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Birmingham to Peterborough Line

Birmingham to Peterborough Line
Stansted train at Melton Mowbray
Type Heavy rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale East of England
East Midlands
West Midlands
Termini Birmingham New Street
Stations 13
Opened 1846
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) CrossCountry
East Midlands Trains
GB Railfreight
Freightliner Group
Character Secondary[1]
Rolling stock Class 156 "Sprinter"
Class 158 "Sprinter"
Class 170 "Turbostar"
Class 222 "Meridian"
Class 43/HST
No. of tracks 2
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Loading gauge W10
Operating speed less than 100mph
Route map
Cross-City Line
Birmingham New Street
Curzon Street
Cross-City Line
Camp Hill Line
Birmingham Freightliner Terminal
(site of Lawley Street station)
Aston-Stechford line
Bromford Bridge
M6 motorway
Castle Bromwich
Sutton Park Line
Water Orton
Cross Country Route
Coleshill Parkway
Hams Hall Freight Terminal
Stonebridge Railway
Whitacre Junction
Freight line to Kingsbury Junction
Daw Mill Colliery
Arley and Fillongley
Arley Colliery Sidings
Workmen's Platform
Stockingford Colliery Branch
Nuneaton Abbey Street
Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway
Nuneaton North Chord
Coventry to Nuneaton Line
Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway
M69 motorway
Croft Quarry
M1 motorway
Great Central Main Line
Glen Parva
South Wigston
Leicester-Rugby line
Midland Main Line
Leicester and Swannington Railway
Welford Road
Humberstone Road
Great Northern Railway
Humberstone Road Junction
Midland Main Line
Queniborough (circa 1944)
Old Dalby Test Track
Great Northern and
London and North Western Joint Railway
Melton Mowbray
Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway
Rutland Railway Museum
Oakham to Kettering Line
Seaton branch
Ketton and Collyweston
Ketton Cement Works
A1 road
Stamford East
Essendine branch
Wansford branch
Uffington and Barnack
Bainton Gate
East Coast Main Line
Peterborough to Lincoln Line
Peterborough-Ely Line
East Coast Main Line

The Birmingham to Peterborough Line is a cross-country railway line in the United Kingdom, linking Birmingham, Leicester and Peterborough, via Nuneaton and Oakham.[1]

Since the Beeching Axe railway closures in the 1960s, it is the only direct railway link between the West Midlands and the East of England. The line is important for cross-country passenger services, East of Peterborough, the route gives access from the Midlands to various locations in the east of England, such as Ely, Cambridge and Stansted Airport via the West Anglia lines. It is also strategically important for freight, as it allows container trains from the Port of Felixstowe to travel to the Midlands and beyond.


  • History 1
  • Services 2
  • Current developments 3
    • Felixstowe and Nuneaton freight capacity scheme 3.1
    • Peterborough to Nuneaton Gauge (W10) 3.2
    • Nuneaton North Chord 3.3
  • References 4
  • Sources 5


The present route is an amalgamation of lines that were built by separate companies. The sections were:

The entire route became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in the 1923 grouping, and the LMS was nationalised on 1 January 1948 as part of British Railways.

Most Birmingham-Leicester passenger trains were taken over by diesel units from 14 April 1958, taking about 79 minutes between the two cities.[4]

In 1977 the Parliamentary Select Committee on Nationalised Industries recommended considering electrification of more of Britain's rail network.[5] By 1979 BR presented a range of options to do so by 2000,[6] some of which included the Birmingham to Peterborough Line.[7] Under the 1979–90 Conservative governments that succeeded the 1976–79 Labour government, the proposal was not implemented.

The route was privatised in the 1990s as part of Railtrack and is now part of Network Rail.


Most passenger services are provided by CrossCountry. Some local trains east of Leicester are operated by East Midlands Trains (EMT). Freight trains use the route between the Birmingham Freightliner Terminal and the Port of Felixstowe and other destinations.

In the past, longer-distance services using a mixture of Sprinter trains used the line, before being split up into smaller routes for various reasons such as performance and franchising. The former routes included:

The service in 2011 consists of two trains per hour between Birmingham and Leicester, one of the two calling at limited stops to Leicester and continuing to Stansted Airport via Peterborough, Ely and Cambridge. EMT operates a handful of services along the section between Syston and Peterborough (serving Melton Mowbray and Oakham) as part of its London (St Pancras) service via Corby. In addition, there are a few services between Nottingham and Norwich operated by EMT which also serve Stamford.

Cross Country uses exclusively Class 170 units for its service, while EMT uses either Class 158 or Class 156 trains for its local services and Class 222 for London services.

Current developments

Felixstowe and Nuneaton freight capacity scheme

Route for Felixstowe to Nuneaton freight capacity scheme
A container train from Nuneaton approaches Water Orton station
Felixstowe and Nuneaton freight capacity scheme
Proposer Network Rail
Cost estimate £291 million
Completion date 2014

This is a large project with a number of elements that will allow more railfreight traffic between the Haven ports and the Midlands. The work was prompted by the 'Felixstowe South' expansion at the Port of Felixstowe. It is also in response to the predicted increase in the number of high-cube (Hi-cube) shipping containers arriving at the ports that cannot currently be accommodated on the route. The percentage of high-cube containers is expected to increase from 30% in 2007 to 50% in 2012. Without loading gauge enhancement these larger containers would have to be transported by road or via a longer rail route via London that is already operating at capacity.[8] Network Rail completed the gauge enhancement from Ipswich to Peterborough in 2008.[9] Work will take place in three phases:

  • Phase 1
    • Nuneaton North Chord (see below)[10]
    • Peterborough to Nuneaton Gauge (W10) (see below)[10]
  • Phase 2a[10]
  • Phase 2b
    • Capacity enhancement Peterborough to Nuneaton during CP5[10]

The work, detailed in the Network Rail Freight Route Utilisation Strategy, should be completed by 2014.[11] at an estimated cost of £291 million.[10]

The government is providing £80 million[12] and it will also receive £5 million from Network Rail and £1 million from the East of England Development Agency.[13] It has been estimated that the scheme would take 225,000 lorries off the road.[14]

In February 2010 Network Rail confirmed that it would construct the 1 km 'Bacon Chord' in Ipswich to allow trains to travel between the East Suffolk Line and the Ipswich to Ely Line without reversing into Ipswich Station and to also perform work to increase capacity between Ely to Peterborough Line at a total cost of £50m.[15] It was stated that the work would 'take 750,000 lorries off the roads'.[15]

Peterborough to Nuneaton Gauge (W10)

Enhancement of a section of the Birmingham to Peterborough Line involving the reconstruction of 14 bridges, 11 tracking lowering/slewing schemes and one accommodation bridge. The cost is estimated at £40.5 million.[10] The West Coast Main Line is already cleared to W10 and the route from Nuneaton to Birmingham is already cleared to W12.[16] W10 gauge clearance was achieved on 4 April 2011 and GBRf trains requiring W10 gauge began using the route that day.

Nuneaton North Chord

The Nuneaton North Chord was completed and opened on 15 November 2012.[17] The chord allows freight traffic approaching Nuneaton from Felixstowe via the Birmingham-Peterborough Line to proceed north on the West Coast Main Line without conflicting with southbound main-line trains.[18] It consists of a one-mile chord from the existing flyover over the West Coast Main Line to join the line to the north.[19] The cost of this work was £25.6 million.[10] A Transport & Works Act Order for the Nuneaton North Chord was granted by the Secretary of State for Transport in July 2010.[20] Work began in mid-2011.[18]


  1. ^ a b "Route 19 - Midland Main Line and East Midlands" (PDF).  
  2. ^ Pixton, B (2005). Birmingham-Derby: Portrait of a Famous Route. Runpast Publishing. p. not cited. 
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Railway Magazine June 1958 p. 432
  5. ^ Anonymous Winter 1979, p. 0.
  6. ^ Anonymous Winter 1979, p. 2.
  7. ^ Anonymous Winter 1979, p. 8.
  8. ^ "£132m boost for rail freight". 
  9. ^ a b "Future development". Port of Felixstowe. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Presentation to Regional Transport Forum". Network Rail. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  11. ^ "Enhancements programme: statement of scope, outputs and milestones" (PDF).  
  12. ^ "Government puts £132M into four rail freight schemes". New Civil Engineer. 30 October 2007.  (subscription required)
  13. ^ "Freight line should boost port". Ipswich Star. 21 November 2007. 
  14. ^ "Rail plan will mean 225,000 fewer HGVs". Evening Telegraph (Peterborough). 9 May 2008. 
  15. ^ a b "£50m rail upgrade gets the go ahead". East Anglian Daily Times (Ipswich). 5 February 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  16. ^ "Felixstowe – Nuneaton". 
  17. ^ "Nuneaton North chord freight line now open" (Press release). Network Rail. 15 November 2012. 
  18. ^ a b "Work starts on Nuneaton chord". Rail (Peterborough). 10 August 2011. p. 20. 
  19. ^ "Nuneaton North Chord". Network Rail. Retrieved 26 January 2011. 
  20. ^ "The Network Rail (Nuneaton North Chord) Order Plans and Sections" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 


  • Railway Electrification.  
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