The Cross-Country Route is a long-distance UK rail route that has in its central part superseded the Midland Railway.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, Sheffield and Leeds and the north east to Scotland. It facilitates some of the longest passenger journeys in the UK such as Penzance to Aberdeen. 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 before joining the Midland Railway, the southern forerunner to the Cross Country Route. From Birmingham to the NNE, the line had three separately owned sections, namely the:Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway to Derby, thence the
North Midland Railway to Leeds, thence the
York and North Midland Railway.
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.
Most Derby-Nottingham local passenger trains were taken over by diesel units from 14 April 1958, taking about 34 minutes between the two cities.
Use and services have expanded since privatisation when a better-prioritised route was awarded as a single franchise to Virgin Trains.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the network was served by High Speed Trains, and Class 47s, which hauled various types of coaching stock.
Modern, more powerful multiple-units of the 21st century such as the Turbostars and Voyagers have improved train performance without electrification. However, the line has higher operating costs and a significantly higher carbon footprint than if it were electrified.
The use of the route for freight has decreased, due to the bulk of haulage switching to road use and the building of the M5, M6 and M1 motorways.
In the 1960s the route was considered for electrification. 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 to Doncaster Line, and the East Coast Main Line. Major cities and towns served along the route include:Bristol
Nominal start-point - Derby
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 25kV AC: Barnt Green (to be extended to Bromsgrove by 2017) to Grand Junction, with further 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 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 has been confirmed that the line between Derby and Sheffield will be electrified as part of the Midland Main Line upgrade.
Most long distance services on the route are operated by Class 220/221 Voyager Trains, although a few services operate using Class 43 HSTs. 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).