IEP Intercity Express Train Routes

Overview of routes on IEP services – to the West with GWR and on the East Coast with Virgin Trains. 

In October of 2017 the first scheduled service GWR IEP trains started operations on GWR routes between Bristol and London, and subsequently on into Wales. GWR extended their services to include the Cotswold Line routes taking in such stations as Worcester, Evesham, Honeybourne, Oxford, Reading, and ultimately London Paddington.

Virgin’s Azuma IEP will run on East Coast Main Line routes from late 2018.

As the IEPs are replacing existing older intercity express trains, it’s unlikely that any routes will change, though clearly there are likely to be some amendments to timetables and extensions of existing services.


IEP Trains For The Great Western and East Coast Routes


In preparation for the arrival of the IEP’s on the UK’s western and eastern rail routes, the UK government is making considerable investment in track and station improvements. Both changes to platform length and rail gauge clearance are under scrutiny, with of course a major effort to electrify specific sections of track.

Great Western Rail Routes

Trains on these routes are managed by GWR. Running from London’s super rail hub at Paddington out towards the Western and Southwestern regions of the UK, they serve such major cities as Bristol and Cardiff in South Wales, and large towns such as Oxford, Newbury, and Swansea. The first trains started operating in October 2017, were followed by Cotswold Line services in January 2018, and it may be another a year before stations on all GWR routes are covered. 

Electrification on the GWML allows the IEP’s to run as far as possible under electric power with trains switching seemlessly to diesel power to continue journeys to unelectrified sections of track – a good example of this being on routes into the West Country where the power switchover takes place at Temple Meads/Bristol.

East Coast Main Line Routes

East Coast routes (click on the map to the right) run out of the recently refurbished King’s Cross station taking commuters towards the Northern areas of the UK via towns and cities like Leeds, Stevenage, Peterborough, York, Wakefield, Westgate, Newcastle, and Edinburgh. The East Coast IEP’s will be seen in passenger service in 2018.

Improvements in services can be anticipated, with Virgin already having confirmed a roughly 2 hours and 40 minutes Harrogate direct service via Leeds from Kings Cross London.

Virgin have got the go ahead from the ORR (Office of Rail and Road) to increase the current number of trains running this ECML route to 14 daily from May 2019, with just a single stop at Horsforth on the Leeds-Harrogate section.

The trains will be known as the Virgin Azuma fleet. In the lead up to to 2020, the IEPs should have further enhanced Virgin’s East Coast rail services with improved connections to places such as Middlesborough, Huddersfield, Lincoln, and Bradford. All of these can expect additional trains on the routes. 

For full details of current services and to keep up to date on any route changes, be sure to check out the Great Western Rail and East Coast Main Line route pages.

New Routes

From 2019 onwards to 2043, studies have shown an expected increase in rail travelers throughout the UK, and especially on the Western Region routes where the first IEP trains will be running. Nothing has been decided yet, but we could expect a number of different investigations to take place into route viability and/or trains per hour increases:

• Southampton via Heathrow

• New junctions at Basingstoke and Southcote Junction

• Brighton to Old Oak Common

• Increases in trains per hour on the widely used Paddington-Reading and Reading-Paddington runs, along with carriage increases to up to 12 carriages per train

• Similar increases on Oxford, Newbury, and Swindon services into Paddington


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