The West Coast Main Line (WCML) is one of the most important railway corridors in the United Kingdom, connecting the major cities of London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow. 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, with branches diverging to Northampton, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, totalling a route mileage of 700 miles (1,127 km). Services from London to North Wales and Edinburgh also run via the WCML; however the main London-Edinburgh route is the East Coast Main Line. In addition, several sections of the WCML form part of the suburban railway systems in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, with many more smaller commuter stations, as well as providing links to more rural towns.
It is one of the busiest freight routes in Europe, carrying 40% of all UK rail freight traffic. The line is the principal rail freight corridor linking the European mainland (via the Channel Tunnel) through London and South East England to the West Midlands, North West England and Scotland. The line has been declared a strategic European route and designated a priority Trans-European Networks (TENS) route.
Much of the line has a maximum speed of 125 mph (201 km/h), meeting the European Union's definition of an upgraded high-speed line, although only Class 390 Pendolinos and Class 221 Super Voyagers with tilting mechanisms operated by Virgin Trains travel at that speed. Other traffic is limited to 110 mph (177 km/h).
The core section between London Euston and Glasgow Central is 399-mile (642 km) long, with principal InterCity stations at Milton Keynes Central, Rugby, Stafford, Crewe, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme, Penrith and Carlisle.
The central core has branches serving the major towns and cities of Northampton, Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stockport, Manchester, Runcorn, and Liverpool; there is also a link to Edinburgh, but this is not the direct route between London and Edinburgh.