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The Cross Country Route is a long-distance UK rail route that has in its central part superseded the Midland Railway. It runs from Cornwall via Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds and the north east to Scotland. It facilitates some of the longest passenger journeys in the UK such as Aberdeen to Penzance. In the summer services are provided to additional coastal stations such as Newquay.

Cross Country Route
Bristol Temple Meads railway station MMB 71 221130.jpg
A class 221 Super Voyager leaving Bristol Temple Meads station
Type Suburban rail, Heavy rail, Inter-city rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Termini York
Bristol Temple Meads
Stations 48
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) CrossCountry (principal operator)
Arriva Trains Wales
East Midlands Trains
Great Western Railway
Grand Central
TransPennine Express
Virgin Trains
West Midlands Trains
Rolling stock Class 43 HST (main stock)
Class 170 Turbostar (main stock)
Class 220 Voyager (main stock)
Class 221 Super Voyager (main stock)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification Partial 25 kV AC OHLE
Operating speed Up to 125 mph (200 km/h) maximum, some sections limited to 100 mph (160 km/h)

The line is classed as a high-speed line because the sections of the line from Birmingham to Wakefield and from Leeds to York have a speed limit of 125 mph (200 km/h), though the section from Birmingham to Bristol is limited to 100 mph (160 km/h) due to there being numerous level crossings, especially half-barrier level crossings, and the section from Wakefield to Leeds is limited to 100 mph (160 km/h) due to a number of curves.[citation needed]



The Birmingham to Bristol section was built as the Birmingham and Gloucester and Bristol and Gloucester Railways[n 1] before joining the Midland Railway, the southern forerunner to the cross-country route. From Birmingham to the NNE, the line had three separately owned sections, namely the:

From the Labour Government's nationalisation in 1948 until privatisation in 1990 it ran through six regions of British Rail but had (timetabling) priority in none of them and therefore the services were poorly promoted and thus not always well-patronised.[citation needed]

Most Derby-Nottingham local passenger trains were taken over by diesel units from 14 April 1958, taking about 34 minutes between the two cities.[1]

Use and services have expanded since privatisation when a better-prioritised route was awarded as a single franchise to Virgin Trains.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the network was served by High Speed Trains, and Class 47s, which hauled various types of coaching stock.

Modern, more powerful multiple-units of the 21st century such as the Turbostars and Voyagers have improved train performance without electrification. However, the line has higher operating costs and a significantly higher carbon footprint than if it were electrified.

The use of the route for freight has decreased, due to the bulk of haulage switching to road use and the building of the M5, M6 and M1 motorways.

Abortive British Rail proposals for complete electrificationEdit

In the 1960s the route was considered for electrification.[citation needed] In the early 1980s, electrification was again discussed at length and documentation for various proposals produced in 1981. [2]. This would have been particularly beneficial for climbing the Lickey Incline between Cheltenham and Birmingham, as many of the early diesels were underpowered. In 1977 the Parliamentary Select Committee on Nationalised Industries recommended considering electrification of more of Britain's rail network, and by 1979 BR presented a range of options that included electrifying the cross-country route by 2000.[3] Under the governments that succeeded the 1976–79 Labour government the proposal was not implemented.


The route is well connected, and aside from its own alignment it uses parts of the South Wales Main Line, West Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line, Swinton to Doncaster Line, and the East Coast Main Line. Major cities and towns served along the route include:

Nominal start-point - Derby

Milepost zero for the main predecessor Derby to Bristol route has always been Derby, hence a train travelling the whole route starts out going "up" then becomes "down". The Birmingham to Derby section of the route has a line speed of 125 mph (200 km/h), however Birmingham to Bristol is restricted to 100 mph (160 km/h) due to a number of half barrier level crossings.


The line is not fully electrified, but some sections are overhead electrified at 25kV AC such as Barnt Green and extended to Bromsgrove in May 2018 to Grand Junction, with further electrified sections around Leeds and the East Coast Main Line near York.[4] The section between Leeds and York is due to be fully electrified by 2022 with the electrification of the North TransPennine from Liverpool Lime Street to York via Manchester Piccadilly,[5] as is the section between Westerleigh Junction and Bristol Temple Meads as part of the 21st Century modernisation of the Great Western Main Line.

It had been confirmed that the line between Derby and Sheffield would be electrified as part of the Midland Main Line upgrade.[6] However, the electrification programme was severely cut back in July 2017. [7]


Most long distance services on the route are operated by Class 220/221 Voyager Trains, although a few services operate using Class 43 HSTs. These trains are capable of achieving 125 mph (200 km/h), compared to the previous Class 47s and Mk 2 coaching stock, which had a top speed of 95 mph (150 km/h).

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Briefly amalgamated as the Birmingham and Bristol Railway
  1. ^ Railway Magazine June 1958 p. 432
  2. ^ "1981 Railway archive" (PDF). 1981. 
  3. ^ Anonymous (Winter 1979). Railway Electrification. British Railways Board (Central Publicity Unit). pp. 0–2, 8. 
  4. ^ "First electric train travels between Birmingham and Bromsgrove". Retrieved 2018-06-07. 
  5. ^ Philip Haigh (14 December 2011). Nigel Harris, ed. "£290m to wire York-Manchester trans-Pennine route". RAIL magazine. Bauer Media (685): 8–9. 
  6. ^ "Midland Mainline improvement programme – Network Rail". Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  7. ^ "Rail electrification plans scrapped". BBC News. 20 July 2017. Archived from the original on 25 August 2017. Retrieved 31 October 2017. 

External linksEdit