Cross Country Route

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This article is about the railway line from Bristol to York. For services operated by the train operating company CrossCountry, see Cross Country services.
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
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 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification Partial 25 kV AC OHLE
Cross Country Route
East Coast Main Line & North TransPennine
North TransPennine & York to Scarborough Line
National Railway Museum
East Coast Main Line (old route)
East Coast Main Line
Bolton Percy
Church Fenton to Wetherby Line
Church Fenton
Dearne Valley Line & Hull to York Line
North TransPennine & York & Selby Lines
East Garforth
Cross Gates to Wetherby Line
Cross Gates
Neville Hill T&RSMD
Hunslet Branch Line
Marsh Lane
Huddersfield Line
Hallam Line / Pontefract Line
Leeds Central
Airedale Line / Harrogate Line
Caldervale Line
Huddersfield Line / North TransPennine
Huddersfield Line
Great Northern Railway
East and West Yorkshire Union Railway
Methley Joint Railway
Great Northern Railway
Wakefield Westgate
Hallam Line / Pontefract Line
Sandal and Agbrigg
Midland Main Line
West Riding and Grimsby Railway
Hare Park & Crofton
Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
Great Central Railway
Hull and Barnsley Railway
Dearne Valley Line
Wakefield Line
Hull and Barnsley Railway
Dearne Valley Railway
Hull and Barnsley Railway
Midland Main Line
Great Central Railway
Sheffield to Hull Line
Kilnhurst West
Great Central Railway
Aldwarke Corus steelyard
Dearne Valley Line / Wakefield Line
Rotherham Masborough
Sheffield and Rotherham Railway
C F Booth scrapyard
Dearne Valley Line / Wakefield Line
Midland Main Line (old route)
Great Central Railway
Hallam Line / Penistone Line
Meadowhall Supertram (Sheffield)
Sheffield District Railway
Upwell Street Wharf
Brightside Wharf
Attercliffe Road
Sheffield to Lincoln Line
Stocksbridge Line
Sheffield Supertram (Sheffield)
Dore and Totley
Hope Valley Line / South TransPennine
Nesfield Branch Line
Sheepbridge Moor
Great Central Railway
Midland Main Line (old route)
Chesterfield Market Place
Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway
Great Central Railway
Clay Cross
Derwent Valley Line
Ashover Light Railway
Ambergate to Pye Bridge Line
Derwent Valley Line
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
Ripley Branch Line
GNR Derbyshire and Staffordshire Extension
Derby Nottingham Road
Chaddesden Sidings / Midland Main Line
Midland Main Line
Derby Carriage and Wagon Works
Ramsline Halt
Sinfin Branch Line
Castle Donington Line
Willington Power Station
Crewe to Derby Line
GNR Derbyshire and Staffordshire Extension
Horninglow Wharf
Mosley Street
Burton-on-Trent freight lines
Leicester to Burton upon Trent Line
Central Rivers TMD
South Staffordshire Line
Tamworth | West Coast Main Line
Birmingham Intermodal Freight Terminal
Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway
Birmingham to Peterborough Line
Water Orton
Sutton Park Line
Castle Bromwich
Bromford Bridge
Washwood Heath yard
Stechford and Aston Line
Lawley Street Freightliner depot
Saltley Scrapyard
Rugby–Birmingham–Stafford Line
Camp Hill Line
Cross-City Line / Chase Line
Curzon Street
Chiltern Main Line
Birmingham New Street
Rugby–Birmingham–Stafford Line
Central Goods
Granville Street
Five Ways
Church Road
Somerset Road
Selly Oak
Cadbury Railway and Wharf
Lifford Wharf branch
Camp Hill Line
Kings Norton
Halesowen Railway
Barnt Green
Cross-City Line / Gloucester Loop Line
Lickey Incline
Birmingham to Worcester via Bromsgrove Line
Cotswold Line
Gloucester Loop Line
Tewkesbury and Malvern Railway
MoD Ashchurch
Ashchurch for Tewkesbury
Cheltenham High Street
Cheltenham Spa
Honeybourne Line
Banbury and Cheltenham Direct Railway
Gloucester Yard
Gloucester Eastgate
Gloucester to Newport Line
Golden Valley Line
Stonehouse (Bristol Road)
Stonehouse and Nailsworth Railway
Cam and Dursley
Coaley Junction
Dursley and Midland Junction Railway
Berkeley Road
Sharpness Branch Line
Thornbury Branch Line
South Wales Main Line
Westerleigh Oil depot
Bristol and Gloucester Railway
Coalpit Heath
Bristol Parkway
South Wales Main Line
Henbury Loop Line
Filton Junction
Filton Abbey Wood
Ashley Hill
Severn Beach Line
Bristol and Gloucester Railway
Stapleton Road goods branch
Stapleton Road
Bristol and Gloucester Railway
Lawrence Hill
Bristol and Gloucester Railway
Barton Hill TMD | Great Western Main Line
Bristol Harbour Railway
Bristol Temple Meads
Bristol to Exeter Line

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 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 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[edit]

In the 1960s the route was considered for electrification.[citation needed] 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 is not fully 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[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Briefly amalgamated as the Birmingham and Bristol Railway
  1. ^ Anonymous (Winter 1979). Railway Electrification. British Railways Board (Central Publicity Unit). pp. 0–2, 8. 
  2. ^ Philip Haigh (14 December 2011). "£290m to wire York-Manchester trans-Pennine route". In Nigel Harris. RAIL magazine (Bauer Media) (685): 8–9.