Virgin Pendolino on West Coast Main Line

A Driver's View of the West Coast Main Line

Penolino approaches on West Coast Main Line

The Line and West Coast Rail 250

The West Coast Main Line is the UK’s most important railway and one of the busiest mixed lines in Europe. It is much more than just a link to London having a crucial role in providing connections between towns along its route and their hinterland and integrating with other public transport systems to provide a viable alternative to car travel.


The West Coast spine is essential to economies that are not located directly on it (e.g. Blackpool and other tourist-based economies such as the Solway and Cumbrian Coasts and North Wales). Investment programmes and operational systems should recognise both passenger and freight requirements, and regional TOCs and freight operating companies’ (FOCs) role in providing their valuable services.


WCR250's campaigning inside and outside of Parliament was crucial in delivering the West Coast’s current success, helping secure the option of a full route upgrade and new tilting trains for the first franchise let in 1997. Now with these trains’ success, the campaign will pursue the extra capacity to the north, the conurbations, North Wales and Scotland that a new high speed line can provide.


The West Coast Main Line’s future ability to serve increasing demands for a high quality railway to serve all traffic types will depend on its ongoing maintenance and renewal programmes. A whole route, seven day a week railway for a 21st-century economy is required. Notwithstanding the current economic downturn, future challenges will be those of success and

accommodating escalating demand.


Following nearly £9billion of investment, the line has enjoyed a reliability step change. New timetables have delivered major long-distance journey improvements. However, this has also highlighted new local connectivity gaps, which the campaign will pursue.


WCR250 welcomed the Government’s announcement on 28 January 2013 of

a new High Speed Line linking London and Birmingham with the north. It also

welcomes the Scottish Government’s strengthened support for High Speed

Rail and its announcement of a High Speed Line’s construction between

Glasgow and Edinburgh, which proposal has the campaign’s full support. This

initiative is right for the environment and right for the economy. Local concern

at aspects of the proposed high speed line is recognised, together with the need for full public consultation.



The West Coast Main Line’s December 2012 timetable has delivered the following improvements:

  1. 31 Pendolino trains lengthened from nine to eleven carriages and construction of 4 new 11-car trains, giving additional long distance service capacity
  2. Additional services from Manchester to Scotland
  3. Hourly daytime Euston to Glasgow service with a fastest journey time of 4 hours and 8 minutes
  4. An hourly Express service between London and the Trent Valley towns with 110mph operation.
  5. 110mph operation of fast services between London and Birmingham via Northampton.

However deficiencies remain; service provision for designated WCML growth areas is inadequate and connections between intermediate towns and cities are poor.



The campaign believes that WCML Train Operating Companies (TOCs) - principally Virgin, London Midland and Trans- Pennine - must be held to account. TOCs do attend WCR250 meetings regularly.

Notwithstanding Network Rail’s recent investment, there are real concerns about recent performance and reliability fragility.



WCR250 welcomes

  1. Completion of the Nuneaton Chord
  2. Progressing works at Norton Bridge
  3. In-fill electrification schemes
  4. Work on a number of key stations is acknowledged, but improvements for Crewe, Stockport, Warrington, Wigan, Preston, Oxenholme and other stations remain desperately needed
  5. Bletchley re-signalling
  6. Major investment underway in the Birmingham New Street/Gateway project
  7. Planning for seamless interchange between the WCML and the new East- West Rail link with a fully-electrified route between the WCML and the port of Southampton, and supporting connections to adjacent freight terminals.
  8. Supporting NWR, HS2 Ltd and the Government’s work on promoting High Speed 2 as an important step to release WCML capacity to strengthen local services and promote prosperity along the corridor, including improved connectivity to European markets



  1. Lengthening 31 Pendolino trains from nine to eleven carriages and constructing four 11-car trains has delivered additional standard class capacity
  2. Upgrading Class 350/1 trains operated by London Midland for 110mph

operation has improved journey times and enabled additional services on the Euston to Birmingham via Northampton and Euston to Trent Valley corridors.

  1. Work to improve rolling stock availability continues at all five WCML railway maintenance depots.
  2. WCR250 supports Passenger Focus in lobbying for overall passenger ‘experience’ improvements when using West Coast services.




West Coast Rail 250 welcomed the longer-term franchise principle as a means of levering in extra private sector investment. In September 2010 it cautioned against using West Coast re-franchising as a new regime ‘guinea pig’, due to concerns that DfT might be overwhelmed in handling a complex franchise during staffing restructuring and policy framework change. However, this advice was not heeded, the subsequent Laidlaw and Brown Reviews vindicating the campaign’s reservations in full.



WCR250 has supported high speed line development consistently, submitting evidence to:

  • the Government’s High Speed Rail Review.
  • the Transport Select Committee Inquiry into the Strategic Case for High Speed Rail; also giving oral evidence to the Committee in September 2011.

WCR250 representatives have spoken at High Speed Rail Conferences in England and Scotland, supporting a full nationwide high speed network, connecting Scotland with the South and integrating all regions into the national and European rail economy.

The campaign has lobbied Government to enable a ‘seamless’ connection between HS1 and HS2 in London, supporting the North Orbital Rail Partnership group of London and South East local authorities.

West Coast Rail 250 | Contacts | Members Area
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