Cross-Country route

This article is about the line built by the Midland Railway permitted to brand its main operator's services CrossCountry. For other services, see Cross Country services.
Cross Country Route
Bristol Temple Meads station
Type Suburban rail, Heavy 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
First Great Western
First TransPennine Express
Grand Central
London Midland
Northern Rail
Virgin West Coast
Rolling stock Class 43 HST (main stock)
Class 170 Turbostar (main stock)
Class 220 Voyager (main stock)
Class 221 Super Voyager (main stock)
Class 60
Class 66
Class 70
Class 91
Class 142
Track gauge
Electrification Partial 25 kV AC OHLE

Template:Cross Country Route

The Cross-Country Route is a long-distance UK rail route that has in its central part superseded the Midland Railway.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 Penzance to Aberdeen. In the summer services are provided to additional coastal stations such as Newquay.


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 1945-1951's nationalisation in 1948 until privatisation in 1990 it ran through six regions of British Rail and had (timetabling) priority in none of them therefore the services were poorly promoted and thus not always well-patronised.

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.

In terms of freight it has become less of a route for this, due to the bulk of haulage switching to road use and being usurped for that purpose by the M5, M6 and M1 motorways.

Abortive British Rail proposals for complete electrification

In the 1960s the route was considered for electrification. 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.[1] Under the 1979–90 Conservative governments that succeeded the 1976–79 Labour government the proposal was not implemented.


The route is well-connected, and aside from its own central track uses parts of the Great Western Main Line, West Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line, Sheffield to Hull Line, and the East Coast Main Line. Large places 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 start outs 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 as a whole is not electrified, but some sections are overhead electrified at 25kV AC: Barnt Green to Grand Junction, with further sections around Leeds and the East Coast Main Line near York. The section between Leeds and York is due to be fully electrified with the electrification of the North TransPennine from Liverpool to York via Manchester Piccadilly,[2] 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 has been suggested that the line between Derby and Sheffield be electrified as part of the Midland Main Line upgrade, and it has also been suggested that the line between Bristol and Birmingham be electrified once the South Wales Main Line is done, as an in-fill scheme. In this eventuality, the CrossCountry trains running the length of the route could be converted from diesel to bi-mode by addition of a pantograph carriage, also helping to add capacity. The Voyagers can be replaced with more comfortable electric rolling stock as is the case with the Birmingham New Street to Liverpool Lime Street service.


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 100 mph (160 km/h).

See also

Notes and references

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