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The North-East/South-West route (sometimes simply The Cross-Country Route) is the major British rail route running from South West England via Bristolmarker, Birminghammarker, Sheffieldmarker and Leedsmarker to North-East England. It facilitates some of the longest inter-city rail journeys in the UK, eg Penzancemarker to Aberdeenmarker. It was also a major freight route, although in this role it has now largely been usurped by the M5, M6 and M1 motorways.


The Birmingham to Bristol section was originally built as the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway and the Bristol and Gloucester Railway, which then briefly amalgamated as the Birmingham and Bristol Railway before joining the Midland Railway. From Birmingham northwards, the line originated as the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway to Derby, then the North Midland Railway to Leeds, then the York and North Midland Railway.

It ran through several regions of British Rail and had timetabling priority in none of them, and as a result the services were poorly promoted and thus not always well-patronised. This was offset somewhat on privatisation when the route was awarded as a single franchise to Virgin Trains. (The route corresponds broadly to Virgin VT3.)

In the 1960s the route was understood to be pencilled in for electrification — this would have been particularly beneficial for climbing the Lickey Inclinemarker into Birmingham from Cheltenhammarker, as many of the early diesels were underpowered. However, this improvement did not take place, and modern, more powerful multiple-units such as the new Turbostars and Voyagers have made this unnecessary.

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

A new station, Worcester Parkwaymarker has been proposed on the outskirts of Worcester (but only if Shrub Hill stationmarker closed).


Trains pass at Bristol Parkway station

The route is well-connected, meeting amongst others the Great Western Main Line, West Coast Main Linemarker, Midland Main Line, Sheffield to Hull Line, and the East Coast Main Line. Places served along the route include:

Milepost zero for Derby to Bristol is at Derby, hence a northbound train, for instance, will start out going "up" then change to "down". The Birminghammarker to Derbymarker section of the route has a line speed of , however Birminghammarker to Bristolmarker is restricted to due to a number of half barrier level crossings.


The main traffic on the route are services operated by Arriva under the CrossCountry brand, with local services provided by London Midland and First Great Western.

The XC Network is now served by Class 220/221 Voyager Trains. These trains are capable of achieving , compared to the previous Class 47s and Mk 2 coaching stock, which had a top speed of , and Class 43 HSTs, which had a top speed of . Since the Voyager trains arrived the XC network has stopped serving Invernessmarker, Blackpoolmarker, Portsmouthmarker, Londonmarker Paddingtonmarker and Liverpoolmarker. The Class 221 can tilt on some areas of the West Coast Main Linemarker leading to slightly faster journeys. Arriva has announced that it will be reinstating InterCity 125 HSTs for certain services on the CrossCountry route as part of its takeover of the franchise in response to criticisms of lack of seating capacity provided by the Voyager DEMUs.

See also


  1. Mid Worcs MP

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