0-85059-929-6.
  27. Hay, Matthew (1 April 2016). "New Franchise Launches". www.tpexpress.co.uk (Press release). First TransPennine Express.
  28. "Rail North Committee Meeting – Item 4.0" (PDF). Transport for the North. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 27 February 2019. the industry has decided that the timetable plan in the North of England for December 2018 will be largely consistent with the existing May 2018 plan. At the time of writing discussions were ongoing around the industry approach to timetable changes in 2019 (May and December being the change dates).
  29. "'Queasy Rider:' The Failure of the Advanced Passenger Train" (PDF).
  30. Meek, James (1 April 2004). "The £10bn Rail Crash". The Guardian. London.
  31. "West Coast rail works completed". BBC News Online. 14 December 2008.
  32. "First trains use Norton Bridge rail flyover". A Little Bit of Stone. 29 March 2016.
  33. "Orphanage Road bridge to be replaced as work to upgrade railway at Watford continues". Network Rail Media Centre.
  34. Network Rail media centre, December 2008.
  35. "West coast main line upgrade". Corus rail. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  36. "Freight Route Utilisation Strategy – March 2007" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  37. "Railroad/Railway Electric Traction Systems". crbasic.info. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  38. "North West electrification". Network Rail. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  39. "Virgin Rail Group welcomes West Coast franchise extension discussions". Rail Network. 21 May 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  40. converted from ex-London Midland Class 321/4 4-car sets
  41. TransPennine Express coach production begins Railway Gazette International 27 October 2016
  42. West Coast Main Line – Written statements to Parliament. GOV.UK (15 October 2012). Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  43. "Virgin Trains May 2017 Timetables". Virgin Trains.
  44. "Train Times" (PDF). East Coast. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  45. "Nuneaton North Chord freight line now open". Network Rail. 15 November 2012.
  46. "Work starts on Nuneaton chord". Rail. Peterborough. 10 August 2011. p. 20.
  47. "The new Ipswich chord will ease a major bottleneck on the Great Eastern main line". Network Rail. 25 March 2014.
  48. "Stafford – Crewe rail enhancements". Network Rail. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  49. "£340m railway upgrade planned for Liverpool City Region". Network Rail Media Centre.
  50. "8. Potential new lines". London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy. Network Rail. 28 July 2011. pp. 149–153. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  51. Business plan 2007, Network Rail.
  52. Hansard (House of Commons), 4 November 2009.
  53. Connor, Neil (25 April 2006). "We won't bid if rail link becomes a 'bus run'". icBirmingham.co.uk. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  54. "Government launches study into potential Crossrail extension". GOV.UK.
  55. "Ministry of Transport Accident Report Between Grayrigg and Oxenholme, L.M.S.R., 18 May 1947". Archived from the original on 18 September 2000. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  56. Route plans, Network Rail.
  57. Network Rail Route 18.
  58. Historic England. "PRIMROSE HILL TUNNELS (EASTERN PORTALS), Camden (1329904)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  59. "Primrose Hill Tunnel – CRHT Web site". www.crht1837.org.
  60. "Keeping Track: Primrose Hill and the railway". 29 November 2015.
  61. Brailsford, Martyn (2017). Railway Track Diagrams Book 1: Scotland & Isle of Man. Frome: Trackmaps. pp. 1, 7, 8, 10. ISBN 978-0-9549866-9-8.
  62. Bridge, Mike (2013). Railway Track Diagrams Book 4 Midlands & North West. Bradford on Avon: Trackmaps. pp. 1, 8–13, 26–29. ISBN 978-0-9549866-7-4.


Further reading

  • Ballantyne, Hugh (1989). The Colour of British Rail: West Coast Main Line. 2. Atlantic Transport Publishers. ISBN 9780906899328. OCLC 21600017.
  • Beecroft, Don; Pirt, Keith (2008). Steam memories: 1950's - 1960's. No. 21, West coast main line & branches in Lancashire : including Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Morecambe, Carnforth and Blackpool. Challenger Publications. ISBN 9781899624997. OCLC 528374617.
  • Joy, David (1967). Main Line Over Shap. Dalesman Publishing Co. Ltd. ISBN 9780852060636. OCLC 12273695.
  • Longhurst, Roly (1979). Electric Locomotives of the West Coast Main Line. Bardford Barton. ISBN 9780851533551. OCLC 16491712.
  • McCutcheon, Campbell; Christopher, John (2014). Bradshaw's Guide: West Coast Main Line, Manchester to Glasgow. 10. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445640419. OCLC 902726172.
  • Allen, David (29 January – 11 February 1997). "West Coast Signalling". RAIL. No. 297. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 34–38. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.

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