West Coast Main Line

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The WCML running alogside the M1 motorway in Northamptonshire

The West Coast Main Line (WCML) is one of the most important intercity railway lines in the United Kingdom, part of the British railway system. It begins at Euston station in London and ends 400 miles north-west at Central station in Glasgow. It also links several of the UK's largest cities and towns on the way, including Milton Keynes, Northampton, Rugby, Nuneaton, Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster and Carlisle.



The line was built in parts between the 1830s and the 1860s, with the first parts being the Grand Junction Railway (Warrington - Birmingham) and the London and Birmingham Railway, both completed in the 1830s.

Because of the need to appease the concerns and anger of landowners along the route, very often the line was built so that it dodged huge swathes of farmland, resulting in many curves and bends. The WCML also passes through some of the more hilly areas of the British mainland, such as the Trent Valley, the mountains of Cumbria and the Leadhills area of southern Lanarkshire. This has left a legacy of lower maximum speeds on the line compared to the East Coast route, and the principal solution to the problem has been the adoption of tilting trains, formerly British Rail's ill-fated APT, and latterly the Pendolino trains introduced by Virgin in 2003.

The WCML is not a single railway; although its main "spine" runs between Glasgow and London, the WCML includes loops which branch off it to serve Manchester, one via Stoke-on-Trent and one via Crewe, then back to the main line at Preston. There is also a loop which serves Northampton. There are also branches from Crewe to Liverpool and Rugby to Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and then back to the WCML at Stafford.

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A Class 87 on the WCML in Warwickshire

The line was modernised and electrified in stages between 1959 and 1974 - initial electrification was in 1959 between Crewe and Manchester and Liverpool, with the rest of the southern section of the line following a few years later; the line from Weaver Junction (where the route to Liverpool diverges) to Glasgow was electrified in 1974. It is currently undergoing a major upgrade along almost its entire length. The original plans estimated that this upgrade would cost 2bn, be ready by 2005, and cut journey times London to Birmingham to 1hr (currently 1hr 40mins) and 1hr 45mins London to Manchester. After a series of setbacks, in particular the bankruptcy of Railtrack, the revised estimates indicate that the cost will 10bn, be ready by 2008 with a maximum speed for tilting trains of 125 mph instead of the originally planned 140 mph, in place of the previous maximum of 110 mph. The first phase of the upgrade, south of Manchester, opened on 27 September 2004 with London to Birmingham journey times of 1hr 21mins and London to Manchester 2 hours.

The route in detail

The cities and towns served by the WCML are listed below.


Northampton Loop

Trent Valley Line

Birmingham Branch




Manchester Route via Stoke



North of Preston



See also

External links

Rail Industry www page which monitors the progress of the project (http://www.railway-technology.com/projects/virgin/)

Railway lines in Great Britain:

<p style="font-size: 90%">High-speed main lines: <p style="font-size: 90%">Channel Tunnel Rail Link - Channel Tunnel
<p style="font-size: 90%">'Classic' main lines: <p style="font-size: 90%">Cross-Country - East Coast - Great Eastern - Great Western - Midland - West Coast
<p style="font-size: 90%">Other main lines: <p style="font-size: 90%">Brighton - Chiltern - Chatham - Hastings - Highland - Kent Coast - London, Tilbury & Southend - North Wales - Portsmouth Direct - Settle-Carlisle - Shrewsbury-Wolverhampton - South Wales - South Western - Welsh Marches - Wessex - West Anglia - West of England
<p style="font-size: 90%">Secondary routes: <p style="font-size: 90%">Airedale - Arun Valley - Ayrshire Coast - Birmingham-Peterborough - Caldervale - Cambridge-Norwich - Cotswold - Dearne Valley - East Coastway - Golden Valley - Glasgow South Western - Hallam - Harrogate - Harwich - Hope Valley - Huddersfield - Lea Valley - Leeds-Bradford - Medway Valley - North Downs - Pontefract - Robin Hood - Riviera - Wakefield - West Coastway - York & Selby
<p style="font-size: 90%">Commuter lines: <p style="font-size: 90%">Alton - Argyle - Bexleyheath - Birmingham Cross-City - Braintree - Butetown - Cardiff City - Caterham - Catford Loop - Chase - Coryton - Dartford Loop - Gospel Oak-Barking - Hayes - Hounslow Loop - Inverclyde - Ivanhoe - Maesteg - Merthyr - Mid-Kent - Morecambe - North Clyde - North Kent - North London - Northern City - Oxted - Rhondda - Rhymney - Romford-Upminster - Severn Beach - Sheerness - South London - St Albans Abbey - Sutton & Mole Valley - Tattenham Corner - Vale of Glamorgan - Walsall - Waterloo-Reading - West London - Wharfedale - Whifflet
<p style="font-size: 90%">Rural lines: <p style="font-size: 90%">Atlantic Coast - Avocet - Bittern - Buxton - Cambrian - Crouch Valley - Cumbrian Coast - Conwy Valley - Derwent Valley - Durham Coast - East Suffolk - Esk Valley - Far North - Felixstowe - Fen Line - Furness - Heart of Wales - Heart of Wessex - Island Line - Kyle of Lochalsh - Looe Valley - Lymington - Maritime - Marshlink - Marston Vale - Penistone - Ribble Valley - St Ives - Sudbury - Tamar Valley - Tarka - Tees Valley - Tyne Valley - West Highland - Wherry - Windermere - Yorkshire Coast
<p style="font-size: 90%">Closed major routes: <p style="font-size: 90%">Great Central - Honeybourne - Somerset & Dorset - Waverley - Woodhead


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