- East Coast Main Line
The East Coast Main Line (ECML) is a 393-mile (632 km) long electrified high-speed railway link between London, Peterborough, Doncaster, Wakefield, Leeds, York, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh. It is classed as a high-speed railway because most of it meets the speed criterion of 125 mph (200 km/h).
The route forms a key artery on the eastern side of Great Britain and is broadly paralleled by the A1 trunk road. It links London, the South East and East Anglia with Yorkshire, the North East Regions and Scotland. It also carries key commuter flows for the north side of London. It is therefore important to the economic health of a number of areas of the country. It also handles cross-country, commuter and local passenger services, and carries heavy tonnages of freight traffic. The route has ELRs ECM1 - ECM9.
Route definition and description
The Network Rail definition of the ECML includes five separate lines:
- The main line between London King's Cross and Edinburgh Waverley stations, via Stevenage, Peterborough, Grantham, Newark, Retford, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Dunbar;
- The Doncaster branch of the Wakefield Line, between Doncaster and Leeds;
- The North Berwick branch from Drem to North Berwick
- The Northern City Line from Finsbury Park to Moorgate
- The Hertford Loop from Alexandra Palace to Stevenage
In addition to the formal Network Rail definition, the ECML is sometimes regarded as extending beyond Edinburgh Waverley to Aberdeen, running mostly right on the east coast via Kirkcaldy, Dundee and Arbroath. North of Edinburgh it includes the red cantilever Forth Bridge, and at Dundee the curved Tay Bridge, both crossing wide river estuaries.
The Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Central via Carstairs and Motherwell line is officially part of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) route, but is often considered part of the ECML because several East Coast services from King's Cross to Glasgow Central use this section on a daily basis, although the WCML is the direct route from London to Glasgow.
The line was built by three railway companies, each serving their own area but with the intention of linking up to form the through route that became the East Coast Main Line. From north to south they were
- the North British Railway, from Edinburgh to Berwick-on-Tweed, completed in 1846,
- the North Eastern Railway from Berwick-on-Tweed to Shaftholme; the North Eastern Railway was substantially complete in 1871 when the company combined parts of several local railways and built a section to form a direct through route, and
- the Great Northern Railway from Shaftholme to Kings Cross, completed in 1850.
The boundary between the NER and the GNR was an end-on junction, famously described as in "a ploughed field" at Shaftholme, some way north of Doncaster.
Realising that through journeys were an important part of their business, the companies established special rolling stock in 1860 on a collaborative basis; it was called the "East Coast Joint Stock".
Numerous alterations to short sections of the 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, built to by-pass anticipated mining subsidence from the Selby coalfield and a bottleneck at Selby station. The Selby diversion was opened in 1983 and diverged from the original ECML at Temple Hirst, north of Doncaster, and joined the Leeds to York line at Colton Junction.
The ECML has been the backdrop for a number of famous rail journeys and locomotives. The line was worked for many years by Pacific locomotives designed by Gresley, including the famous steam locomotives "Flying Scotsman" and "Mallard". Mallard achieved a world record speed for a steam locomotive, at 126 miles per hour (203 km/h) and this record was never beaten. It made the run on the Grantham-to-Peterborough section, on the descent of Stoke Bank.
Steam locomotives were replaced by Diesel electrics in the early 1960s, when the purpose-built Deltic locomotive was developed by English Electric. The prototype was successful and a fleet of 22 locomotives was built, to handle all the important express traffic. The Class 55 were powered by two engines originally developed for fast torpedo boat purposes, and the configuration of the engines led to the Deltic name. Their characteristic throaty exhaust roar and chubby body outline made them unmistakable in service. The class 55 was for a time the most powerful diesel locomotive in service in Britain, at 3,300 hp (2,500 kW).
It was just after the Deltics were introduced that the first sections of the East Coast Main Line were upgraded to officially allow 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) running. The first length to be cleared for the new higher speed was a 17 miles (27 km) stretch between Peterborough and Grantham on the 15 June 1965, the second was 12 miles (19 km) between Grantham and Newark.
As the demand for higher speed intensified, the Deltics were eventually superseded by the High Speed Train (HST), introduced between 1976 and 1981.
A prototype of the HST, the British Rail Class 43 (HST) achieved 143 mph (230 km/h) on the line in 1973. Current UK legislation requires in-cab signalling for speeds of over 125 mph which is the primary reason preventing the InterCity 225 train-sets from operating at their design speed of 140 mph (225 km/h) in normal service.
A secondary factor was that the signalling technology of the time was insufficiently advanced to allow detection of two broken rails on the line on which the train was operating.
Before the present in-cab regulations came in, British Rail experimented with 140 mph running by introducing a fifth, flashing green signalling aspect on track between New England North and Stoke Tunnel. The fifth aspect is not observable 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. Locomotives have operated on the ECML at speeds of up to 161.7 mph (260.2 km/h) in test runs.
The ECML was electrified in the late 1980s using state money. The electrification work began in 1985 and the initial section between King's Cross and Leeds went into operational trials in 1988. The full electrification was completed in late 1990, and the current InterCity 225 rolling stock was introduced.
The line is mainly four tracks from London to Stoke Tunnel, south of Grantham, except for two twin-track sections; the first of these is near Welwyn North Station as it crosses the Digswell Viaduct and passes through two tunnels, the second is between Huntingdon and Peterborough near 'Stilton Fen'. North of Grantham the route is twin track except for four-track sections at Retford around Doncaster, between Colton Junction (which is south of York), Thirsk and Northallerton, and another at Newcastle.
With most the 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. These relatively high speeds are possible because much of the ECML travels on fairly straight track on the flatter, eastern regions of England, through Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, though there are significant speed restrictions (due to curvature) particularly North of Darlington and between Doncaster and Leeds. By contrast, the West Coast Main Line has to traverse the Trent Valley and the mountains of Cumbria, leading to many more curves and a lower general speed limit of 110 mph (180 km/h). Speeds on the WCML have been increased in recent years with the introduction of tilting Pendolino trains and now match the 125 mph speeds available on the ECML.
Most passenger services use the InterCity 225 rolling stock. Some diesels still operate on line, including:
- CrossCountry's Class 220 Voyagers, Class 221 Super Voyagers and occasionally, HST sets that CrossCountry have inherited from Virgin CrossCountry.
- First Hull Trains Class 180 Adelantes (Kings Cross–Hull)
- East Coast HST sets work some services to Edinburgh, and all services that continue north of Edinburgh to Inverness and Aberdeen, as well as daily services to Hull, Skipton and Lincoln.
- East Midlands Trains operates a limited service of HSTs over a portion of the route between Doncaster and Leeds, and a summer Saturday service with Class 222 Meridians from Doncaster and Scarborough to London St Pancras, and back.
- Grand Central's HSTs and Class 180 Zephyrs (Kings Cross–Sunderland/Bradford)
The line's current principal operator is East Coast, whose services include regular trains between King’s Cross, the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the North East of England and Scotland. East Coast is subsidiary of Directly Operated Railways—a holding company owned by the Department for Transport—and took over from National Express East Coast on 14 November 2009. Other operators of passenger trains on the line are:
- First Capital Connect: commuter services between King's Cross, Peterborough, Cambridge and King's Lynn and between Moorgate and Stevenage via either Welwyn Garden City or the Hertford Loop.
- First Hull Trains: between Kings Cross and Hull.
- East Midlands Trains: local services between Grantham and Peterborough, part of the service that runs between Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich, as well as London services between Doncaster and York/Scarborough, extensions of services running to/from Sheffield, Leicester and London St Pancras.
- CrossCountry: cross-country services north of Sheffield are routed via either Leeds or Doncaster. Leeds trains use the ECML between Wakefield Westgate and Leeds and then again north of York. Doncaster trains use the ECML north of Doncaster. Services run to and beyond Edinburgh. Occasional services run from Doncaster to Leeds before rejoining the ECML at York.
- First TransPennine Express: between York and Newcastle and between York and Northallerton before they divert off the ECML to Middlesbrough via Yarm.
- Northern Rail: suburban services from Doncaster to Leeds and Chathill to Newcastle via Morpeth railway station and infrequent services between Newcastle and Darlington that continue to Middlesbrough and Saltburn. Services between Selby and York also use the line from Hambleton Junction to York.
- First ScotRail: services from Edinburgh Waverley to North Berwick and Dunbar. The overnight Caledonian Sleeper occasionally uses the ECML when engineering works prevent it from using its normal train path on the WCML.
- Grand Central: intercity from Kings Cross to Sunderland, branching off the main line at Northallerton and Bradford, branching off at Doncaster.
Eurostar previously held the rights to run five trains a day on the line for services from continental Europe to cities north of London, as part of the Regional Eurostar plan, although such services have never been run.
The ECML is one of the busiest lines on the British rail network and there is currently insufficient capacity on parts of the line to satisfy all the requirements of both passenger and freight operators.
There are bottlenecks at the following locations:
- The section of twin track within a four-line section at Welwyn North over the Digswell Viaduct and through the Welwyn tunnels
- At Hitchin where many trains from London using the Hitchin-Cambridge Line must cross three other tracks at grade using a flat junction.
- Just north of Newark station at a flat crossing with the Nottingham-Lincoln line.
- Doncaster station has limited facilities for terminating branch trains on the up side of the station.
- South of Newcastle, leading to proposals to reopen the Leamside line to passenger and freight traffic.
Rail services are vulnerable during high winds and there have been several de-wirements over the years due to the unusually wide spacing between the supporting masts of the overhead lines. The other cost-cutting measure was the use of headspan-type catenary systems over the quadruple tracked sections which are not as robust as the older gantry-type design used on the WCML. This was a result of extreme pressure from the Department for Transport (as proxy for the taxpayer) to reduce avoidable costs when the line was originally electrified between 1985 and 1990.
The Allington Chord was constructed near Grantham in 2006, allowing services between Nottingham and Skegness to pass under the line, rather than crossing it at a flat junction. This provided sufficient extra capacity for National Express East Coast to run 12 additional services between Leeds and London each day.
Over the years successive infrastructure managers have developed schemes for route improvements.
These include the following:
- Linking the ECML to Thameslink as part of the Thameslink Programme (for First Capital Connect commuter services to be extended to south London).
- Quadrupling the Welwyn North section, involving probable double-decking of the viaduct and duplication of the two tunnels
- Full reversible signalling over the Stilton Fen section
- Power supply upgrades along the route, including some OLE support improvements and rewiring
- Power supply enhancement on the diversionary Hertford Loop route
- Provision of an extra platform at Kings Cross (the so-called "platform Y")
- Provision of a grade-separated junction to the north of Hitchin enabling down Cambridge trains to cross the main line
- Provision of a new Up Bay platform at Doncaster
- Enhanced passenger access to the platforms at Peterborough and Stevenage
- Increasing maximum speeds on the fast lines to between 125 mph and 140 mph in conjunction with the introduction of the Intercity Express Programme
- Replacement of the Newark Flat Crossing with a flyover
- Major remodelling of Peterborough Station
- A fourth track at Holgate Junction, south of York, by January 2012
- A new flyover at Shaftholme Junction in South Yorkshire, near the former Joan Croft station, to allow freight trains from Immingham to pass over the line on their way to Eggborough and Drax power stations, due for completion by the end of 2013
- Reopening of freight diversionary routes
The ECML has been witness to a number of incidents resulting in death and serious injury:
Title Date Killed Injured Note Hatfield rail crash (1870) 26 December 1870 8 3 Wheel disintegrated causing derailment killing six passengers and two bystanders Abbots Ripton rail disaster 21 January 1876 13 59 Flying Scotsman crashed during a blizzard. Morpeth rail crash (1877) 25 March 1877 5 17 Derailment caused by faulty track. Grantham rail accident 19 August 1906 14 17 Runaway or overspeed on curve - no definite cause established. Welwyn Garden City rail crash 15 June 1935 14 29 Two trains collided due to a signaller's error. King's Cross railway accident 4 February 1945 2 26 Train slipped on gradient and slid back into station. Potters Bar rail crash 10 February 1946 2 17 Local train hit buffers fouling main line with wreckage hit by two further trains. Goswick rail crash 26 October 1947 28 65 Edinburgh-London Flying Scotsman failed to slow down for a diversion and derailed. Signal passed at danger Doncaster rail crash 16 March 1951 14 12 train derailed south the station and struck a bridge pier Goswick Goods train derailment 28 October 1953 0 1 'Glasgow to Colchester' Goods train was derailed at Goswick. Connington South rail crash 5 March 1967 5 18 Express train was derailed. Thirsk rail crash 31 July 1967 7 45 Cement train derailed and hit by North bound express hauled by prototype locomotive. DP2 Morpeth rail crash (1969) 7 May 1969 6 46 Excessive speed on curve. Penmanshiel Tunnel collapse 17 March 1979 2 Two workers killed when the tunnel collapsed during engineering works. Morpeth rail crash (1984) 24 June 1984 35 Excessive speed on curve. Newcastle Central railway station collision 30 November 1989 15 Two InterCity expresses collided. Morpeth rail crash (1992) 13 November 1992 1 Collision between two freight trains. Morpeth rail crash (1994) 27 June 1994 1 Excessive speed led to the locomotive and the majority of carriages overturning. Hatfield rail crash 17 October 2000 4 70 InterCity 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. Great Heck rail crash 28 February 2001 10 82 A Land Rover Defender swerved down an embankment off the M62 motorway into the path of a southbound GNER Intercity 225. Potters Bar rail crash (2002) 10 May 2002 7 70 Derailment caused by a badly maintained set of points. Resulted in the end of the use of external contractors for routine maintenance. Copmanthorpe rail crash 25 September 2006 1 A car crashed through a fence onto the line.
The cuttings and tunnel entrances just north of King's Cross make a memorable smoky appearance in the 1955 Ealing comedy film The Ladykillers. 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 Kings Cross to Newcastle in the opening credits. The motoring show Top Gear featured a race including LNER A1 60163 Tornado running up this line from London to Edinburgh.
- ^ a b "East Coast rail change confirmed". BBC News Online. 2009-11-05. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/8343769.stm. Retrieved 2009-11-05.
- ^ East Coast Main Line Rail Route Upgrading, United Kingdom
- ^ "East Coast Main Line" (PDF). Route Utilisation Strategy. Network Rail. February 2008. p. 5. http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/rus%20documents/route%20utilisation%20strategies/east%20coast%20main%20line/east%20coast%20main%20line%20rus.pdf. Retrieved 14 May 2008. "The ECML RUS encompasses all long distance high speed and London commuter services into King’s Cross..."
- ^ Railway Magazine. November 1965. p. 858.
- ^ a b Barnett, Roger (June 1992) (PDF). British Rail's InterCity 125 and 225. UCTC Working Paper No. 114. University of California Transportation Center; University of California, Berkeley. p. 32. http://www.uctc.net/papers/114.pdf. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- ^ Heath, Don (August 1994). Electrification of British Rail's East Coast Main Line. Paper No. 105. Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers (Transportation). p. 232.
- ^ Keating, Oliver. "The Inter-city 225". High Speed Rail. http://www.o-keating.com/hsr/ic225.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- ^ a b c "Route Business Plan". Network Rail. 2008. http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/BusinessPlan2007/PDF/Route%208%20ECML.pdf.
- ^ Millward, David (10 April 2006). "'Phantom trains' haunt drive to improve East Coast line". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1515303/%27Phantom-trains%27-haunt-drive-to-improve-East-Coast-line.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17.
- ^ a b "Misery line cheers up". BBC Track Record. November 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/special_report/1999/11/99/track_record/regions/east.stm. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- ^ "ECML Route Utilisation Strategy: Railfuture Response". Railway Development Society. 13 September 2007. http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/rus%20documents/route%20utilisation%20strategies/east%20coast%20main%20line/consultation%20responses/r/railfuture.pdf. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- ^ "ECML Route Utilisation Strategy". Network Rail. pp. 66, 134. http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/rus%20documents/route%20utilisation%20strategies/east%20coast%20main%20line/east%20coast%20main%20line%20rus.pdf. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
- ^ Wolmar, Christian (2005). "On the wrong line: How ideology and incompetence wrecked Britain's railways". London: Aurum. ISBN 9781854109989.
- ^ "New services are just the ticket". BBC News. 13 October 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_yorkshire/4337682.stm. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
- ^ "Trains get 6,000 more seats a day". BBC News. 21 May 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_yorkshire/6676399.stm. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
- ^ Friends of the Earth proposal
- ^ a b c d e Pigott, Nick, ed (March 2010). "Flyovers to go ahead at Hitchin, Ipswich, Shaftholme". The Railway Magazine (London) 156 (1307): 9. ISSN 0033-8923.
- ^ "East Midlands Route Utilisation Strategy Draft for Consultation". Network Rail. 2009. http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/rus%20documents/route%20utilisation%20strategies/east%20midlands/east%20midlands%20rus%20draft%20for%20consultation.pdf.
- ^ a b Broadbent, Steve (10 February 2010). "Moving Yorkshire Forward". Rail (Peterborough) (637): p. 62.
- ^ Northumberland Railways - Goswick station
- ^ Railways Archive - Ministry report.
- ^ "Chronology of rail crashes". BBC News. 10 May 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/465475.stm. Retrieved 2009-12-28.
Main inter-regional railway lines in Great Britain Railway lines in the East of England Primary Secondary LocalAbbey Line · Birmingham to Peterborough Line · Bittern Line · Braintree Branch Line · Breckland Line · Crouch Valley Line · East Suffolk Line · Ely to Peterborough Line · Felixstowe Branch Line · Fen Line · Gainsborough Line · Hertford East Branch Line · Hitchin–Cambridge Line · Ipswich to Ely Line · Marston Vale Line · Mayflower Line · Peterborough to Lincoln Line · Shenfield to Southend Line · Sunshine Coast Line · Wherry Lines Railway lines in the East Midlands Primary LocalBirmingham to Peterborough Line · Buxton Line · Crewe-Derby Line · Derwent Valley Line · Doncaster to Lincoln Line · Glossop Line · Ivanhoe Line · Northampton Loop Line · Nottingham-Grantham Line · Nottingham-Lincoln Line · Oakham to Kettering Line · Poacher Line · Robin Hood Line · Sheffield to Lincoln Line Railway lines in London Primary SecondaryBexleyheath Line · Brighton Main Line · Caterham Line · Chatham Main Line · Chiltern Main Line · Crossrail (under construction) · Dartford Loop Line · Hertford Loop Line · Lea Valley Lines · London to Aylesbury Line · London, Tilbury and Southend Line · North Kent Line · Oxted Line · Shepperton Branch Line · South Eastern Main Line · South Western Main Line · Sutton & Mole Valley Lines · Tattenham Corner Line · Thameslink · Watford DC Line · Waterloo to Reading Line · West Anglia Main Line LocalBromley North Line · Catford Loop Line · Chessington Branch Line · Chingford Branch Line · Dudding Hill Line · East London Line · Epsom Downs Branch · Gospel Oak to Barking Line · Greenford Branch Line · Greenwich Line · Nunhead to Lewisham Link · Hayes Line · Hounslow Loop Line · Kingston Loop Line · Mid-Kent Line · New North Main Line · North London Line · Northern City Line · Romford to Upminster Line · South London Line · West London Line Disused Railway lines in the North East PrimaryEast Coast Main Line Local Railway lines in Yorkshire and the Humber Primary LocalAiredale Line · Askern Branch Line · Barton Line · Caldervale Line · Dearne Valley Line · Doncaster to Lincoln Line · Esk Valley Line · Hallam Line · Harrogate Line · Hope Valley Line · Huddersfield Line · Hull to York Line · Leeds to Morecambe Line · Leeds-Bradford Lines · Leeds-Northallerton Railway · Northallerton–Eaglescliffe Line · Penistone Line · Pontefract Line · Settle-Carlisle Line · Sheffield to Hull Line · Sheffield to Lincoln Line · Wakefield Line · Wharfedale Line · York & Selby Lines · Yorkshire Coast Line · York to Scarborough Line Railway lines in Scotland InterCity linesEast Coast · West Coast Overnight Services Main lines Glasgow commuter lines Edinburgh commuter lines Rural lines Future lines Completed projects High-speed railway lines East AsiaJapanChinaBeijing-Shanghai · Qinhuangdao–Shenyang · Hefei–Nanjing · Beijing–Tianjin · Qingdao–Jinan · Shijiazhuang–Taiyuan · Hefei–Wuhan · Ningbo–Taizhou–Wenzhou · Wenzhou–Fuzhou · Wuhan–Guangzhou · Zhengzhou–Xi'an · Fuzhou–Xiamen · Chengdu–Dujiangyan · Shanghai–Nanjing · Nanchang–Jiujiang · Shanghai–Hangzhou · Hainan Eastern Ring · Changchun–JilinSouth KoreaGyeongbu HSRTaiwan EuropeBelgiumFranceGermanyItalyNetherlandsNorwaySpainTurkeySincan–Eskişehir · Polatlı–KonyaUnited Kingdom North AmericaUnited States
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