East Coast Main Line

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East Coast Main Line
91101 passes 66778 and 66721 by Doncaster Decoy Down Yard.jpg
An LNER Class 91 InterCity 225 and a pair of Class 66 at the Doncaster Decoy Down Yard
Owner Network Rail
Termini London King's Cross
51°31′53″N0°07′24″W / 51.5314°N 0.1234°W / 51.5314; -0.1234 (East Coast Main Line, London terminus)
Edinburgh Waverley
55°57′08″N3°11′20″W / 55.9522°N 3.1889°W / 55.9522; -3.1889 (East Coast Main Line, Edinburgh terminus)
System National Rail
Line length393 miles 13 chains (632.7 km)
Number of tracks Double track and quadruple track
CharacterPrimary [1]
Track gauge 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Loading gauge W9 (via Hertford Loop)
Route availability RA 7-9, RA 10 in parts between Selby and York
Electrification 25 kV 50 Hz AC OHLE
Operating speed125 mph (200 km/h) maximum
Route map
East Coast Main Line Map.png
(Click to expand)
East Coast Main Line
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to Selby
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A detailed diagram of the ECML can be
found at East Coast Main Line diagram

The East Coast Main Line (ECML) is a 393-mile long (632 km) [2] electrified railway [1] between London and Edinburgh via Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle. The line is a key transport artery on the eastern side of Great Britain running broadly parallel to the A1 road.


The line was built during the 1840s by three railway companies, the North British Railway, the North Eastern Railway, and the Great Northern Railway. In 1923, the Railway Act of 1921 led to their amalgamation to form the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) and the line became its primary route. The LNER competed with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) for long-distance passenger traffic between London and Scotland. The LNER's chief engineer Sir Nigel Gresley designed iconic Pacific steam locomotives, including the Flying Scotsman and Mallard which achieved a world record speed for a steam locomotive, 126 miles per hour (203 km/h) on the Grantham-to-Peterborough section.

On 1 January 1948, the railways were nationalised and operated by British Railways. In the early 1960s, steam was replaced by Diesel-electric traction, including the Deltics and sections of the line were upgraded so that trains could run at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). With the demand for higher speed, British Rail introduced InterCity 125 high-speed trains between 1976 and 1981. In 1973, the prototype of the HST, the Class 41, achieved a top speed of 143 mph (230 km/h) in a test run. In the 1980s, the line was electrified and InterCity 225 trains were introduced.

The line links London, South East England and East Anglia, with Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland and is important to their local economies. It carries key commuter traffic in north London and cross-country, commuter, local passenger services, and freight. Services north of Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness use diesel trains. In 1997, operations were privatised. It is operated by London North Eastern Railway which took over from Virgin Trains East Coast in June 2018. [3]

Route definition and description

The ECML is part of Network Rail's Strategic Route G which comprises six separate lines: [4]

The core route is the main line between King's Cross and Edinburgh, the Hertford Loop is used for local and freight services and the Northern City Line provides an inner suburban service to the city. [5] The line has ELRs ECM1 - ECM9. [6] [7]

Origins and early operations

The ECML was constructed by three independent railway companies. During the 1830s and 1840s, each company built part of the route to serve its own area, but also intending to link with other railways to form the through route that would become the East Coast Main Line. From north to south, the companies were:

The GNR established an end-on connection with the NER at Askern, famously described by the GNR's chairman as in "a ploughed field four miles north of Doncaster". [8] Askern was connected to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, a short section of which was used to reach the NER at Knottingley. In 1871, the line was shortened when the NER opened a direct line from an end-on junction, with the GNR, at Shaftholme, just south of Askern to Selby and over Selby Bridge on the Leeds-Hull line direct to York. [8]

Through journeys were important and lucrative for the companies and in 1860 they built special rolling stock for the line. Services were operated using "East Coast Joint Stock" until 1922. [9]

In 1923, in an effort to stem the losses of smaller companies, the Railway Act of 1921 required the companies to amalgamate to form the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). [10] The LNER was the second largest railway company in Britain, its routes were located to the north and east of London. On 1 January 1948, the Transport Act of 1947 implemented by Clement Attlee's Labour Government, nationalised the LNER and other privately owned railway companies to form British Railways. [11] British Railways managed the ECML as its Eastern Region up to its discorporation in the early 1980s.

Alterations to sections of the ECML's original route have taken place, the most notable being the opening of the King Edward VII Bridge in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1906 and the Selby Diversion bypassing anticipated mining subsidence from the Selby coalfield and a bottleneck at Selby station. The Selby Diversion which diverged from the ECML at Temple Hirst Junction, north of Doncaster and joined the Leeds to York Line at Colton Junction south west of York opened in 1983. The old line between Selby and York was dismantled and is now a public cycleway. [12]

LNER Class A3 No. 2547 Doncaster hauls the daily Flying Scotsman in 1928. Flying Scotsman express, 2547, Doncaster (CJ Allen, Steel Highway, 1928).jpg
LNER Class A3 No. 2547 Doncaster hauls the daily Flying Scotsman in 1928.
55012 "Crepello" enters King's Cross in May 1976. The Class 55 Deltic was the main express locomotive on the ECML between 1961 and 1981. 55012 Crepello at Kings Cross Station.jpg
55012 "Crepello" enters King's Cross in May 1976. The Class 55 Deltic was the main express locomotive on the ECML between 1961 and 1981.

The line was temporarily realigned while the ground was stabilised when mining subsidence affected 200 metres of track 17 km to the east of Edinburgh, near Wallyford. The tracks were re-routed as was the overhead electrification equipment and the work was completed in 2000 when the track was returned to its original alignment. In 2001, severe subsidence was discovered at nearby, Dolphinstone [13] and about 2 km of track was permanently moved laterally in a gentle curve to avoid a permanent speed restriction in 2002.

The line was worked for many years by Pacific steam locomotives designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, including the "Flying Scotsman" and "Mallard". [14] Mallard achieved a world record speed for a steam locomotive, having attained a recorded top speed of 126 miles per hour (203 km/h), while traversing the Grantham-to-Peterborough section on the descent of Stoke Bank. To date, the speed record set by Mallard has not been broken. [15]

Diesel era

In the early 1960s, steam locomotives were replaced by Diesel-electrics, amongst them the Deltic, a powerful high-speed locomotive developed and built by English Electric. The prototype was successful and a fleet of 22 locomotives were built and put into BR service for express traffic. Designated the Class 55, they were powered by a pair of Napier Deltic engines that had been developed for fast torpedo boats; the unusual three-crankshaft triangular configuration of the engines was the source of the locomotive's Deltic moniker. Their characteristic throaty exhaust roar and body outline made them unmistakable and distinctive amongst their peers. The Class 55 was for a time the most powerful diesel locomotive in service in Britain, capable of providing up to 3,300  hp (2,500 kW).

In the years following the introduction of the Deltics, sections of the ECML were upgraded for trains running at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). On 15 June 1965, the first length of high-speed line, a 17 miles (27 km) stretch between Peterborough and Grantham, was completed. The next section was 12 miles (19 km) of line between Grantham and Newark and more sections were upgraded to enable high speeds along much of the line. [16]

As the demand for higher speed intensified, British Rail produced a successor to the Deltics, the high speed train (HST), which was introduced between 1976 and 1981. Capable of 125 mph (201 km/h), it was a popular and iconic train and remained in passenger service in 2018 after a re-engining programme during the 2000s, in which MTU engines replaced the HST's original Paxman Valenta power units.

In 1973, the prototype HST British Rail Class 41 recorded a top speed of 143 mph (230 km/h) in a test run the line. [17] [18] British legislation required the use of in-cab signalling for running at speeds in excess of 125 mph (201 km/h) and so regular trains services were unable to run at such speeds. The lack of in-cab signalling was the primary reason that prevented the InterCity 225 train-sets from operating at their design speed of 140 mph (225 km/h) during normal service. A secondary factor was that the signalling technology of the time was insufficient to allow detection of two broken rails on the running line. [19]

Before current in-cab regulations were introduced, British Rail experimented with 140 mph running by introducing a fifth, flashing green signalling aspect on the Down Fast line (signals P487 to P615) and Up Fast line (signals P610 to P494) between New England North and Stoke Tunnel. The fifth aspect is still shown in normal service and appears when the next signal is showing a green (or another flashing green) aspect and the signal section is clear, which ensures that there is sufficient braking distance to bring a train to a stand from 140 mph. [17] Locomotives have operated on the ECML at speeds of up to 161.7 mph (260.2 km/h) in test runs. The capability to run special test trains in excess of 125 mph is listed as being maintained in the LNE Sectional Appendix. [20]


In the 1930s, studies were conducted into electrifying sections or all of the ECML. [21] While British Rail considered electrification to be of equal importance to the West Coast Main Line (WCML) and ECML during the 1950s, political factors delayed ECML electrification. Instead, investment was in high-speed diesel traction, the Deltic and high-speed train, for implementing service improvements, [21] whilst the WCML electrification was largely complete by 1974.

Between 1976 and 1991, the ECML was electrified with 25 kV AC overhead lines, which were installed in two phases: The first phase between London (King's Cross) and Hitchin (including the Hertford Loop Line) was carried out between 1976 and 1978 as the Great Northern Suburban Electrification Project, using Mk.3A equipment [22] over 30 miles in total. [23] [21]

A working group of British Rail and Department for Transport officials convened in the late 1970s determined that, of all options for further electrification, the ECML represented the best value by far. Its in-house forecasts determined that increases in revenue and considerable reductions in energy and maintenance costs would occur by electrifying the line. [23] In 1984, the second phase commenced to electrify the Northern section to Edinburgh and Leeds. The Secretary of State for Transport Nicholas Ridley and Minister for Railways David Mitchell played a large role in the decision to proceed. [23]

The programme covered roughly 1,400 single-track miles and required major infrastructure changes, including resignalling the northern part of the line from Temple Hirst junction near Selby to the Scottish border and new signalling centres at Niddrie, York and Newcastle, ten power supply points at key points on the line, and clearance and immunisation activity to protect equipment. [23] The ECML was crossed by 127 overbridges which were adjusted to accommodate the change. It was decided to rebuild individual bridges as opposed to lowering the track or other compromises. Some overbridges, such as the aqueduct near Abbots Ripton, were subject to innovative alterations to accommodate the installation of the overhead lines [23] and on listed structures, such as the Royal Border Bridge, a specially-developed mast and foundation were used; elsewhere the standard Mk.3B equipment was deployed. [23] The programme also electrified the Edinburgh-Carstairs branch of the WCML, to allow InterCity 225 sets to access Glasgow Central, with the added benefit of creating an electrified path to/from Edinburgh on the WCML from the south.

In 1985, construction began on the second phase; in the late 1980s, the programme was claimed to be the "longest construction site in the world", spanning more than 250 miles (400 km). In 1986, the section to Huntingdon was completed, Leeds was reached in 1988 and the line to York was energised in 1989; by 1991, electrification had reached Edinburgh and electric services began on 8 July, eight weeks later than scheduled. Significant traffic increases occurred in the two years after completion; one station recorded a 58 per cent increase in passengers. [23]

Electrification was completed at a cost of £344.4 million (at 1983 prices), a minor overrun against its authorised expenditure of £331.9 million. 40 per cent of the total cost was on new traction and rolling stock and 60 per cent for the electrification of the line. [23] Shirres compared the ECML and later Great Western Railway electrification programmes, noting a 740 per cent increase in cost between the former and the latter; in this respect, the ECML scheme was more cost effective. [23] The infrastructure supported speeds of up to 140 mph on a 3hr 29mins non-stop run between London and Edinburgh on 26 September 1991. [23] British regulations have since required in-cab signalling on any train running at speeds above 125 mph (201 km/h) preventing such speeds from being legally attained in regular service. [19]

In 1989, InterCity 225 rolling stock was introduced on the line. [24] [25] They were developed to a competitive tender, to which GEC was awarded the contract. [23] The Intercity 225 sets were used alongside other rolling stock, including Class 90 locomotives and Class 317 electric multiple units. The displaced diesel trains were reallocated predominantly to the Midland Main Line. [23]


The line is mainly quadruple track from London to Stoke Tunnel, south of Grantham, with two double track sections: one between Digswell Jn & Woolmer Green Jn, where the line passes over the Digswell Viaduct, Welwyn North station and the two Welwyn tunnels; and one between Fletton Junction (south of Peterborough) and Holme Junction, south of Holme Fen. The route between Holme Junction and Huntingdon is mostly triple track, with the exception of a southbound loop between Conington and Woodwalton. North of Grantham the line is double track except for quadruple-track sections at Retford, around Doncaster, between Colton Junction (south of York), Thirsk and Northallerton, and Newcastle. [26]

With most of the line rated for 125 mph (200 km/h) operation, the ECML was the fastest main line in the UK until the opening of High Speed 1. The high speeds are possible because much of the line is on fairly straight track on the flatter, eastern side of England, through Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, though there are significant speed restrictions because of the line's curvature particularly north of Darlington and between Doncaster and Leeds. By contrast, the West Coast Main Line crosses the Trent Valley and the mountains of Cumbria, with more curvature and a lower speed limit of 110 mph (180 km/h). Speeds on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) were increased with the introduction of tilting Pendolino trains and now match the 125 mph speeds on the ECML.

Tunnels, viaducts and bridges

Major civil engineering structures on the East Coast Main Line include [27] [28]

Tunnels, viaducts and major bridges on the East Coast Main Line
Railway StructureLengthDistance from Edinburgh Waverley ELR Location
Calton North Tunnel490 yards (450 m)0 miles 27 chains – 0 miles 50 chainsECM8East of Edinburgh Waverley station
Calton South Tunnel400 yards (370 m)0 miles 29 chains – 0 miles 47 chains
St. Margarets Tunnel3 chains (60 m)1 miles 32 chains – 1 mile 35 chains
Dunglas Viaduct6 chains (120 m)36 miles 02 chains – 36 miles 08 chainsBetween Dunbar and Berwick-upon-Tweed stations
(Former Penmanshiel Tunnel)12 chains (240 m)39 miles 52 chains – 39 miles 64 chains
Distance from Newcastle
Royal Border Bridge 33 chains66 miles 74 chains – 66 miles 41 chainsECM7South of Berwick-upon-Tweed station
Viaduct3 chains66 miles 33 chains – 66 miles 30 chains
River Aln 10 chains35 miles 50 chains – 35 miles 40 chainsNorth of Alnmouth station
River Coquet 9 chains30 miles 01 chains – 29 miles 72 chainsNorth of Acklington station
Bothal (River Wansbeck)9 chains17 miles 57 chains –  17 mile 48 chainsBetween Pegswood and Morpeth stations
Plessey (River Blyth)6 chains12 miles 23 chains – 12 miles 17 chainsBetween Morpeth and Cramlington stations
Great Lime Road3 chains5 miles 53 chains – 5 miles 50 chainsBetween Cramlington and Chathill stations
Ouseburn Viaduct 14 chains1 miles 18 chains – 1 mile 04 chainsNorth of Manors station
Red Barns Tunnel98 yards (90 metres)0 miles 70 chains – 0 miles 65 chains
Viaduct28 chains0 miles 40 chains – 0 miles 11 chainsEast of Newcastle station
Distance from York
Viaduct14 chains80 miles 04 chains – 79 miles 70 chainsECM5West and South of Newcastle station
King Edward Bridge13 chains79 miles 66 chains – 79 miles 53 chains
Viaduct4 chains79 miles 53 chains – 79 miles  49 chains
Chester-le-Street Viaduct 12 chains72 miles 20 chains – 72 miles 19 chainsNorth of Chester-le-Street station
Chester Moor or Dene Viaduct10 chains71 miles 07 chains – 70 miles 77 chainsSouth of Chester-le-Street station
Plawsworth Viaduct6 chains69 miles 60 chains – 69 miles 54 chains
Durham Viaduct12 chains66 miles 06 chains – 65 miles 74 chainsSouth of Durham station
Relly Mill Viaduct6 chains65 miles 23 chains – 65 miles 17 chains
Langley Moor Viaduct (River Dearness)6 chains64 miles 39 chains – 64 miles 33 chains
Croxdale Viaduct (River Wear)9 chains62 miles 18 chains – 62 miles 09 chainsBetween Durham and Darlington stations
Aycliffe Viaduct (River Skerne)49 miles 17 chains
River Skerne Viaduct2 chains47 miles 26 chains – 47 miles 24 chains
River Skerne Viaduct3 chains45 miles 33 chains – 45 miles 30 chains
Croft Viaduct (River Tees)6 chains41 miles 11 chains – 41 miles 05 chainsSouth of Darlington station
Skelton Bridge (River Ouse)4 chains3 miles 16 chains – 3 miles 12 chainsBetween Thirsk and York stations
Distance from King's Cross
Ryther Viaducts (River Wharfe)25 chains180 miles 28 chains – 180 miles 03 chainsECM3Between York and Doncaster stations
Selby Dam Viaduct7 chains175 miles 20 chains – 175 miles 13 chains
Selby Canal Viaduct2 chains172 miles 44 chains – 172 miles 42 chains
River Aire 4 chains169 miles 44 chains – miles 40 chains
Aire & Calder Navigation 166 miles 66 chainsECM2
Balby Bridge Tunnel95 yards (87 metres)155 miles 38 chains – 155 miles 34 chainsECM1Between Doncaster and Retford stations
Bawtry Viaduct15 chains147 miles 24 chains – 147 miles 09 chains
River Idle Viaduct2 chains138 miles 23 chains – 138 miles 21 chainsBetween Retford and Newark North Gate stations
Askham Tunnel57 yards (52 metres)134 miles 40 chains – 134 miles 37 chains
Viaduct121 miles 40 chains
Muskham Viaduct15 chains121 miles 31 chains – 121 miles 16 chains
Peascliffe Tunnel968 yards (885 metres)108 miles 29 chains – 107miles 65 chainsBetween Newark North Gate and Grantham stations
West Gate Viaduct105 miles 54 chainsNorth of Grantham station
Stoke Tunnel880 yards (805 metres)100 miles 79 chains – 100 miles 39 chainsBetween Grantham and Peterborough stations
Bytham Viaduct4 chains92 miles 63 chains – 92 miles 59 chains
River Nene Viaduct3 chains75 miles 68 chains – 75 miles 65 chainsSouth of Peterborough station
Great Ouse Viaduct3 chains58 miles 18 chains – 58 miles 15 chainsSouth of Huntingdon station
Robbery Lane Viaduct23 miles 32 chainsBetween Knebworth and Welwyn North stations
Welwyn North Tunnel1049 yards (959 metres)23 miles 12 chains – 22 miles 44 chains
Welwyn South Tunnel446 yards (408 metres)22 miles 31 chains – 22 miles 11 chains
Welwyn or Digswell Viaduct 513 yards (469 metres)21 miles 60 chains – 21 miles 37 chainsBetween Welwyn North and Welwyn Garden City stations
Potters Bar Tunnel [29] 1214 yards (1110 metres)12 miles 00 chains – 11 miles 25 chainsBetween Potters Bar and Hadley Wood stations
Hadley Wood North Tunnel [29] 232 yards (212 metres)10 miles 70 chains – 10 miles 60 chainsNorth of Hadley Wood station
Hadley Wood South Tunnel [29] 384 yards (351 metres)10 miles 39 chains – 10 miles 21 chainsSouth of Hadley Wood station
Viaduct8 miles 64 chainsSouth of New Barnet station
Barnet Tunnel [29] 605 yards (351 metres)7 miles 70 chains – 7 miles 42 chainsBetween Oakleigh Park and New Southgate stations
Wood Green Tunnels705 yards (644 metres)5 miles 73 chains – 5 miles 41 chainsBetween New Southgate and Alexandra Palace stations
Copenhagen Tunnel [29] 594 yards (543 metres)1 mile 12 chains – 0 miles  65 chainsNorth of King's Cross station
Gasworks Tunnel [29] 528 yards (483 metres)0 miles 46 chains – 0 miles 22 chains

Line-side monitoring equipment

Line-side train monitoring equipment includes hot axle box detectors (HABD) and wheel impact load detectors (WILD) ‘Wheelchex’, these are located as follows. [27] [28] [30]

Line-side monitoring equipment on the East Coast Main Line
Name / TypeLineLocationEngineers Line Reference (ELR)
Stenton HABDUp Berwick24 miles 20 chains (from Edinburgh)ECM8
Oxwellmains HABDDown Berwick32 miles 65 chains
Innerwick WheelchexUp Berwick, Down Berwick33 miles 62 chains
Lamberton HABDUp Berwick54 miles 06 chains
Goswick HABDDown Main60 miles 66 chains (from Newcastle)ECM7
Newham HABDUp Main47 miles 08 chains
Stamford HABDUp Main (was on Down Main before Sept. 2017)40 miles 38 chains
Chevington HABDUp Main25 miles 48 chains
Longhirst HABDDown Main20 miles 20 chains
Dam Dykes HABDUp Main (Down Main removed Sept. 2017)8 miles 45 chains
Plawsworth (Chester-le-Street) HABDDown Main70 miles 20 chains (from York)ECM5
Littleburn (Durham) HABDUp Fast63 miles 59 chains
Aycliffe HABDDown Main49 miles 36 chains
Eryholme (East Cowton) HABDDown Main38 miles 72 chains
Danby Wiske HABDUp Main33 miles 50 chains
Sessay HABDDown Slow, Down Fast, Up Fast, Up Slow16 miles 65 chains
Sessay WheelchexUp Fast, Up Slow16 miles 65 chains
Earfit Lane HABDDown Leeds, Down Main184 miles 04 chains (from King's Cross)ECM4
Daw Lane HABDUp Main159 miles 10 chainsECM1
Bawtry HABDDown Main148 miles 55 chains
Torworth HABDUp Main143 miles 17 chains
Gamston (Askam) HABDDown Main134 miles 37 chains
Cromwell HABDUp Main124 miles 55 chains
Balderton HABDDown Main116 miles 70 chains
Barkston HABDUp Main109 miles 56 chains
Stoke HABDDown Main99 miles 78 chains
Lolham HABDUp Fast, Up Slow83 miles 33 chains
Holme HABDDown Main69 miles 28 chains
Abbots Ripton HABDUp Main64 miles 25 chains
Offord HABDDown Slow, Down Fast54 miles 07 chains
Biggleswade HABDUp Fast, Up Slow42 miles 10 chains
Wymondley HABDUp Fast, Up Slow30 miles 60 chains
Langley HABDDown Slow, Down Fast26 miles 62 chains

Rolling stock

Commuter trains

Trainset[ clarification needed discuss ]ClassImageTypeCars per setTop speedNumberOperatorRoutesBuilt
Sprinter Class 158 158871Musselburgh.jpg DMU 29014548 Abellio ScotRail Fife Circle Line, Highland Main Line, Borders Railway 1989-92
Bombardier Turbostar Class 170 Turbostar Falkirk High - Abellio 170434 Glasgow service.JPG DMU 310016034 Abellio ScotRail Fife Circle Line, Highland Main Line, Borders Railway 1998-2005
Siemens Desiro Class 185 Doncaster - TPE 185106 Manchester AIrport servce.JPG DMU 310016051 TransPennine Express Joining the ECML at York and continuing to Newcastle 2005–06
Alstom Coradia Juniper Class 334 334038 sits at Edinburgh Waverley, 05 April 2013.JPG EMU 39014521 Abellio ScotRail North Clyde Line 1999-2002
CAF Civity Class 331 331001 approaching Crewe platform 1.jpg EMU 311018031 Northern Trains Leeds to Doncaster 2017-2020
Networker Class 365 Networker Express Class 365 Networker Express in Great Northern livery by Hugh Llewelyn.jpg EMU 410016140 Govia Thameslink Railway London King's Cross to Peterborough, Baldock 1994–95
Siemens Desiro Class 380 Waverley Station trein 380111.JPG EMU 310016022 Abellio ScotRail North Berwick Line 2009-11
Hitachi AT200 Class 385 385003 at Linlithgow.jpg EMU 310016046 Abellio ScotRail North Berwick Line 2015-19
Bombardier Electrostar Class 387 Cambridge - GTSR Great Northern 387123 empty to depot.JPG EMU 411017729 Govia Thameslink Railway London King's Cross to Peterborough, Cambridge and King's Lynn 2014-15
Siemens Desiro Class 700 Desiro City 700008 Sevenoaks to Kentish Town 2E75 (31333854845).jpg EMU 810016060 Govia Thameslink Railway London King's Cross to Cambridge

Cambridge to Brighton via London Bridge Peterborough to Horsham via London Bridge

Siemens Desiro Class 717 Desiro City 717009 OKL.jpg EMU 68513725 Govia Thameslink Railway London Moorgate and London King's Cross to Welwyn Garden City, Hertford North, Stevenage,
and Letchworth Garden City

High-speed trains

Trainset[ clarification needed discuss ]ClassImageTypeCars per setTop speedNumberOperatorRoutesBuilt
InterCity 125 Class 43
Hugh llewelyn 43 303 (5567552923).jpg
Diesel locomotive
XC: 7
12520040 CrossCountry
Joins the ECML at either Doncaster or York and continues to Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow Central, Dundee and Aberdeen 1975-82
Mark 3 Coach
CrossCountry Mark 3 TS 42378 at Tiverton Parkway.JPG
Passenger coach 1761975-88
InterCity 225 Class 91 91108 LNER Kings Cross.jpg Electric locomotive 912520031 London North Eastern Railway (Currently in storage) London King's Cross to: Edinburgh, Leeds, York, Newcastle, and Glasgow Central 1988—91
Mark 4 carriage Rake of VTEC Mark 4 London Kings Cross 1.jpg Passenger coach 3021989-92
Driving Van Trailer Kings Cross - LNER 82202 rear of ecs.JPG Control car 311988
Alstom Coradia Class 180 Adelante Grand Central Class 180, Cromwell Moor.jpg
DMU 512520010 Grand Central
Grand Central Services from London King's Cross to: Sunderland and Bradford Interchange.
Bombardier Voyager Class 220 Voyager Hugh llewelyn 220 002 (6701873995).jpg DEMU 412520034 CrossCountry Joining the ECML at either Doncaster or York and continuing to Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow Central, Dundee and Aberdeen 2000-01
Class 221 Super Voyager CrossCountry Class 221, 221124, platform 5, Manchester Piccadilly railway station (geograph 4512037).jpg DEMU 412520042001–2002
Bombardier Voyager Class 222 Meridian Leicester - Abellio 222104 Lincoln service.JPG DEMU 41252004 East Midlands Railway East Midlands Railway operates a limited summer Saturday service which joins the ECML at Doncaster and continuing to York and Scarborough 2003–5
Hitachi AT300 Class 800 Azuma 800104 at York.jpg Bi-mode multiple unit 512520010 London North Eastern Railway London King's Cross to: Leeds, Lincoln, Hull, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Aberdeen and Inverness 2014-2018
Class 801 Azuma 801220 LNER Azuma Kings Cross.jpg EMU 512 London King's Cross to: Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow Central 2017-2020
Hitachi AT300 Class 802 Nova 1 Nova 1 in London Kings Cross 20.02.19.jpg Bi-mode multiple unit 512520019 TransPennine Express Joining the ECML at York and continuing to Newcastle and Edinburgh 2017-2019
Hitachi AT300 Class 802 Paragon 802301 Kings Cross.jpg 5 Hull Trains London King's Cross to Hull and Beverley 2019-2020


ClassImageTypeCars per setTop speedNumberOperatorRoutesEnter Service
Class 803 803001+803002 Departing London Kings Cross.jpg EMU 51402255 Lumo London King's Cross to Edinburgh 2021-


A train operated by the former main provider of services on the line, Virgin Trains East Coast VTEC IC225 crossing viaduct.jpg
A train operated by the former main provider of services on the line, Virgin Trains East Coast
Overview of the ECML (in blue) and other north-south mainlines in the UK British main lines railway diagram.png
Overview of the ECML (in blue) and other north–south mainlines in the UK

The line's current principal operator is London North Eastern Railway (LNER), whose services include regular long-distance expresses between King's Cross, the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the North East of England and Scotland. LNER is operated on behalf of the Department for Transport by a consortium of Arup Group, Ernst & Young and SNC-Lavalin Rail & Transit, which took over from Virgin Trains East Coast on 24 June 2018.

Other operators of passenger trains on the line are:

Eurostar previously held the rights to run five trains a day on the line for services from mainland Europe to cities north of London, as part of the Regional Eurostar plan, which never came to fruition. [31]

The overnight Caledonian Sleeper operated by Serco occasionally uses the ECML when engineering works prevent it from using its normal train path on the WCML.

DB Cargo UK, Direct Rail Services, Freightliner and GB Railfreight operate freight services.

In 2019 FirstGroup and Hitachi Rail secured rights from the Office of Road and Rail to run a new 'open access' service between the two capitals. [32]


Capacity problems

The ECML is one of the busiest lines on the British rail network and there is insufficient capacity on parts of the line to satisfy all the requirements of both passenger and freight operators. [33]

There are bottlenecks at the following locations:

Railway operations are vulnerable during high winds and there have been several de-wirements over the years due to the unusually wide spacing (up to 75 m) between the supporting masts of the overhead lines. The other cost-reduction measure was the use of headspan catenary support systems over the quadruple track sections – as employed in the Weaver Junction to Glasgow Electrification on the WCML during the 1970s. Headspans do not have mechanically independent registration (MIR) of each electrified road and thus are more complex to set up, compared to TTC (twin-track cantilever) [38] and portal style support structures, during installation. [39] In the event of a de-wirement of a given road, headspans result in the need to correctly set up the OLE of adjacent roads before the line can reopen to electric traction. This was a result of extreme pressure from the Department for Transport to reduce avoidable costs when the line was originally electrified between 1985 and 1990. [40]

Recent developments

Canal Tunnels northern entrance at Belle Isle Junction Canal Tunnels Entrance Aug 2014.jpg
Canal Tunnels northern entrance at Belle Isle Junction

Planned or proposed developments

The European Union Directive 96/48/EC, Annex 1 defines high-speed rail's minimum Speed Limit as 200 km/h (124 mph) on existing lines which have been specially upgraded. [51]

Over the years successive infrastructure managers have developed schemes for route improvements. [26] The most recent of which is the £247 million "ECML Connectivity Fund" included in the 2012 HLOS [52] with the objective of increasing capacity and reducing journey times. Current plans include the following specific schemes:

And on a more route wide basis the following projects:

The proposed High Speed 2 eastern leg would release capacity on the East Coast Main Line by diverting London and Birmingham bound services south of York to a new, dedicated line. In addition, long-distance services between Edinburgh and London will travel via the West Coast Main Line. [60]


The ECML has been witness to a number of incidents resulting in death and serious injury:

Welwyn Tunnel rail crash 9 June 186622Three-train collision in tunnel, caused by guard's failure to protect train and signalling communications error
Hatfield rail crash (1870) 26 December 187083Wheel disintegrated causing derailment killing six passengers and two bystanders
Abbots Ripton rail disaster 21 January 18761359 Flying Scotsman crashed during a blizzard.
Morpeth rail crash (1877) 25 March 1877517Derailment caused by faulty track.
Thirsk rail crash (1892) 2 November 18921043Signalman forgot about a goods train standing at his box and accepted the Scotch Express onto his line.
Grantham rail accident 19 August 19061417Runaway or overspeed on junction curve causing derailment - no definite cause established.
Welwyn Garden City rail crash 15 June 19351429Two trains collided due to a signaller's error.
King's Cross railway accident 4 February 1945226Train slipped on gradient and rolled back into station.
Potters Bar rail crash 10 February 1946217Local train hit buffers fouling main line with wreckage hit by two further trains.
Doncaster rail crash (1947) 9 August 194718188King's Cross to Leeds train was incorrectly signalled into a section already occupied by a stationary train, which resulted in a rear-end collision.
Goswick rail crash 26 October 19472865Edinburgh-London Flying Scotsman failed to slow down for a diversion and derailed. Signal passed at danger
Doncaster rail crash 16 March 19511412Train derailed south of the station and struck a bridge pier.
Goswick Goods train derailment 28 October 19531'Glasgow to Colchester' Goods train was derailed at Goswick. [61] [62]
Connington South rail crash 5 March 1967518Express train was derailed.
Thirsk rail crash 31 July 1967745Cement train derailed and hit by North bound express hauled by prototype locomotive. DP2
Morpeth rail crash (1969) 7 May 1969646Excessive speed on curve.
Penmanshiel Tunnel collapse 17 March 19792Two workers killed when the tunnel collapsed during engineering works.
Morpeth rail crash (1984) 24 June 198435Excessive speed on curve.
Newcastle Central railway station collision30 November 198915Two InterCity expresses collided. [63]
Morpeth rail crash (1992) 13 November 19921Collision between two freight trains.
Morpeth rail crash (1994) 27 June 19941Excessive speed led to the locomotive and the majority of carriages overturning.
Hatfield rail crash 17 October 2000470InterCity 225 derailed due to a failure to replace a fractured rail. The accident highlighted poor management at Railtrack and led to its partial re-nationalisation. The Class 91 locomotive involved in this crash was the same locomotive that was involved in the Great Heck rail crash - 91023. Following repair and refurbishment after Great Heck rail crash, the locomotive was renumbered 91132.
Great Heck rail crash 28 February 20011082A Land Rover Defender swerved down an embankment off the M62 motorway into the path of a southbound GNER Intercity 225, which then was struck by a freight train hauled by a Class 66. The Class 91 locomotive involved in this crash was the same locomotive that was involved in the Hatfield rail crash - 91023. Following repair and refurbishment, the locomotive was renumbered 91132.
Potters Bar rail crash (2002) 10 May 2002770Derailment caused by a badly maintained set of points. Resulted in the end of the use of external contractors for routine maintenance.
East Coast train at London King's Cross railway station Cmglee London Kings Cross platform 6.jpg
East Coast train at London King's Cross railway station

The cuttings and tunnel entrances just north of King's Cross appear in the 1955 Ealing comedy film The Ladykillers . [64] Also during the 1950s, the line featured in the 1954 documentary short Elizabethan Express . Later, the 1971 British gangster film Get Carter features a journey from London King's Cross to Newcastle in the opening credits. [65] During 2009, the motoring show Top Gear featured a long-distance race, in which LNER A1 60163 Tornado, a Jaguar XK120 and a Vincent Black Shadow competed to be the fastest vehicle to travel the full length of the line from London to Edinburgh. [66]

The route has been featured in several train simulator games. Trainz Simulator 2010 features the route between London and York, Trainz Simulator 12 extends the route to Newcastle, and Trainz: A New Era brings it all the way to Edinburgh, allowing the entire 393-mile route to be driven. All three routes take place during the 1970s, around the time the InterCity 125 was introduced; this is reinforced by instructions in the "HST Southbound Express" session not to move until the guard has locked the doors, since the trains did not have pneumatic locks initially; doing so will lead to an automatic failure. Other rolling stock includes Class 37s, Class 47s, and Class 105s, plus Mark 2 coaches. TS12's version added Class 55 Deltics and Class 313s, as well as additional pre-made, pre-scripted sessions.[ citation needed ]

King's Cross Station is also depicted as the starting point of the Hogwarts Express in the books and films of the Harry Potter franchise. This connection is marked by a tourist attraction within the station concourse, featuring the Platform 9¾ sign and a luggage trolley partially embedded in the station wall with an owl cage and suitcases on it. [67]

See also

Related Research Articles

West Coast Main Line Railway route in Britain

The West Coast Main Line (WCML) is one of the most important railway corridors in the United Kingdom, connecting the major cities of London and Glasgow with branches to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh. It is one of the busiest mixed-traffic railway routes in Europe, carrying a mixture of intercity rail, regional rail, commuter rail and rail freight traffic. The core route of the WCML runs from London to Glasgow for 399 miles (642 km) and was opened from 1837 to 1869. With additional lines deviating to Northampton, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh, this totals a route mileage of 700 miles (1,127 km). The Glasgow–Edinburgh via Carstairs line connects the WCML to Edinburgh, however the main London–Edinburgh route is the East Coast Main Line. Several sections of the WCML form part of the suburban railway systems in London, Coventry, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow, with many more smaller commuter stations, as well as providing links to more rural towns.

Midland Main Line Railway in the UK

The Midland Main Line is a major railway line in England from London to Nottingham and Sheffield in the north of England. The line is under the Network Rail description of Route 19; it comprises the lines from London's St Pancras station via Leicester, Derby/Nottingham and Chesterfield in the East Midlands.

Great North Eastern Railway

Great North Eastern Railway, often referred to as GNER, was a train operating company in the United Kingdom, owned by Sea Containers, that operated the InterCity East Coast franchise on the East Coast Main Line between London, Yorkshire, North East England and Scotland from April 1996 until December 2007.

InterCity 225

The InterCity 225 is an electric high speed train in the United Kingdom, comprising a Class 91 electric locomotive, nine Mark 4 coaches and a Driving Van Trailer (DVT). The Class 91 locomotives were built by British Rail Engineering Limited's Crewe Works as a spin-off from the Advanced Passenger Train project, which was abandoned during the 1980s, whilst the coaches and DVT were constructed by Metro-Cammell in Birmingham and Breda in Italy, again borrowing heavily from the Advanced Passenger Train. The trains were designed to operate at up to 140 mph (225 km/h) in regular service, but are limited to 125 mph (200 km/h) principally due to a lack of cab signalling and the limitations of the current overhead line equipment. They are used on services from London King's Cross to Leeds and York.

British Rail Class 91 Class of high-speed electric locomotives

The British Rail Class 91 is a class of high-speed, 4,830 kW (6,480 hp) electric locomotive ordered as a component of the East Coast Main Line modernisation and electrification programme of the late 1980s. The Class 91s were given the auxiliary name of InterCity 225 to indicate their envisaged top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph); they were also referred to as Electras by British Rail during their development and throughout the electrification of the East Coast Main Line. The other end of the InterCity 225 train set is formed of a Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer, built with a similar body shell to the Class 91 locomotives. The locomotive body shells are of all-steel construction. Unusually, the motors are body mounted and drive bogie-mounted gearboxes via cardan shafts. This reduces the unsprung mass and hence track wear at high speeds. The locomotive also features an underslung transformer, therefore the body is relatively empty compared to contemporary electric locomotives. Much of the engineering specification for the locomotive was derived from the research and operational experience of the APT-P.

Cross Country Route

The Cross Country Route is a long-distance rail route in the United Kingdom. It runs from Bristol Temple Meads to York via Birmingham New Street, Derby Midland, Sheffield Midland and Leeds City and/or Doncaster. It facilitates some of the longest passenger journeys in the UK such as Aberdeen to Penzance.

Peterborough railway station Railway station serving the city of Peterborough, within Cambridgeshire, England

Peterborough railway station serves the city of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, England. It is 76 miles 29 chains (122.9 km) down the East Coast Main Line from London King's Cross. The station is a major interchange serving both the north–south ECML, as well as long-distance and local east–west services. The station is managed by London North Eastern Railway. Ticket gates came into use at the station in 2012.

Peterborough–Lincoln line

The Peterborough–Lincoln line is a railway line linking Peterborough and Lincoln Central, via Sleaford and Spalding. Between Lincoln and Spalding, the line follows the route of the former Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway.

Carstairs railway station Railway station in South Lanarkshire, Scotland

Carstairs railway station serves the village of Carstairs in South Lanarkshire, Scotland and is a major junction station on the West Coast Main Line (WCML), situated close to the point at which the lines from London Euston and Edinburgh to Glasgow Central merge. Constructed originally by the Caledonian Railway, the station is operated today by Abellio ScotRail and is also served by one TransPennine Express trains service per day between Manchester Airport and Glasgow Central. All other services by TransPennine Express and services operated by Avanti West Coast, Caledonian Sleeper, CrossCountry and London North Eastern Railway pass the station, but do not stop.

Great Northern route Suburban rail service in Great Britain

The Great Northern route is the name given to suburban rail services run on the southern end of Britain's East Coast Main Line and its associated branches. Services operate to or from London King's Cross and London Moorgate in London. Destinations include Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage, Peterborough, Cambridge, and King's Lynn. Services run through parts of Greater London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Norfolk.

The Glasgow–Edinburgh via Carstairs line is a main railway route which connects the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, by means of their respective sections of the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Railway electrification in Great Britain Electrification of railway lines

Railway electrification in Great Britain began in the late 19th century. A range of voltages has been used, employing both overhead lines and conductor rails. The two most common systems are 25 kV AC using overhead lines, and the 750 V DC third rail system used in southeast England and on Merseyrail. As at March 2020, 3,758 miles (6,048 km) (38%) of the British rail network was electrified.

High-speed rail in the United Kingdom Overview of the high-speed rail system in the United Kingdom

High-speed rail in the United Kingdom is provided on five upgraded railway lines running at top speeds of 125 mph (200 km/h) and one purpose-built high-speed line reaching 186 mph (300 km/h).

The Askern branch line is a railway line which runs in North, South and West Yorkshire in England. The stretch of track runs from Shaftholme Junction north of Doncaster, via Askern, Norton and Womersley to Knottingley, where it joins the Pontefract Line.

Doncaster PSB

Doncaster PSB is a signalling centre on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) railway in the United Kingdom, principally covering the line from London to Edinburgh but also encompassing other lines diverging and converging to the ECML. The signal box celebrated its 25th birthday in 2006.

InterCity 250

The InterCity 250 was an electric railway project undertaken by British Rail in the late 1980s. The InterCity 250 train would have consisted of a Class 93 electric locomotive, nine Mark 5 coaches and a Mark 5 Driving Van Trailer operating in a push-pull formation. The British Rail project was cancelled in July 1992.

The East Coast Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS), published by Network Rail in February 2008, was the seventh RUS.

Selby Diversion

The Selby Diversion is a mainline railway in the United Kingdom, built as a new part of the East Coast Main Line (ECML) to avoid an area of potential subsidence over the newly discovered Selby Coalfield.

South Humberside Main Line

The South Humberside Main Line runs from Doncaster on the East Coast Main Line to Thorne where it diverges from the Sheffield to Hull Line. It then runs eastwards to Scunthorpe and the Humber ports of Immingham and Grimsby, with the coastal resort of Cleethorpes as terminus.

Werrington Dive Under Major railway junction in Cambridgeshire, England

Werrington Dive Under is a replacement dual track grade separated railway junction at Werrington Junction, 3 miles (5 km) north of Peterborough railway station in Cambridgeshire, England. The junction leads to the Great Northern/Great Eastern Joint line (GN/GE) which goes through Spalding to Lincoln and beyond. Due to be completed in 2021, the dive under will allow trains on the west side of the East Coast Main Line (ECML) to access the GN/GE line without conflicting with the faster passenger services on the ECML.


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