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West Coast Main Line

One of the two cross-border routes connecting London with Glasgow and Edinburgh, the West Coast Main Line (WCML) makes the connection via Birmingham and Manchester. It was never conceived as a single route, rather it traces its origins from several regional railways which connected one to another. The first section was the Grand Junction Railway which opened in 1837 and linked Birmingham to Liverpool and Manchester. North of Carlisle was the territory of the Caledonian Railway, a company which was dominant in West Central Scotland by the 1860s. The line south from Glasgow to Carlisle, which became the northern section of the WCML, opened on the 15th February 1848 completing the link to London. Less than two months later the branch from Carstairs Junction to Edinburgh was also complete, although this was almost two years after the North British Railway linked that city to London via what became the East Coast Main Line. In Glasgow the initial terminus was Townhead Station, but this moved the Buchanan Street in 1849, and later to Glasgow Central. The Edinburgh terminus was on Lothian Road (later Princes Street Station), which was soon connected to Edinburgh Waverley.

The Railway's Act of 1921 brought a rationalisation of the large number of independent railway companies operating in the UK and, in 1923, the West Coast route was unified for the first time, under the control of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). Intense competition ensued between the LMS and the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) which controlled the East Coast Main Line.

The line between Glasgow Central and London Euston extends to 401 miles (645 km), with an additional 28 miles (45 km) between Carstairs Junction and Edinburgh Waverley. The busiest section of the line, between London and Crewe, is quadruple track. The Scottish section is mostly double-track, other than busy sections shared with local services within Glasgow. Electrification was completed between 1960 and 1974, but the geography of the route continued to limit speeds and it was not until 2004-2008 that the necessary upgrading to permit speeds of 125 mph (201 km/h) was achieved. Limited stop Glasgow-London services can now complete the journey in as little as 4½ hours.

The WCML is one of the busiest freight routes in Europe, carrying 40% of all UK rail freight traffic, with a freight-only branch in Scotland to Mossend Railhead, Eurocentral Rail Terminal and the Coatbridge Freightliner Terminal. Some goods services continue on to Grangemouth Rail Freight Terminal.

The Scottish stations physically located on the WCML are Edinburgh Waverley, Haymarket, Glasgow Central, Cambuslang, Uddingston, Motherwell, Shieldmuir, Carluke, Carstairs and Lockerbie, although main-line passenger services only stop at the Glasgow Central, Motherwell, Carstairs and Lockerbie, together with the two Edinburgh stations.


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