The Anonymous Widower

Should Improvement Needed For High Speed Two On The East And West Coast Main Lines Be Given High Priority?

High Speed Two will bring major improvements in times between London and the North of England and Scotland, with these figures claimed by this page on the High Speed Two web site.

  • London Euston and Carlisle – 2 hours and 23 minutes saving 54 minutes
  • London Euston and Darlington – 1 hours and 50 minutes saving 32 minutes
  • London Euston and Durham – 2 hours and 16 minutes saving 37 minutes
  • London Euston and Edinburgh – 3 hours and 48 minutes saving 31 minutes
  • London Euston and Glasgow – 3 hours and 40 minutes saving 49 minutes
  • London Euston and Lockerbie – 2 hours and 55 minutes saving 43 minutes
  • London Euston and Newcastle – 2 hours and 17 minutes saving 32 minutes

Substantial savings would seem to be possible.

The Recent Record Run On The West Coast Main Line

A few weeks ago, Avanti West Coast ran a Class 390 train between London Euston and Glasgow in three hours and 53 minutes and 1 second. They were trying to beat the record set by the \APT-P in 1984 of three hours and 52 minutes and 40 seconds.

In Lessons From The Record Run in the August 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, Roger Ford makes a big hint in a section called Hint.

Roger starts with this paragraph.

In the virtual race with APT-P, the Pendolino was seven minutes ahead approaching the border, but this was not sufficient to overcome APT-P’s advantage of being able to run faster over lines which, unlike the southern end of the WCML, have not enjoyed the increased speeds further south, such as at Stafford and Crewe.

He then talks of a levelling-up of the infrastructure being needed on the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line.

Roger finishes the section with this paragraph.

Thus, the final message of the run is that if HS2 is to realise its full potential, planning for the West Coast Route Modernisation (North) needs to start now, both for journey time reductions and reliability.

The High Speed Two time between Preston and Glasgow of two hours and 26 minutes, given by their journey time calculator  is in line with current timings.

I am drawn to the following conclusions about services between Preston and Glasgow.

  • I suspect the similar times  could be expected, as the trains will have to cope with other trains on the route.
  • Most of High Speed Two’s savings must be on the new track to the South of Wigan.

It would appear that any savings made between Preston and Scotland will benefit both classic and high speed services.

I certainly agree with Roger’s hint to start planning the upgrade of the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line.

This would surely enable upgrade of the route to start sooner and places at the North of the route would benefit from faster journey times to the South before High Speed Two is complete.

Reducing The Journey Times On The West Coast Main Line

If you look at the average speed between Preston and Glasgow of a typical train, it is just 84.3 mph.

Various average speeds give the following times between Preston and Glasgow.

  • 90 mph – two hours and 8 minutes
  • 100 mph – one hour and 55 minutes
  • 110 mph – one hour and 45 minutes

It would appear there is scope for reductions in journey times to be made.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the Scottish part of the route and it doesn’t look to be too terrifying.

  • There are tight speed limits at Preston and Carlisle
  • The railway is not hemmed in by development until close to Glasgow.
  • Most of the modern bridges, where the M74 crosses the railway appear to have space for an extra track.
  • Connection of the Borders Railway to the West Coast Main Line could give scope for improvement between Gretna junction and Carlisle.
  • The depot at Annandale, that I wrote about in High Speed Two To Build Stabling Facility In Scotland, may give scope for a shorter, straighter and faster route between Grena Green and Kirkpatrick-Fleming, that could run closer to the M74.
  • North of Lockerbie, there may be scope to put extra tracks between the railway and the M74.
  • The Carstairs area could be ripe for improvement.

I would feel that digital signalling and some well-applied engineering could cut a sensible amount of time from Preston and Glasgow timings.

  • I can certainly say, that the route is not a desert, where possible improvements will be difficult to find.
  • I also don’t feel there are any obvious improvements, that will be controversial.

There is also the M74, which could be invaluable for camouflaging the railway.

Reducing The Journey Times On The East Coast Main Line

Much of the work to speed up the Northern section of the East Coast Main Line is laid out in Northern Powerhouse Rail – Significant Upgrades Of The East Coast Main Line From Leeds To Newcastle (Via York And Darlington) And Restoration Of The Leamside Line, a post I wrote to explain what Northern Powerhouse Rail feel is urgently needed.

Mentioned in the other post are following projects.

  • Full Digital Signalling
  • Phase 2 Of The East Coast Main Line Power Supply Upgrade
  • York to Church Fenton Improvement Scheme
  • Darlington Station Remodelling
  • The North Throat Of York Station Including Skelton Bridge Junction
  • Use Of The Leamside Line

As with the West Coast Main Line, the improvements would benefit both classic and High Speed services.


Improvements to both the East and West Coast Main Lines will help both classic and High Speed services between London and the North of England and Scotland.

I think that planning and design should be started as soon as possible.

Construction should start as early as possible, so that the benefits of faster trains are felt at the earliest date possible.



August 15, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , ,


  1. Digital signalling won’t deal with line topography constraints that needs civils works to straighten out the route but can’t see that happening as thats big costs through environmental sensitive areas now. Time to have done it was when they were ploughing the M6 through the scenery 40 years ago.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 15, 2021 | Reply

  2. The Greengauge Grouo which developed the plans for a High Speed network which produced the original Y HS2 also produced a report where they looked at the northern part of the WCML and produced a report about the report and improvements required on a general basis .

    Much is said especially by anti HS2 that with trains unable to tilt like Pendolinos that benefit of HS2 will be lost north of Manchester where HS2 ends but that depends on how good HS2 replacements will be without tilt ?

    Comment by Melvyn | August 15, 2021 | Reply

    • I don’t like tilt, as it makes for cramped interiors.

      The new 807s ordered by Avanti appear to have been designed for speed and I reckon will do Liverpool in under two hours. These trains could prove the end of tilt.

      Comment by AnonW | August 16, 2021 | Reply

    • Unless your going to compromise passenger comfort you will have to go through curves at normal line speed so with aggressive braking unlikely you can only make up time with better acceleration. My take is 390’s are pretty nippy already on the acceleration front so HS2 trains are going to need more grunt but given they will be geared for 360kmh they will be down on tractive effort at lower speed ranges I suspect..

      I would also suggest there is something disingenuous with HS2 journey time page as if you look at the times between all the intermediate stations north of Crewe there is not much difference in timings to current Avanti service. So Warrington is 1h20, Wigan 1.31 but somehow Preston is only 1.18? Lancaster is 2h3 or 67m from Crewe vs AWC times .69m. etc etc

      I suspect the true reality will be something no better than today on classic line and potentially worse without some hefty investment north of Crewe where the signalling is 50 years old as is the electrification system which need considerable reinforcement to cope with the much higher powered HS2 trains and even then the continuous rating of Mk3 catenary probably won’t allow full power to be drawn.

      My supposition remains that this project will progressively be dialled back when reality is seen how misguided building it South to North is and that more targeted investment can realise better gains for less cash and quicker

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 16, 2021 | Reply

  3. I do think instead that if they are going for journey time improvement, they can consider making a separate pair of tracks from Lockerbie to Newton. Trains will most likely have an additional stop at Cambuslang or Rutherglen.

    There is much potential also to have new tracks between Tebay (northeast of Kendal) and Penrith.

    Comment by vkzylumcfan | August 16, 2021 | Reply

    • Certainly North of the border, I think you can hide any new rail infrastructure by the M74.

      I do wonder, if drivers on motorways see trains going past, it encourages them to use the trains for the next journey.

      Comment by AnonW | August 16, 2021 | Reply

      • It does.

        Comment by John | August 18, 2021

  4. “Upgrading the East Coast Main Line to 140mph operation as a high priority alongside HS2 and to be delivered without delay. Newcastle-London timings across a shorter route could closely match those achievable by HS2.”
    – Greengauge21 in their document Beyond HS2.

    Greengauge are HS2 consultants.

    Comment by John | August 18, 2021 | Reply

    • My argument is if you upgrade the routes shared with HS2 on the East and West Coast Main Lines, this will benefit current passengers on the classic routes.

      But I agree with you that 140 mph versions of the HS2 Classic-Compatible trains running on routes like Newcastle and Kings Cross, Liverpool and Euston and Leeds and Kings Cross will run HS2 very close.

      Especially, when digital signalling is fully installed.

      Comment by AnonW | August 18, 2021 | Reply

  5. The WCML must be 4-track to Preston. Winsford is 2-track. This needs rectifying ASAP. Why? because it is doubtful HS2 will get past Crewe. Crewe need an under station bypass tunnel. To bypass the junction.

    The way HS2 is going politically, HS2 may stop north of Aylesbury, Then it can branch onto the Chiltern to Birmingham and a reopened Gt.Central to Rugby, where it can branch i nyo the WCML.

    Comment by John | August 18, 2021 | Reply

  6. If you look at the HS2 map, HS2 goes through Crewe with the WCML then loops off the WCML South of Winsford, passing to the East of the town. The Manchester Airport and Manchester branch then goes East South of Altrincham. HS2 then goes North and rejoins the WCML just South of Wigan.

    Comment by AnonW | August 18, 2021 | Reply

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