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). 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.
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. 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, 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, with principal InterCity stations at Milton Keynes Central, Rugby, Stafford, Crewe, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith and Carlisle.
The central core 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. The first direct London to Glasgow trains in the 1850s took 12.5 hours to complete the 400-mile (640 km) journey.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.)
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.
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. The announcement, after five years of uncertainty, was made 48 hours before the writ was issued for a by-election in South Ayrshire. 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.
A new set of high-speed long-distance services was introduced in 1966, launching British Rail's highly successful "Inter-City" brand (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). 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. With the completion of the northern electrification in 1974, London to Glasgow journey times were reduced to 5 hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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). 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. 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. 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.
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. There is a busy section around Glasgow in quadruple track.
Nearly all of the WCML is electrified with overhead wires at 25 kV AC. 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.
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, 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.
|Class||Image||Type||Cars per set||Top speed||Number||Operator||Routes||Built|
|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|
Transport for Wales
|N: Settle to Carlisle Line
TfW: Birmingham International to Shrewsbury, Aberystwyth, Pwllheli, Chester and Holyhead.
|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|
|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||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
|LNR: London Euston to Tring, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Birmingham
Birmingham to Liverpool.
TPE: Manchester Airport to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
|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,||2009–2011|
|Class 380/1 Desiro||4||16|
High Speed Trains
|Class||Image||Type||Cars per set||Top speed||Number||Operator||Routes||Built|
|Class 43 HST InterCity 125||Diesel locomotive||XC: 2 + 7
LNER: 2 + 9
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|
|Class||Image||Type||Cars per set||Top speed||Number||Operator||Routes||Built|
|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
|16||100||161||75||Caledonian Sleeper||All Caledonian Sleeper services between London Euston to Scottish destinations||2016-2018|
|Class||Image||Type||Cars per set||Top speed||Number||Operator||Routes||Built|
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.
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.
|xx:00||Manchester Piccadilly||Stoke-on-Trent||2hr 07min||Stoke-on-Trent; Macclesfield; Stockport; Manchester Piccadilly|
|xx:03||Birmingham New Street||1hr 24min||Rugby; Coventry; Birmingham International; Birmingham New Street|
|xx:07||Liverpool Lime Street||Crewe||2hr 14min||Stafford; Crewe; Runcorn; Liverpool Lime Street|
|xx:10||Chester or Holyhead||Crewe||2hr 03min||Milton Keynes Central; Crewe; Chester; (Flint; Prestatyn; Rhyl; Colwyn Bay; Llandudno Junction; Bangor; Holyhead)|
|xx:20||Manchester Piccadilly||Stoke-on-Trent||2hr 08min||Milton Keynes Central; Stoke-on-Trent; Stockport; Manchester Piccadilly|
|xx:23||Birmingham New Street||1hr 24min||Watford Junction (pick up only); Coventry; Birmingham International; Birmingham New Street|
|xx:30||Glasgow Central||Trent Valley||4hr 31min||Warrington Bank Quay; Wigan North Western; Preston; Lancaster; (Oxenholme Lake District or Penrith North Lakes); Carlisle; Glasgow Central|
|xx:40||Manchester Piccadilly||Crewe||2hr 09min||Crewe; Wilmslow; Stockport; Manchester Piccadilly|
|xx:43 (odd hours)||Glasgow Central||Birmingham New Street||5hr 34 min||Milton 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 Waverley||Birmingham New Street||5hr 39min||Milton 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.
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, 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 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.
Caledonian Sleeper operates services down the length of the West Coast Main Line, providing an overnight service between London and Scotland.
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. 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.
Stafford Area Improvements Programme
Planned flying junction and 2.5 mi (4.0 km) track diversion in the Stafford – Norton 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.
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.
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; 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).
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.
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. In August 2014, the government launched a study into the Crossrail extension.
- Grayrigg derailment (at Lambrigg Crossovers, south of Grayrigg) – 23 February 2007; 1 killed
- Tebay rail accident – 15 February 2004; 4 workers killed (no public involvement)
- Norton Bridge rail crash – 16 October 2003; 1 injured
- Winsford rail crash – 23 June 1999; 31 injured
- Watford rail crash – 8 August 1996; 1 killed, 69 injured
- Stafford rail crash (1996) – 8 March 1996; 1 killed, 22 injured
- Newton rail crash – 21 July 1991; 4 killed; 22 injured
- Stafford rail crash (1990) – 4 August 1990; 1 killed, 35 injured
- Colwich rail crash – 19 September 1986; 1 killed 60 injured
- Wembley Central rail crash – 11 October 1984; 3 killed, 18 injured
- Nuneaton rail crash – 6 June 1975; 6 killed 67 injured
- Watford Junction rail crash – 1975; 1 killed, 11 injured
- Hixon – 6 January 1968; 11 killed, 27 injured
- Stechford rail crash – 28 February 1967; 9 killed, 16 injured
- Cheadle Hulme – 28 May 1964; 3 killed
- Coppenhall Junction – 26 December 1962; 18 killed, 34 injured
- Harrow and Wealdstone – 8 October 1952; 112 killed, 340 injured – worst accident in England and London.
- Weedon (1951); – 21 September 1951; 15 killed, 36 injured
- Lambrigg Crossing signal box between Grayrigg and Oxenholme – 18 May 1947 (express hit light engine through driver missing a signal while looking in his food box); 4 in hospital, 34 minor injuries
- Lichfield – 1 January 1946; 20 killed, 21 injured.
- Bourne End rail crash – 30 September 1945; 43 killed, 64 injured
- Winwick Junction – 28 September 1934; 12 killed
- Weedon (1915); 14 August 1915; 10 killed, 21 injured
- Quintinshill rail crash – 22 May 1915; 227 killed, 246 injured. – worst ever rail accident in the United Kingdom.
- Ditton Junction rail crash; 17 September 1912; 15 killed
- Chelford rail accident; 22 December 1894; 14 killed, 48 injured
- Wigan rail crash – 1 August 1873; 13 killed, 30 major injuries.
- Tamworth rail crash – 14 September 1870; 3 killed, 13 injured.
- Warrington rail crash – 29 June 1867; 8 killed, 33 injured
- Atherstone rail accident – 16 November 1860; 10 killed.
Network Rail, successor from 2001 to Railtrack plc, in its business plan published in April 2006, has divided the national network into 26 'Routes' for planning, maintenance and operational purposes. 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. 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)
National Grid Reference
|Branches and loops|
|Harrow||Harrow and Wealdstone||TQ154894|
|Kings Langley||Kings Langley||TL080019|
|Hemel Hempstead||Hemel Hempstead||TL042059|
|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|
(see separate table below)
|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 |
(see separate tables below)
|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|
|Oxenholme (Kendal)||Oxenholme Lake District||SD531901|
|Edinburgh (Haymarket/West End)||Haymarket||NT239731|
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/City||Station||Ordnance Survey |
Crewe-Holyhead and Chester-Wrexham (Network Rail Route 22)
|Town/City||Station||Ordnance Survey |
Crewe-Manchester-Preston (Network Rail Route 20)
|Town/City||Station||Ordnance Survey |
Tunnels, viaducts and major bridges
|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
|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)|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
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- Historic England. "PRIMROSE HILL TUNNELS (EASTERN PORTALS), Camden (1329904)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
- "Primrose Hill Tunnel – CRHT Web site". www.crht1837.org.
- "Keeping Track: Primrose Hill and the railway". 29 November 2015.
- 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.
- 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.
- Buck, Martin; Rawlinson, Mark (2000). Line By Line: The West Coast Main Line, London Euston to Glasgow Central. Swindon: Freightmaster Publishing. ISBN 0-9537540-0-6.
- "EUSTON MAIN LINE ELECTRIFICATION, A Technical Conference sponsored jointly by the British Railways Board and the Institutions of Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Locomotive, and Railway Signal Engineers, 25–26th October 1966". Conference Proceedings. Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMECH). 181 (6 (Part 3F)). 1966–67.
- Brentnall, E. G. (1966). "Signalling and telecommunications works on the Euston main line electrification". Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Conference Proceedings. 181 (36): 65–86. doi:10.1243/PIME_CONF_1966_181_108_02.
- Butland, A. N. (1966). "Civil engineering works of the Euston main line electrification scheme". Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Conference Proceedings. 181 (36): 51–64. doi:10.1243/PIME_CONF_1966_181_107_02.
- Emerson, A. H. (1966). "Electrification of the London Midland main line from Euston". Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Conference Proceedings. 181 (36): 17–50. doi:10.1243/PIME_CONF_1966_181_105_02.
- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to West Coast Main Line.|
- Electric All The Way – 1974 British Rail information booklet about the completion of electrification to Glasgow.
- Rail Industry www page which monitors the progress of the project
- Department of Transport – 2006 – West Coast Main Line – Update Report
- Network Rail Business Plans and Reports
- British Railways in 1960, Euston to Crewe
- British Railways in 1960, Crewe to Carlisle
- British Railways in 1960, Carlisle to Carstairs
- British Railways in 1960, Carstairs to Glasgow
- London to Glasgow in five minutes – BBC video, December 2008
- Origins of 1849 stretch of line from Glasgow to Carlisle