Cross Country Route

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Cross Country Route
Principal stations

Bristol Temple Meads
(for Great Western Main Line)
Filton Abbey Wood
Bristol Parkway
(for South Wales Main Line)
Cam and Dursley
(for Gloucester-Newport Line)
Cheltenham Spa
Ashchurch for Tewkesbury

Barnt Green
Birmingham New Street
(for West Coast Main Line, Chase Line and Cross-City Line)
Water Orton
Burton upon Trent
(for Midland Main Line)

The North-East/South-West route (sometimes simply The Cross-Country Route) is the major British rail route running from South-West England via Bristol, Birmingham, Derby and Sheffield to North-East England and Scotland. It includes some of the longest inter-city rail journeys in the UK, eg Penzance to Aberdeen) It was also a major freight route, although now largely usurped by the M5, M6 and M1 motorways.

The route shares parts of the Great Western Main Line, Midland Main Line, Sheffield to Hull Line, the East Coast Main Line and the core Bristol-Birmingham-Derby route, which serves the following cities, towns and villages.

  • Bristol Temple Meads
  • Filton Abbey Wood
  • Bristol Parkway
  • Yate
  • Cam and Dursley
  • Gloucester
  • Cheltenham Spa
  • Ashchurch for Tewkesbury
    • A loop from the main route serves
    • Worcester Shrub Hill
    • Droitwich
  • Bromsgrove
    • the Lickey Incline out of Bromsgrove
  • Barnt Green
  • Birmingham University
  • Birmingham New Street
  • Water Orton
  • Wilnecote
  • Tamworth
  • Burton upon Trent
  • Willington
  • Peartree
  • Derby

Cross-country trains do not serve all these stations. The Birmingham to Gloucester section was originally built as the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway. See also the Birmingham and Bristol Railway and Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway.

It long had 'Cinderella' status because it ran through five different regions of British Rail and had timetabling priority in none of them. 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 Incline into Birmingham from Cheltenham. However, this improvement did not take place, and modern multiple-units such as the new Turbostars and Virgin Voyagers have made this unnecessary.

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

The XC Network is now served by Class 220/221 Voyager Trains. These trains are capable of achieving 125 mph, compared to the previous Class 47s and Mk 2 coaching stock, which had a top speed of 95 mph. Since the Voyager trains arrived the XC network has stopped serving Inverness, Blackpool, Portsmouth, London Paddington and Liverpool. The Class 221 can tilt on some areas of the West Coast Main Line leading to a faster, more comfortable journey.

Wikimedia Commons
has media related to:
Bristol-Birmingham-Derby Line

Main line railways in Great Britain:
High-speed main lines:  Channel Tunnel Rail Link
'Classic' main lines:  Cross-Country Route   East Coast Main Line   Great Eastern Main Line  
 Great Western Main Line   Midland Main Line   West Coast Main Line

Railway lines in South-West England and the "Great Western" zone :
Main lines:  Cross-Country Route   Great Western Main Line
 Cherwell Valley Line   Gloucester-Newport Line   Exeter-Paignton "Riviera" Line   South Wales Main Line  
 Wessex Main Line   West of England Main Line   
Commuter lines:  Severn Beach Line   Slough-Windsor & Eton Line
Rural lines:  Exeter-Barnstaple "Tarka" Line   Exeter-Exmouth "Avocet" Line   Golden Valley Line   Heart of Wessex Line  
 Henley Branch Line   Looe Valley Line   Marlow Branch Line   Par-Newquay "Atlantic Coast" Line  
 St Ives Bay Line   Tamar Valley Line   Truro-Falmouth "Maritime" Line 

Railway lines in Central England:
Main lines:  Cross-Country Route   Midland Main Line   West Coast Main Line
 Birmingham-Peterborough via Leicester Line   Birmingham-Worcester via Bromsgrove Line  
 Birmingham-Worcester via Kidderminster Line   Cherwell Valley Line   Chiltern Main Line  
 London-Aylesbury Line   Trent Valley Line   Welsh Marches Line   Wolverhampton-Shrewsbury Line
Commuter lines:  Birmingham-Rugeley "Chase" Line   Birmingham-Stratford Line   Birmingham-Walsall Line  
 Coventry-Nuneaton Line   Cross-City Line   Leicester-Loughborough "Ivanhoe" Line  
 Northampton Loop Line   Robin Hood Line   Rugby-Birmingham-Stafford Line  
 Stourbridge Junction-Stourbridge Town Line   Walsall-Wolverhampton Line 
Rural lines:  Cotswold Line   Crewe-Derby Line   Derwent Valley Line   Leamington-Stratford Line  
 Marston Vale Line   Nottingham-Lincoln Line   Nottingham to Grantham Line  
 Oxford-Bicester Line   Princes Risborough-Aylesbury Line   Shrewsbury-Chester Line