|Cross Country Route|
|Type||Suburban rail, Heavy rail, Inter-city rail|
Bristol Temple Meads
|Operator(s)||CrossCountry (principal operator)|
East Midlands Railway
Great Western Railway
West Midlands Trains
|Rolling stock||Class 43 HST (main stock)|
Class 170 Turbostar (main stock)
Class 220 Voyager (main stock)
Class 221 Super Voyager (main stock)
|Electrification||Partial 25 kV AC OHLE|
|Operating speed||Up to 125 mph (200 km/h) maximum, some sections limited to 100 mph (160 km/h)|
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The Cross Country Route is a long-distance UK rail route that has in its central part superseded the Midland Railway.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, Derby, Sheffield and Leeds and the north east to Scotland. It facilitates some of the longest passenger journeys in the UK such as Aberdeen to Penzance. 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.
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 north-northeast, the line had three separately owned sections, namely the:
From the Labour Government's nationalisation in 1948 until privatisation in 1990 it ran through six regions of British Rail but had (timetabling) priority in none of them and therefore the services were poorly promoted and thus not always well-patronised.
In the 1990s most services were operated by the British Rail's InterCity business unit. As part of the privatisation of British Rail, these were taken over by Virgin CrossCountry in 1997 with the Class 47 hauled Mark 2 and High Speed Train sets replaced by Class 220 and Class 221 diesel multiple units in the early 2000s.
In the 1960s the route was considered for electrification. In the early 1980s, electrification was again discussed at length and documentation for various proposals produced in 1981 . 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. Under the governments that succeeded the 1976-79 Labour government the proposal was not implemented.
The route is well connected, and aside from its own alignment it uses parts of the South Wales Main Line, West Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line, Swinton-Doncaster line, and the East Coast Main Line. Major cities and towns served along the route include:
Milepost zero for the main predecessor Derby to Bristol route has always been Derby, hence a train travelling the whole route starts out 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 25 kV AC such as Barnt Green and extended to Bromsgrove in May 2018 to Grand Junction, with further electrified sections around Leeds and the East Coast Main Line near York. The section between Leeds and York is due to be fully electrified by 2022 with the electrification of the North TransPennine from Liverpool Lime Street to York via Manchester Piccadilly, 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 had been confirmed that the line between Derby and Sheffield would be electrified as part of the Midland Main Line upgrade. However, the electrification programme was severely cut back in July 2017.
Most long distance services on the route are operated by Class 220/221 Voyagers, although a few services operate using High Speed Trains. 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 95 mph (150 km/h).