West Coast Main Line

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London – Glasgow / Edinburgh
West Coast Main Line stretch
Route length: 645 km
Gauge : 1435 mm ( standard gauge )
Power system : 25 kV 50 Hz  ~
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from East Coast Main Line
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0 m 00 ch Edinburgh Waverley
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1m 19ch Haymarket
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1m 29ch / 100m 41ch to Falkirk and the Forth Bridge to Dundee
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98m 75ch Slateford
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98m 05ch Kingsknowe
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97m 17ch Wester Halles
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95m 42ch Curriehill
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90m 70ch Kirknewton
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89m 76ch to Glasgow via Shotts
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102m 27ch Glasgow Central
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    to the SPT network
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97m 24ch Cambuslang
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95m 57ch Newton
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95m 52ch after Hamilton
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93m 71ch Uddingston
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93m 58ch to Holytown
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89m 38ch Motherwell to the SPT network
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87m 59ch Shieldmuir
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84m 08ch from Holytown
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81m 75ch Carluke
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76m 08ch to Lanark
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73m 49ch Carstairs to the SPT network
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73m 17ch Carstairs South Junction
Station, station
25m 66ch Lockerbie
8m 57ch from Annan
Station, station
0m 00ch / 69m 09ch Carlisle
68m 76ch to Settle and Newcastle
to the Cumbrian Coast Line
Station, station
51m 20ch Penrith
19m 12ch from Windermere
Station, station
19m 11ch Oxenholme Lake District
Plan-free intersection - below
Leeds – Morecambe railway line
from Arnside and from Wennignton
Station, station
0m 31ch Carnforth
Route - straight ahead
0m 19ch / 6m 08ch
Gleisdreieck - straight ahead, to the right, from the right
to and from Heysham Port
Station, station
0m 00ch / 20m 78ch Lancaster
from Blackpool North
Station, station
0m 00ch / 21m 57ch Preston
to Rufford
to Blackburn
Station, station
17m 54ch Leyland
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16m 22ch / 25m 31ch
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14m 77ch Euxton Balshaw Lane
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6m 47ch Wigan North Western
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to Liverpool via St Helens
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0m 53ch / 187m 76ch to Manchester
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Manchester-Liverpool railway line
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182m 11ch Warrington Bank Quay
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193m 52ch Liverpool Lime Street
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192m 21ch Edge Hill
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189m 57ch Mossley Hill
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189m 00ch West Allerton
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187m 77ch Liverpool S. Parkway
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River Mersey
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180m 40ch Runcorn
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174m 70ch Weaver Junction
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172m 38ch Acton Bridge
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169m 64ch Hartfort
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165m 41ch Winsford
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24m 39ch Buckshaw Parkway
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22m 20ch Chorley
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19m 15ch Adlington
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17m 14ch Blackrod
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15m 50ch Horwich Parkway
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13m 52ch Lostock
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13m 39ch from Westhoughton
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10m 55ch from Hall l 'Th' Wood
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10m 50ch Bolton
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9m 06ch Moses Gate
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8m 31ch Farnworth
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7m 57ch Kearsley
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4m 47ch Clifton
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from Altherton
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1m 59ch Salford Crescent
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from Liverpool via Earlestown
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1m 55ch / 191m 01ch to and from Manchester Victoria
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189m 57ch Deansgate
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189m 29ch Oxford Road
188m 70ch Manchester Piccadilly
to Guide Bridge
186m 46ch / 9m 44ch Slade Lane Jn
8m 07ch Mauldeth Road
7m 18ch Burnage
6m 25ch East Didsbury
5m 11ch Gatley
3m 37ch Hero Green
0m 00ch Manchester Airport
1m 51ch / 3m 31ch Hero Green N. Jn
1m 48ch / 2m 50ch Hero Green S. Jn
1m 79ch Styal
186m 01ch Levenshulme
184m 47ch Heaton Chapel
183m 01ch Stockport
180m 59ch / 0m 00ch
180m 57ch / 0m 08ch Cheadle Hulme
178m 24ch Handforth
176m 71ch / 0m 18ch Wilmslow
176m 53ch / 0m 00ch Wilmslow South Jn
175m 21ch Alderley Edge
172m 17ch Chelford
168m 35ch Goostrey
166m 37ch Holmes Chapel
162m 50ch Sandbach
158m 00ch Crewe
2m 79ch Poynton
5m 15ch Adlington
7m 10ch Prestbury
9m 37ch / 0m 00ch
0m 25ch Macclesfield
8m 12ch Congleton
13m 60ch Kidsgrove
17m 03ch Longport
19m 78ch Stoke-on-Trent
23m 79ch Wedgwood
24m 44ch Barlaston
27m 00ch / 0m 00ch
0m 07ch Stone
133m 43ch Stafford
124m 22ch Rugeley Trent Valley
116m 19ch Lichfield Trent Valley
110m 01ch Tamworth LL
106m 39ch Polesworth
102m 23ch Atherstone
97m 10ch Nuneaton
to Coventry
133m 04ch / 28m 50ch
23m 32ch Penkridge
14m 43ch / 15m 32ch
12m 75ch Wolverhampton
12m 64ch
8m 47ch Bescot Stadium
7m 48ch Tame Bridge Parkway
4m 76ch Hamstead
9m 46ch Coseley
8m 16ch Tipton
7m 29ch Dudley Port
5m 28ch Sandwell and Dudley
3m 30ch Smethwick Roll St.
3m 33ch Perry Barr
2m 45ch Witton
0m 05ch / 112m 73ch Birmingham New Street
1m 68ch Aston
110m 79ch Adderley Park
109m 08ch Stechford
108m 00ch Lea Hall
106m 33ch Marston Green
104m 55ch Birmingham International
102m 61ch Hampton-in-Arden
99m 38ch Berkswell
97m 45ch Tile Hill
95m 37ch Canley
by Nuneaton
93m 97ch Coventry
Station, station
82m 40ch rugby
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81m 28ch / 83m 54ch
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75m 37ch Long Buckby
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65m 68ch Northampton
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Station, station
52m 33ch Wolverton
Station, station
49m 65ch Milton Keynes Central
to Bedford
Station, station
46m 54ch Bletchley
to Bedford
Plan-free intersection - below
to Bedford and Oxford
Station, station
40m 14ch Leighton Buzzard
Station, station
36m 08ch Cheddington
Station, station
31m 50ch Tring
Station, station
27m 75ch Berkhamsted
Station, station
24m 39ch Hemel Hepstead
Station, station
23m 06ch Apsley
Station, station
20m 74ch Kings Langley
to St Albans Abbey
Station, station
17m 34ch Watford Junction
Station, station
15m 79ch Bushey
Station, station
11m 30ch Harrow & Wealdstone
Plan-free intersection - below
Access to London Marylebone
Plan-free intersection - below
to Wembley Stadium
Station, station
8m 04ch Wembley Central
Plan-free intersection - below
to Wembley Stadium
by Gospel Oak
Plan-free intersection - below
to Gospel Oak
from London Victoria
Station, station
3m 55ch Queens Park
Plan-free intersection - below
Access to London Marylebone
from London Liverpool Street
End station - end of the line
0m 00ch London Euston

The West Coast Main Line (WCML) is one of the UK's main railway lines . It connects London with the West Midlands , North West England , North Wales and South Scotland .

The main line of WCML is 401 miles (645 km) long and runs from London Euston to Glasgow Central . The main stopovers are Milton Keynes , Rugby , Nuneaton , Tamworth , Stafford , Crewe , Warrington , Preston , Lancaster and Carlisle . A complex system of branch lines and alternative routes links other important cities to the WCML: Northampton , Coventry , Birmingham , Wolverhampton , Stoke-on-Trent , Macclesfield , Manchester , Bolton , Liverpool and Edinburgh . In addition, the WCML forms part of the suburban railway networks in the metropolitan areas of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.


The WCML is not a single route, but rather a complex network of various branches and secondary routes that connect cities in the central area off the main route London – Glasgow. The original main route was the connection from rugby via Birmingham and Wolverhampton to Stafford, until a more direct route was built in the valley of the Trent . South of Rugby there is a branch that opens up to Northampton. Other important branches run from Crewe to Liverpool, Crewe to Manchester, Stafford to Stoke-on-Trent and Crewe to Wilmslow . The construction of the Windsor Link in Manchester has enabled direct trains via Bolton back to the main line at Preston since 1988. Edinburgh is also connected through a branch in Carstairs .

In the European context, the WCML is of great importance and has been classified as a route of the Trans-European Networks . It is the main freight corridor and connects mainland Europe via the Eurotunnel , London and south east England with the West Midlands, north west England and Scotland. The WCML is one of the busiest freight train routes in Europe.



The WCML was created between the 1830s and 1870s through the construction of various, initially independent railway lines. It started with the Grand Junction Railway (Warrington - Manchester), followed by the London and Birmingham Railway . These two merged in 1846 with the Liverpool and Manchester Railway , the North Union Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway to form the London and North Western Railway (L & NWR). The line from Lancaster to Carlisle was built by the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway from 1844. In September 1847, the line between the two cities began operating in their own company. In 1859 it also became part of the London and North Western Railway. North of Carlisle, the Caledonian Railway remained independent; it reached Glasgow in February 1848 and Edinburgh in November 1849. Another important company, the North Staffordshire Railway , which connected Macclesfield via Stoke-on-Trent with the Norton Bridge and Colwich branches, also remained independent until the merger in 1923.

To meet fears and opposition from landowners along the route, the railroad lines in some places were built to make long detours around manors and rural settlements. In order to reduce costs, the route was adapted to the topography, which resulted in numerous curves. The WCML also runs through some hilly areas such as the Chiltern Hills , Cumbria and southern Lanarkshire . For these reasons, the speed limit is lower than on the East Coast Main Line . This problem is countered with the use of tilting trains , earlier with the less successful Advanced Passenger Train from British Rail , since 2003 with the Pendolinos from Virgin Trains .

The L & NWR marketed the line to Scotland as The Premier Line , but operations were complicated by incompatible braking systems as the L & NWR used suction air brakes while the Caledonian Railway used Westinghouse air brakes . Continuous trains therefore had to consist of wagons with two braking systems, which were called West Coast Joint Stock . After consolidation on January 1, 1923, the line belonged to the route network of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) and the air brake quickly became the standard.

British Rail

After nationalization, the line came into the possession of British Rail in 1948 and was part of the operating regions of London Midland and Scottish Region . It was here on April 17, 1948, that British Rail's first serious accident occurred. 24 people died.

For the first time, the name West Coast Main Line was officially used at that time . However, this name is misleading, as the line actually runs only about half a kilometer along the coast, on Morecambe Bay between Lancaster and Carnforth . Another serious rear-end collision occurred on December 26, 1962, again in the vicinity of Winsford station. 18 people died.

In 1963 there was a big robbery on a mail train, a gang of thieves looted over 2.6 million pounds (see mail train robbery ).

Between 1959 and 1974, the line was electrified in sections . The sections Crewe - Liverpool and Crewe - Manchester made the start. The remaining southern section followed until 1967, the section from Weaver Junction (junction to Liverpool) to Glasgow in 1974. This era was characterized by time-consuming and capacity-reducing locomotive changes - first from steam and later from diesel to electric locomotives - at important system changeover points such as Birmingham New Street, Crewe and Preston. The short section Carstairs - Edinburgh Waverley was only electrified in 1989, as it was still part of the East Coast Main Line at that time . The only non-electrified branches are Preston - Bolton - Manchester and Chester - Holyhead .

Railtrack and West Coast Main Land

Railtrack was the name of a group of companies in the United Kingdom that owned the tracks , signals , tunnels , bridges , level crossings and most of the stations on the privatized British rail network from 1994 to 2002 . The failed overhaul and modernization of the West Coast Main Line played a key role in the failure of the group of companies and the assets being transferred to Network Rail in October 2002 . Network Rail, unlike Railtrack previously, is a not-for-profit company, for which 116 mostly public corporations guarantee.

According to the analysis of the privatization critic James Meek, it was of considerable importance for Railtrack's IPO in 1996 that Railtrack had to arouse the conviction among investors that Railtrack, unlike British Rail, could fundamentally overtake the West Coast Main Line. In particular, the signal boxes as an essential element of the safety of train movements were in urgent need of overhaul . The predominantly US-American advisors of the IPO made the recommendation to rely on driving in moving distances for train protection in the future . With this procedure, which is also called driving on electronic sight or moving block , the capacity of a route can be maximized and the technical equipment minimized, since stationary blocks and their track vacancy detection systems are dispensed with. The trains then determine the location of their train end themselves and send it quasi-continuously to the next train. Taking into account its braking distance, this calculates the point from which the speed must be reduced. However, there was a major implementation problem: Driving in moving spatial distances was largely untested in rail transport. Meek points out that even in 2014, such systems are only limited to a few inner-city transport systems such as the Docklands Light Railway and the Shanghai Metro. Even these were only installed at a time when the modernization of the West Coast Main LIne should have long been completed. Most of the continental European railway companies had come to the conclusion in January 1995 that traveling in moving distances was not yet developed sufficiently to be used in train traffic. From Meek's point of view, this decision was not noticed by the mostly US-American consultants and executives of Railtrack because there was a lack of exchange with these experts. The consultants and top management of Railtrack mostly assumed that continental European railway companies were also dealing with the introduction of this technology and that Railtrack would only be the first railway company to introduce this technology. The warning from in-house experts was overheard, with unclear competencies, the downsizing of employees and internal quarrels as a result of the privatization. The consultants warned that failure of this technology would, on the one hand, significantly increase the costs of modernization, prevent the speed increase and would not lead to the hoped-for increase in capacity. These were at least not noticed by the public. The critical questions that were asked in the British House of Commons in February and March 1995 about Railtrack's plans also had no effect.

In February 1997, Richard Branson's Virgin Trains won the tender to operate the routes on the West Coast Main Line. In October 1997, Railtrack and Richard Branson announced how the future development of the West Coast Main Line should take place. Railtrack would spend £ 1.5 billion on track overhaul and install migratory distance travel for a portion of Virgin Trains' profits for £ 600 million on the route. This, along with other improvements, should result in high-speed lines that could reach speeds of 125 miles per hour from 2002 and 140 miles per hour from 2005. Manchester would then have been reachable from London in an hour and 45 minutes' drive. Railtrack also committed itself to high fines if this goal was not achieved by 2005. It was already clear in 1999 that this goal was not achievable: That year, Railtrack announced that the cost estimate was now at 5.8 billion British pounds and had largely abandoned the idea of ​​installing moving space-distance travel. In 2001 the cost was estimated at £ 7.5 billion. The modernization of this important British train connection was only partially completed in 2008 and at the time had cost 9 billion British pounds, most of which was borne by the British taxpayer.

Three serious train accidents that occurred on other sections of the route for which Railtrack was responsible ultimately resulted in the British Transport Minister Stephen Byers placing Railtrack plc under compulsory liquidation on October 7, 2001 after a corresponding application to the High Court of Justice . The assets were transferred to Network Rail a few months later.

Virgin Trains

Operating diagram

After British Rail was broken up, Virgin Trains was awarded the contract to operate long-distance services on WCML. In the course of the latest modernization, the route for tilting trains has been expanded and the top speed has been increased in sections from 110 mph (177 km / h) to 125 mph (201 km / h). The travel time between London and Glasgow could be reduced from 5:10 hours to 4:25 hours. Virgin Trains plans to run Pendolino trains at 135 mph (217 km / h) on the Trent Valley Line , which will be expanded to four lanes in 2008 . At the end of the concession, the line was put out to tender again, with the FirstGroup being awarded the contract for continued operation in 2012. The tender was successfully contested by Virgin Trains and will be repeated.

In addition to long-distance traffic by Virgin Rail, the WCML is used in sections by other railway companies.

See also


  • M. Buck and M. Rawlinson: Line By Line - The West Coast Main Line, London Euston to Glasgow Central. Freightmaster Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-9537540-0-6 .
  • James Meek: Private Island - Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else. Verso, London 2014, ISBN 978-1-78168-695-9 .
  • OS Nock: Electric Euston to Glasgow. 1974, ISBN 0-7110-0530-3 .

Web links

Commons : West Coast Main Line  - Collection of Images, Videos, and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Meek: Private Island , Chapter: Signal Failure; Privatised railways , p. 967.
  2. Meek: Private Island , Chapter: Signal Failure; Privatised railways , p. 1036.
  3. Meek: Private Island , Chapter: Signal Failure; Privatised railways , p. 1260.
  4. Meek: Private Island , Chapter: Signal Failure; Privatised railways , p. 1109.
  5. ^ Repair costs spiral to £ 5bn , BBC News, December 15, 1999
  6. Meek: Private Island , Chapter: Signal Failure; Privatised railways , p. 897.
  7. Meek: Private Island , Chapter: Signal Failure; Privatised railways , p. 878.
  8. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/west-coast-main-line--3