Glasgow South Western Line

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Glasgow South Western Line
Railway line passing under the road to Bellfield Farm - - 520271.jpg
A coal train from Ayrshire heads towards England
Type Heavy rail, Rural Rail[1]
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale Scotland
North West England
Termini Carlisle
East Kilbride
Glasgow Central
Stations 26
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Abellio ScotRail
Rolling stock Class 156 "Super Sprinter"
No. of tracks Double track and Single line with Passing loops [1]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Operating speed 80 mph (100 km/h) maximum [1]
Glasgow South Western Line
Glasgow Central
(GlasgowSubway logo notext.PNG St Enoch)
Pollokshaws West
Priesthill & Darnley
East Kilbride
Ayrshire Coast Line
P&O Ferries to Larne
International Airport
New Cumnock
Prestwick Town
Gretna Green
West Coast Main Line

The Glasgow South Western Line is a mainline railway in Scotland that runs from Glasgow to Kilmarnock, and then either Carlisle via Dumfries, or Stranraer via Ayr, with a branch to East Kilbride.


The line was built by several railway companies during the 19th century:[2]

The Glasgow, Dumfries and Carlisle Railway and the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway amalgamated to form the Glasgow and South Western Railway in 1850.

The Glasgow, Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway and Glasgow and Kilmarnock Joint Railway were amalgamated to form the Glasgow, Barrhead and Kilmarnock Joint Railway jointly operated by the Glasgow and South Western Railway and Caledonian Railway.

The lines forming the East Kilbride branch were operated by the Caledonian Railway.

Until 1923 the line via Dumfries was in competition with the North British Railway and Caledonian Railway as one of the mainlines into Scotland. With the passing of the Railways Act 1921 (Grouping Act) the line became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS).

In 1948, with nationalisation the line became part of the Scottish Region of British Railways. During the Beeching Axe in the 1960s many of the railway's branch lines were closed, including the direct route between Dumfries and Stranraer, via Galloway on the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Railway and Castle Douglas and Dumfries Railway, leaving the present 'Y' shaped railway. The former G&SWR terminus at Glasgow St Enoch was also closed in this period (in 1966), with all services rerouted into Glasgow Central.

During the electrification of the West Coast Main Line in the early 1970s, the line was used as a major diversionary route whilst the Caledonian Railway's Annandale/Clydesdale route was closed, particularly during the weekends. Following completion of this project, the sections of line between Barrhead and Kilmarnock (with a crossing loop at Lugton) and Annan and Gretna (controlled from Carlisle) were singled. Re-doubling of the Annan to Gretna section was completed in August 2008, controlled from Dumfries Station signal box.

The line is not electrified, with the exception of parts of the line around the approaches to Glasgow Central and the section of the line (Barassie to Ayr) shared with the Ayrshire Coast Line (Ayr to Glasgow via Kilwinning). In early 2009, work commenced to re-double the line between Lugton and Stewarton based on the 2008 plans published by Network Rail.[3] Completed in September 2009, this allows ScotRail to run a half-hourly service to Kilmarnock.


Trains serve the following stations.

East Kilbride branch
Stranraer line


Class 156s at Kilmarnock

In the latter years of British Railways, operations were sectorised. All Scottish operations (excluding the WCML and ECML services), including this line, became part of the Regional Railways operation - being branded as ScotRail.

Following privatisation, passenger services upon the line were taken over by ScotRail, (part of National Express), and are now operated by Abellio ScotRail with the track and signalling being operated (nationally) by Network Rail. The Dumfries route remains one of only three railway lines between the Scottish border and lowland areas alongside the East Coast Main Line and West Coast Main Line. Along with the Settle-Carlisle Railway, the line is much used as both a diversionary route, especially during the recent West Coast Main Line modernisation, and for freight, notably coal from the several open cast coalmines of the Ayrshire Coalfield that adjoin the line.

Between Glasgow Central and Gretna Green and Girvan the line is operated by the Scottish Train Operating Company (TOC) - currently ScotRail. Electric train services are also provided between Glasgow and Troon and Ayr via the Ayrshire Coast Line. Some services continue on from Carlisle to Newcastle, though the daily direct services between Newcastle and Stranraer via Kilmarnock that once ran over the route were withdrawn in December 2009. There are also a number of through services between Glasgow & Stranraer that run direct via Paisley & Kilwinning (others run via Kilmarnock, as do certain trains to/from Girvan[4]).

In the 1970s, most of the intermediate stations between Kilmarnock and Carlisle were closed, leaving only Kirkconnel, Dumfries and Annan. Since then, the stations at New Cumnock, Auchinleck, Sanquhar and Gretna Green have been reopened. There have been several studies recently as to the possibility of reopening Thornhill station, roughly halfway between Dumfries and Sanquhar.[citation needed]

Rail & Sea Connections[edit]

The Glasgow South Western Line links into the ferries at Stranraer via the bus connecting with Cairnryan for the Stena Line ferries to the Port of Belfast and the P&O Ferries to Larne Harbour. The Stena Line ships (previously Sealink) ran from Stranraer Harbour until 2011. A bus connection to Cairnryan is also now provided from Ayr. The line also connects Troon to the P&O Ferries service to Larne Harbour.



  1. ^ a b c Business Plan 2007 Network Rail. Retrieved 2011-07-09.
  2. ^ Awdry
  3. ^
  4. ^ GB Rail Timetables 216 & 218, May 2013


  • Awdry, Christopher (1990). Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0049-7. OCLC 19514063. 
  • Butt, R. V. J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0508-1. OCLC 60251199. 
  • Jowett, Alan (March 1989). Jowett's Railway Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland: From Pre-Grouping to the Present Day (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0086-1. OCLC 22311137. 
  • Yonge, John (May 1987). Gerald Jacobs, ed. British Rail Track Diagams - Book 1: ScotRail (1st edition ed.). Exeter: Quail Map Company. ISBN 0-9006-0948-6. 
  • Yonge, John (February 1993). Gerald Jacobs, ed. Railway Track Diagams - Book 1: Scotland and the Isle of Man (2nd edition ed.). Exeter: Quail Map Company. ISBN 0-9006-0995-8. 
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  • Yonge, John (2007). Gerald Jacobs, ed. Railway Track Diagams - Book 1: Scotland & Isle of Man (Quail Track Plans) (fifth edition ed.). Bradford on Avon: "Trackmaps (formerly Quail Map Co)". . ISBN 978-0-9549866-3-6. OCLC 79435248.