West Coast Main Line
The West Coast Main Line running alongside the M1 motorway at Watford Gap
OwnerNetwork Rail
SystemNational Rail
Line length399 mi (642 km)[1]
Number of tracksTwo, four or six
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Loading gaugeW10
ElectrificationOverhead line25 kV 50 Hz AC
Operating speed
  • 110 or 125 mph (180 or 200 km/h)[a]
Route map

(Click to expand)
Edinburgh Waverley (Edinburgh Trams St Andrew Sq.)
Haymarket Edinburgh Trams
Glasgow Central (Glasgow Subway St Enoch)
Carstairs South Junction
Oxenholme Lake District
for Windermere
for Blackpool North
Euxton Junction
Wigan North Western
Warrington Bank Quay
Liverpool Lime Street Merseyrail
Liverpool South Parkway Merseyrail
Manchester Piccadilly Manchester Metrolink
Holyhead for Dublin Port ferry/water interchange
Chester Merseyrail
Cheadle Hulme Junction
Crewe North Junction
North Wales Coast Line
Stone Junction
Norton Bridge Junction
Stafford South Junction
Wolverhampton Midland Metro
Lichfield Trent Valley
Cross-City Line
Birmingham New Street Midland Metro
Cross Country Route
Birmingham International Birmingham Airport
Rugby Trent Valley Junction
Hillmorton Junction
Hanslope Junction
Milton Keynes Central
Watford Junction London Overground
London Euston London Underground London Overground
All routes shown.
A detailed diagram of the core route can be
found at West Coast Main Line diagram.

The West Coast Main Line (WCML) is one of the most important railway corridors in the United Kingdom, connecting the major cities of London and Glasgow with branches to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh. 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 for 400 miles (644 km) and was opened from 1837 to 1881. With additional lines deviating to Northampton, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh, this totals a route mileage of 700 miles (1,127 km).[3][4] The Glasgow–Edinburgh via Carstairs line connects the WCML to Edinburgh. However, the main London–Edinburgh route is the East Coast Main Line. Several sections of the WCML form part of the suburban railway systems in London, Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool 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.[5] The line has been declared a strategic European route and designated a priority Trans-European Networks (TENS) route. A number of railway writers refer to it as "The Premier line".[6]

The WCML was not originally conceived as a single route, but was built as a patchwork of local lines which were linked together, built by various companies, the largest of which amalgamated in 1846 to create the London and North Western Railway (LNWR), which then gradually absorbed most of the others; the exceptions were the Caledonian Railway in Scotland, and the North Staffordshire Railway (NSR) which both remained independent until 1923. The core route was mostly built between the 1830s and 1850s, but several cut-off routes and branches were built in later decades. In 1923, the entire route came under the ownership of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) when the railway companies were grouped under the Railways Act 1921. The LMS itself was nationalised in 1947 to form part of British Railways (BR).

As the WCML is the most important long-distance railway trunk route in the UK, BR carried out an extensive programme of modernisation of it between the late 1950s and early 1970s, which included full overhead electrification of the route, and the introduction of modern intercity passenger services at speeds of up to 110 mph (177 km/h). Further abortive modernisation schemes were proposed, including the introduction of the Advanced Passenger Train (APT) in the 1980s; an ill-fated high speed train which used tilting technology, which was required to allow faster speeds on the curving route, and the abortive InterCity 250 project in the early-1990s. Further modernisation of the route finally occurred during the 2000s in the period of privatisation, which saw speeds raised further to 125 mph (201 km/h) and the introduction of tilting Class 390 Pendolino trains.

As much of the line has a maximum speed of 125 mph (201 km/h), it meets the European Union's definition of an upgraded high-speed line,[7] although only Class 390 Pendolinos and Class 221 Super Voyagers with tilting mechanisms operated by Avanti West Coast travel at that speed. Non-tilting trains are limited to 110 mph (177 km/h).[2]


The northern WCML as it weaves through the Lune Gorge in Cumbria alongside the M6

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

The spine[8] has bypasses serving the major towns and cities of Northampton, Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Spurs serve Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stockport, Manchester, Runcorn and Liverpool. There is also a branch to Edinburgh, at Carstairs in Scotland which is not the most direct route between London and Edinburgh.[9] It provides a direct connection between the WCML and the East Coast Main Line.

Originally, the lines between Rugby, Birmingham and Stafford were part of the main spine, until the Trent Valley Line was built in 1847. This line formed a direct connection between Rugby and Stafford becoming the a part of the spine. South of Rugby, there is a bypass loop that serves Northampton. There is a spur at Weaver Junction north of Crewe to Liverpool. The junction is notable since Weaver Junction on this branch is the oldest flyover-type junction in Britain. A spur branches off from Crewe to serve Manchester. There is also a spur between Colwich Junction in the Trent Valley, south of Stafford to Stoke-on-Trent, with another spur north of Stafford, also to Stoke-on-Trent.[citation needed]

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 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.[citation needed]


Pre-grouping, 1837–1923

The early history of the WCML is complex, as it was not originally conceived as a single trunk route, but was built as a patchwork of separate lines by different companies, mostly during the 1830s and 1840s, but some parts were opened as late as the 1880s. After the completion of the pioneering 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.

The first stretch of what is now the WCML was the Grand Junction Railway connecting the Liverpool and Manchester Railway to Birmingham, via Warrington, 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.[10][11]

3020 Cornwall, an early LNWR express locomotive (built 1847, as pictured circa 1890)

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 companies, the North Union Railway (Parkside–Wigan–Preston), the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway and the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway, completed a through route to Carlisle by the end of 1846, these were later absorbed by the LNWR.[12]

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.[13]

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 Junction via Stoke-on-Trent, also remained independent. The NSR provided a useful alternative route to Manchester, however poor relations between the LNWR and the NSR meant that through trains did not run until 1867.[14]

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.[15] The first direct London to Glasgow trains in the 1850s took 12.5 hours to complete the 400-mile (640 km) journey.[16]

The final sections of what is now the WCML were put in place over the following decades. 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.[17]

At the northern end, the Caledonian replaced its original Southside terminus in Glasgow, with the much larger and better located Glasgow Central in 1879.[13]

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.[11]

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, 1923–1948

The Coronation Scot in 1937, hauled by a streamlined Coronation Class locomotive

The entire route came under the control of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) on 1 January 1923 when the 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,[18] 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.[19])

British Rail, 1948–1997

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,[citation needed] although it had been used informally since at least 1912.[20]

Modernisation by British Rail

A train headed by a Class 85 electric locomotive at Euston in 1966, shortly after the introduction of electric train services on the WCML

As part of the 1955 modernisation plan, British Rail carried out a large programme of modernisation of the WCML in stages between 1959 and 1974; the modernisation involved upgrading the track and signaling to allow higher speeds, rebuilding a number of stations, and electrification of the route with overhead line equipment. The first stretch to be upgraded and 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 a full public service to Manchester and Liverpool launched on 18 April 1966. Electrification of both the Birmingham branch, and the routes to Manchester via Stoke-on-Trent was completed on 6 March 1967, allowing electric services to commence to those destinations. In March 1970 the government approved electrification of the northern half of the WCML, between Weaver Junction (where the branch to Liverpool diverges) and Glasgow, and this was completed on 6 May 1974.[8][21][22] The announcement, after five years of uncertainty, was made 48 hours before the writ was issued for a by-election in South Ayrshire.[23] 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.[23]

A new set of high-speed long-distance services was introduced in 1966, launching British Rail's highly successful "Inter-City" brand[24] (the hyphen was later dropped) and offering journey times as London to Birmingham in 1 hour 35 minutes, and London to Manchester or Liverpool in 2 hours 40 minutes (and even 2 hours 30 minutes for the twice-daily Manchester Pullman).[25] This represented a big improvement on the 3 hours 30 minutes to Manchester and Liverpool of the fastest steam service. A new feature was that these fast trains were offered on a regular-interval service throughout the day: initially hourly to Birmingham, two-hourly to Manchester, and so on.[26] The service proved to be so popular that in 1972 these InterCity service frequencies were doubled to deal with increased demand.[27] With the completion of the northern electrification in 1974, London to Glasgow journey times were reduced from 6 hours to 5.[8]

BR Class 87 electric locomotive, 87020 in BR blue livery with a train of Mark 2 coaches. These, along with the similar Class 86 formed the backbone of express passenger services on the WCML from the 1970s until the 2000s.

Along with electrification came 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 mph (180 km/h), and these trains, hauled by Class 86 and Class 87 electric locomotives, came to be seen as BR's flagship passenger service. Passenger traffic on the WCML doubled between 1962 and 1975.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

The Advanced Passenger Train, British Rail's ill-fated tilting train, seen here next to the WCML at Crewe Heritage Centre

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; however these were restored by TransPennine Express in 2019.[31]

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.[32]

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.

Privatisation, 1997–present

As part of the privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s, the infrastructure was taken over in 1994 by the private company Railtrack, which later collapsed in 2002, and was replaced by the not-for-profit company Network Rail. WCML's InterCity services became part of the InterCity West Coast franchise, which was won by Virgin Trains who took over in 1997.[33] In 2019, Avanti West Coast won the new West Coast Partnership franchise, taking over from Virgin Trains.

Modernisation by Railtrack and Network Rail

Main article: West Coast Main Line route modernisation

A tilting Class 390 Pendolino on the WCML (introduced since 2002)

By the dawn of the 1990s, it was clear that further modernisation was required. Initially this took the form of the InterCity 250 project.

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 scaled back. The upgrade was described as "a classic example of disastrous project management".[34] 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.[35] 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.[36]

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

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).[37] 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.

An Avanti West Coast Class 390 Pendolino tilting into a corner on the northern part of the WCML. The tilting mechanism allows higher speeds to be attained on the curving route

The decade-long modernisation project was finally completed in December 2008.[38] 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 London-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 allowed for increased service frequency as well as improved line-speeds was completed in spring 2016.[39] Other projects such as the replacement of a weak bridge in Watford allowed line-speeds to be increased from 90 mph (145 km/h) to 125 mph (201 km/h), decreasing journey times.[40]



Quadruple track section of line at Roade cutting in Northamptonshire – lines have already divided south of here and diverge a little further north

The main spine of the WCML is quadruple track almost all of the route from London to south of Winsford. 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 Brinklow, where it reduces to triple track. The line between Brinklow and Nuneaton has three tracks, with one northbound track and fast and slow southbound tracks. The line then reverts to quadruple track at Nuneaton. North of Rugeley, there is a short double track stretch through the 777-yard (710 m) Shugborough Tunnel. The line is then quadruple track most of the way to Acton Bridge railway station, except for a double track section between Winsford and Hartford. The line is double track from Acton Bridge railway station to Weaver Junction (where a double track spur to Liverpool branches off). The line is double track from Weaver Junction to Warrington Bank Quay, but the line is quadruple track between Warrington Bank Quay to Wigan North Western. At Newton-le-Willows, the slow tracks join the Liverpool to Manchester line to pass through the centre of the town, while the fast tracks take the direct route via the Golborne cut-off. There are two more stretches of quadruple track, otherwise the line is double track to Scotland. The first is from Euxton Balshaw Lane to Preston, and the second is a busy section around Glasgow.

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 in the route diagram.

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.[41][42] The route passes through Nuneaton and the Midlands and this area has been called the "Golden Triangle of Logistics".[43]


Nearly all of the WCML is electrified with overhead line equipment at 25 kV AC.[44] Several of the formerly unelectrified branches of the WCML in the North West have recently been electrified such as the Preston to Blackpool North Line on which electric service commenced in May 2018 along with the PrestonManchester Piccadilly line which saw electric service commence in February 2019.[45] Wigan to Liverpool via St Helens Shaw Street and St Helens Junction were also electrified in the 2010-2017 timeframe.

The Wigan North Western to Lostock Parkway branch is also in the process of being electrified.[46]

Rolling stock

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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 was 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,[47] 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 350 units 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 until their replacement with Mark 5 stock in October 2019.[48] Virgin 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[year missing] 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.

In September 2022, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, locomotive hauled services returned briefly to the WCML once more when incumbent operator Avanti West Coast employed a rake of Mark 3 coaches (hauled by a Class 90 locomotive) to provide additional services to Euston for those wishing to travel to London for the Queen's lying-in-state and subsequent funeral.

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 as many other types use small sections of the WCML as part of other routes.

Commuter and regional trains

Family Class Image Type Top speed Operator Routes
mph km/h
BR Sprinter Class 153 DMU 75 120 Transport for Wales Rail Chester to Crewe
Class 156 ScotRail Glasgow South Western Line
Class 158 90 145
Bombardier Turbostar Class 170 100 161
Siemens Desiro Class 185 TransPennine Express TransPennine North West
BR Second Generation Class 318 EMU 90 145 ScotRail Glasgow Central to Lanark and Carstairs
Class 320/3
Class 320/4 100 161
Class 323 90 145
CAF Civity Class 331 100 161 Crewe to Manchester Piccadilly and Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester Piccadilly
Siemens Desiro Class 350 110 180 London Northwestern Railway London Euston to Tring, Milton Keynes Central, Northampton and Birmingham New Street, Birmingham New Street to Liverpool Lime Street, Stafford to Crewe via Stoke-on-Trent

London Euston to Crewe via Trent Valley line

Bombardier Electrostar Class 377 100 161 Southern Watford Junction to East Croydon
Siemens Desiro Class 380 ScotRail
Hitachi AT200 Class 385 Shotts Line
Alstom Aventra 730/0 90 145 London Northwestern Railway London Euston to Tring, Milton Keynes Central and Northampton

High-speed trains

Family Class Image Type Top speed Operator Routes
mph km/h
Bombardier Voyager Class 220 DEMU 125 200 CrossCountry Between Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly and between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley before joining or leaving the ECML
Class 221 Avanti West Coast Services between London Euston to: North Wales, Chester, Shrewsbury, Blackpool North, Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central.
CrossCountry Between Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly and between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley before joining or leaving the ECML
Alstom Pendolino Class 390 EMU Avanti West Coast Services from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime Street, Blackpool North, Birmingham New Street and the West Midlands, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley.
CAF Civity Class 397 TransPennine Express Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street to Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley.
Hitachi AT300 Class 800 Azuma Bi-mode multiple unit London North Eastern Railway Edinburgh branch of the WCML between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley before joining or leaving the ECML
Class 801 Azuma EMU
Class 802 Nova 1 Bi-mode multiple unit TransPennine Express Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street to Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley.
Class 805 Evero Avanti West Coast Euston to Chester, Blackpool North, Wrexham General, Liverpool Lime Street, Wolverhampton and Holyhead.

Sleeper trains

Class Image Type Top speed Operator Routes
mph km/h
Class 92 Electric locomotive 87 140 GB Railfreight, on behalf of Caledonian Sleeper All Caledonian Sleeper services, for sections between London Euston and Glasgow or Edinburgh
Mark 5 coach 100 161 Caledonian Sleeper All Caledonian Sleeper services[49]

Future trains

Family Class Image Type Top speed Operator Routes Expected introduction
mph km/h
Alstom Aventra Class 730/0 EMU 90 145 West Midlands Railway Birmingham New Street to Wolverhampton, Birmingham International and Coventry 2024
Class 730/2 110 177 London Northwestern Railway London Euston to Tring, Milton Keynes Central, Northampton and Birmingham New Street
Birmingham New Street to Liverpool Lime Street
Crewe to London Euston via the Trent Valley line
Hitachi AT300 Class 807 125 200 Avanti West Coast[50] Services between London Euston to: North Wales, Chester and Shrewsbury. 2023[51]


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 West Coast Partnership rail franchise. In November 2016, the government announced that the (then named) InterCity West Coast franchise would be replaced by a new franchise called 'West Coast Partnership', which includes operating the planned High Speed 2 (HS2) service as well as the existing West Coast Main Line express services. In August 2019, the DfT announced that First Trenitalia West Coast Rail (trading as Avanti West Coast) was the successful bidder. Avanti West Coast commenced operating the franchise on 8 December 2019.[52][53]

Avanti operates nine trains per hour on the WCML from London Euston, with three trains per hour to Manchester Piccadilly, two trains per hour to Birmingham New Street, one train per hour to each of Chester, Liverpool Lime Street and Glasgow Central via the Trent Valley (one Birmingham New Street train per hour continues to Scotland via Wolverhampton alternating between Edinburgh Waverley or Glasgow Central), 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. Additional trains during the early morning, late evening, rush hour and night that terminate or start at Birmingham. There are also three daily (Monday to Friday) services between London Euston and Blackpool North.

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, Canley, Tile Hill, Berkswell, Hampton-in-Arden, Birmingham International and Marston Green. There are two return 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 Avanti West Coast 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 Euston 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 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

TransPennine Express provides services along the WCML between Manchester Airport or Liverpool Lime Street, and Glasgow or Edinburgh (alternating serving each every 2 hours).


Southern provides an hourly service between East Croydon and Watford Junction, which calls at all stations on the West London Line, then Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone and Watford Junction. Three trains per day extend to Hemel Hempstead.

London North Eastern Railway

London North Eastern Railway operates one train per day between Glasgow Central and London King's Cross via Edinburgh Waverley,[54] 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 along 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.

CrossCountry also operates occasional services to/from Glasgow Central, which operate 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.


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 services each way between London and Scotland.

Recent developments

Felixstowe and Nuneaton freight capacity scheme

Main article: Birmingham to Peterborough Line

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.[55][56] 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.[57]

Stafford Area Improvements Programme

Planned flying junction and 2.5 mi (4.0 km) track diversion in the StaffordNorton Bridge area. This replaced the previous 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 was also provided around Stafford station. This allowed 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 was 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.[58]

Weaver Junction to Liverpool signalling

Re-signalling work the WCML spur track from Liverpool to Weaver Junction was underway in 2016. Signal control moved to the Manchester Rail Operating Centre removing five local signal boxes. The signal improvements will improve journey times on this section of track.[59]

Proposed development

Outline map of the possible future Crossrail extensions as recommended in the 2011 RUS, which include the WCML[60]

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;[61] 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).[62]

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.[63]

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.[60] In August 2014, the government launched a study into the Crossrail extension.[64]


See also: List of rail accidents in the United Kingdom

Name Date Killed and/or Injured Notes
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 23 January 1975 1 killed, 11 injured
Hixon rail crash 6 January 1968 11 killed, 27 injured
Stechford rail crash 28 February 1967 9 killed, 16 injured
Cheadle Hulme 'bend' derailment 28 May 1964 3 killed
Coppenhall Junction railway accident 26 December 1962 18 killed, 34 injured
Harrow and Wealdstone railway accident 8 October 1952 112 killed, 340 injured – worst accident in England and London.
Weedon rail crash (1951) 21 September 1951 15 killed, 36 injured
Lambrigg Crossing signal box between Grayrigg and Oxenholme 18 May 1947 (express hit light engine driver missing a signal while looking in his food box) 4 in hospital, 34 minor injuries[65]
Lichfield rail crash 1 January 1946 20 killed, 21 injured.
Bourne End rail crash 30 September 1945 43 killed, 64 injured
Winwick rail crash 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.


This section needs to be updated. The reason given is: Network Rail routes have changed hence mentions of routes are all out of date. All references about previous routes are dead. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (May 2020)
Map of WCML

See also: Trent Valley line

In June 2019 Network Rail formed five 'regions' for helping to support Britain's railways.[66] In August and September 2019, 14 'routes' responsible for the operation, maintenance and renewal of infrastructure were assigned across these regions. The West Coast Main Line runs through two of these regions ("Scotland's Railway" and "North West and Central") and is a part of 3 routes ("Scotland", "North West" and "West Coast Mainline South").

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 the core of the WCML.

The North Wales Coast Line between Crewe and Holyhead is not electrified. Services between London, Chester and Holyhead are operated by Super Voyager tilting diesel trains. Formerly in the case of one of the Holyhead services, a Pendolino set was hauled from Crewe by a Class 57/3 diesel locomotive.

London to Glasgow and Edinburgh

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
Milton Keynes (centre) Milton Keynes Central SP841380
Milton Keynes (Wolverton area) Wolverton SP820414
Northampton Northampton SP623666 Northampton loop
Long Buckby Long Buckby SP511759 Northampton loop
Rugby Rugby SP511759
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
Stoke-on-Trent Stoke-on-Trent SJ879456 Stafford–Manchester line
Congleton Congleton SJ872623 Stafford–Manchester line
Macclesfield Macclesfield SJ919736 Stafford–Manchester line
Stockport Stockport SJ892898 Stafford–Manchester line
Manchester Manchester Piccadilly SJ849977 Stafford–Manchester line
Crewe Crewe SJ711546
Winsford Winsford SJ670660
Northwich Hartford SJ631717
Acton Bridge Acton Bridge SJ598745
Runcorn Runcorn SJ508826 Crewe–Liverpool line
Liverpool Liverpool South Parkway Crewe–Liverpool line
Liverpool Liverpool Lime Street SJ352905 Crewe–Liverpool line
Warrington Warrington Bank Quay SJ599878
Wigan Wigan North Western SD581053
Euxton Euxton Balshaw Lane
Leyland Leyland
Preston Preston SD534290
Lancaster Lancaster SD471617
Carnforth Carnforth
Oxenholme (Kendal) Oxenholme Lake District SD531901
Penrith Penrith NY511299
Carlisle Carlisle NY402554
Lockerbie Lockerbie NY137817
Carstairs Carstairs Junction NS952454
Motherwell Motherwell NS750572
Glasgow Glasgow Central NS587651
Edinburgh (Haymarket/West End) Haymarket NT239731 Glasgow–Edinburgh via Carstairs line
Edinburgh Edinburgh Waverley NT257738 Glasgow–Edinburgh via Carstairs line

Branches and loops

Rugby–Birmingham–Stafford line
and other local routes
Colwich Junction
Rugeley Trent Valley
Dudley Port
Sandwell & Dudley
Smethwick Galton Bridge
Lichfield Trent Valley
Smethwick Rolfe Street
Birmingham New Street
Adderley Park
Water Orton
Lea Hall
Marston Green
Birmingham International
Tile Hill
West Coast Main Line
Birmingham Loop Line
freight and diversionary lines
other lines

The WCML is noted for the diversity of branches served between the London and Glasgow main line. The adjacent diagram 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:


Main article: Rugby–Birmingham–Stafford Line

City/Town Station Ordnance Survey
grid reference
Rugby Rugby
Coventry Coventry Coventry
Canley Canley
Tile Hill Tile Hill
Balsall Common Berkswell
Hampton in Arden Hampton-in-Arden
Birmingham International Airport Birmingham International
Solihull Marston Green Marston Green
Birmingham Lea Hall Lea Hall
Stechford Stechford
Adderley Park Adderley Park
Birmingham city centre Birmingham New Street
Smethwick Smethwick Rolfe Street
Smethwick Galton Bridge
Oldbury Sandwell and Dudley
Tipton Dudley Port
Dudley Coseley Coseley
Wolverhampton Wolverhampton
Penkridge Penkridge
Stafford Stafford
City/Town Station Ordnance Survey
grid reference
Crewe Crewe SJ711546
Wilmslow Wilmslow SJ850811
Stockport Stockport SJ892898
Manchester Manchester Piccadilly SJ849977
Bolton Bolton SD719086
Preston Preston SD534290

Tunnels, viaducts and major bridges

Major civil engineering structures on the West Coast Main Line include the following.[67][68][69][70][71] Many of the engineering features on the southern part of the route are original to the opening of the London and Birmingham Railway in the 1830s and are now listed buildings in recognition of their historic and engineering interest.

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 West 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 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
Nash Mills railway bridge (crosses the Grand Union Canal) 22 miles 26 chains Between Apsley and Kings Langley stations
Abbots Langley railway bridge 27 yards 22 miles 15 chains South of Kings Langley station
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 Viaduct 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

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 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 Junction 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


  1. ^ 125 mph (200 km/h) for Avanti West Coast tilting trains only.[2]


  1. ^ a b "West Coast Main Line Pendolino Tilting Trains, United Kingdom". railway-technology.com. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b "West Coast Main Line - Question for Department for Transport". UK Parliament. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  3. ^ Butcher, Louise (16 March 2010). "Railways: West Coast Main Line". House of Commons Library. 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 Archived 17 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Network Rail, October 2007.
  6. ^ "Special Focus - West Coast Main Line Backbone of Britain". Modern Railways. Vol. 79. Key Publishing. March 2022. pp. 51–66.
  7. ^ "General definitions of highspeed". International Union of Railways. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b c British Railways Board (1974).Electric All The Way. Information booklet.
  9. ^ "History of the West Coast Main Line". Virgin Trains. 2 July 2004. Archived from the original on 15 October 2007.
  10. ^ "Grand Junction Railway: History of the West Coast Main line" (PDF). Virgin Trains. 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 June 2006.
  11. ^ a b London and Birmingham Railway: History of the West Coast Main line, Virgin Trains 2004.
  12. ^ Talbot, Edward (1996). The London & North Western Railway. Silver Link Publishing Ltd. pp. 7–9. ISBN 1 85794 086 5.
  13. ^ a b Awdry, Christopher (1990). Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-049-7. OCLC 19514063.
  14. ^ "The Manchester Lines: History of the West Coast Main line" (PDF). Virgin Trains. 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 June 2006. Retrieved 22 June 2006.
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Further reading

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