Northampton Loop Line
Northampton Loop Line
A London Midland Class 350 local train calls at Long Buckby.
Overview Type Heavy rail System National Rail Status Operational Locale Northamptonshire
West Midlands (region)
Termini Roade (West Coast Main Line)
Rugby (West Coast Main Line)
Stations Two Operation Opened 1881 Owner Network Rail Operator(s) London Midland
Rolling stock Class 321
Class 350 "Desiro"
Class 390 "Pendolino"
Technical Line length Approx 23 miles (38 km) 3⁄4 No. of tracks Two Track gauge Standard gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) Electrification 25 kV 50hz AC OHLE Operating speed 75 mph (120 km/h) Northampton Loop LineLegend West Coast Main Line Rugby Hillmorton Junction Kilsby and Crick Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT) Long Buckby Althorp Park Church Brampton Northampton to Market Harborough line Northampton Northampton to Peterborough Line Bedford to Northampton Line Blisworth; Hunsbury Hill Tunnel Roade Hanslope Junction Castlethorpe Wolverton West Coast Main Line
The Northampton loop leaves the direct London-Birmingham line at Hanslope Junction, just north of Milton Keynes but continues to run alongside it until the two lines separate north of Roade at the northern end of Roade cutting, it then runs north east for several miles until it reaches Northampton station. After Northampton, the line verges to the north-west for around twenty miles, until it re-joins the direct London-Birmingham line at Hillmorton Junction at Rugby, just east of Rugby station. The line is a total of 23 miles (38 km) long. 3⁄4
Services and operations
The majority of passenger services on the line are provided by London Midland using Class 350 electric multiple units. As of 2011, the service consists of three 'semi fast' trains per hour between London Euston and Northampton, one of which continues as a through service to Birmingham New Street and one continues to Crewe. There is also an hourly local service from Northampton to Birmingham.
Virgin Trains provide a small number of fast Pendolino services to Northampton at the extremes of the day. But nearly all Virgin trains use the direct main line. Line speeds on the loop line are currently limited to 75 mph (120 km/h) compared to 125 mph (200 km/h) on the fast line, making the line unattractive to the routing of fast services. As of 2011, line speeds are expected to increase to 90mph once signalling improvements are in place north of Northampton up to Rugby.
Long Buckby; the one other station on the line, is served half hourly in each direction by the London-Birmingham/Northampton-Birmingham services. However the Crewe service does not call there except on Sundays.
The only stations that are currently operational on the route are Northampton and Long Buckby. Previously there were six stations between Hanslope Junction and Rugby, but only these two survive. The four stations that have closed were:
- Kilsby and Crick (closed 1960)
- Long Buckby
- Althorp Park (closed 1960)
- Church Brampton (closed 1931)
- Roade (closed 1964)
When the London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) was constructed in the 1830s, Northampton was by-passed, with the line running on high ground to the west via Kilsby Tunnel. Traditionally this was said to have been because Northampton landowners objected to having a railway run to the town. However, more recently, railway historians have argued that Northampton was by-passed because the gradients would have been too steep for early locomotives to easily cope with. Robert Stephenson the engineer of the London and Birmingham Railway was determined to avoid gradients steeper than 1:330. As Northampton is located in the Nene Valley, 120 feet (37 metres) lower than Blisworth, the closest point the L&BR came, connecting the town would have required gradients steeper than this.
This meant however that Northampton, despite being a large town, did not have direct rail links to London. A branch from the main line was built to Northampton in the early 1840s, the Northampton and Peterborough Railway, from Blisworth, which gave the town indirect rail links to London and Birmingham.
The loop line was constructed in the late 1870s by the London and North Western Railway and was opened in 1881 (by this stage locomotives had become far more powerful). It was constructed to improve rail services to Northampton and give the town a direct link to London. It also had the advantage of doubling capacity on the line from Roade to Rugby without the expense of widening the tunnel at Kilsby.
The line was electrified along with the rest of the WCML during the 1960s in the wake of the BR 1955 Modernisation Plan.
Two very similar railway accidents occurred on the Northampton loop in 1967 and 1969. The 1967 incident was near the village of Milton Malsor between Roade and Hunsbury Hill tunnel and the other in 1969 near the nortern end of Roade cutting.
- The Last Days Of Steam In Northamptonshire, by John M.C. Healy (1989) ISBN 0-86299-613-9
- Rugby's Railway Heritage, by Peter H Elliot (1985) ISBN 0-907917-06-2
- Kingscott, Geoffrey, Lost Railways Of Northamptonshire (2008), Countryside Books, ISBN 978-1-84674-108-1
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 the West Midlands Primary Secondary LocalBirmingham to Peterborough Line · Birmingham to Stratford Line · Birmingham to Worcester via Bromsgrove Line · Birmingham to Worcester via Kidderminster Line · South Staffordshire Line · Chase Line · Cotswold Line · Coventry to Leamington Line · Coventry to Nuneaton Line · Crewe-Derby Line · Cross-City Line · Leamington to Stratford Line · Northampton Loop Line · Rugby–Birmingham–Stafford Line · Shrewsbury to Chester Line · Stafford to Manchester Line · Stourbridge Town Branch Line · Walsall to Wolverhampton Line · Welsh Marches Line · Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury Line
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