InterCity (British Rail)

This article is about the InterCity brand used by British Rail from 1966 to 1997. For the train named “The Inter-City” running on British Rail from 1950, see The Inter-City. For intercity rail in the UK today, see Inter-city rail in the United Kingdom.

A High Speed Train power car (loco) and coach in InterCity swallow livery in Penzance.
Franchise(s): Not subject to franchising
Main Region(s): All 1966 - 1996
Other Region(s): All
Fleet size: 180
Stations called at: 190
Parent company: British Rail

InterCity (or, in the earliest days, the hyphenated Inter-City) was introduced by British Rail in 1966 as a brand-name for its long-haul express passenger services (see British Rail brand names for a full history).

In 1986 the British Railways Board divided its operations into a number of sectors (sectorisation). The sector responsible for long-distance express trains assumed the brand-name InterCity, although many routes that were previously operated as InterCity services were assigned to other sectors (e.g., London to King's Lynn services were transferred to the commuter sector Network SouthEast).

Origins of the InterCity brand name

British Rail first used the term Inter-City in 1950 as the name of a train running between London (Paddington) and Wolverhampton (Low Level, now closed). This was part of an overall policy of introducing new train names in the post WWII period.

The name was applied to the business express which ran from London in the morning and returned in the afternoon, and became part of the railway lore of the West Midlands. West Midlands residents always believed that it was the success of this one train that led to the adoption of the name as a British Rail brand in 1966.[1] This belief was supported by the timeline: in 1966 The Inter-City was heading towards its ultimate demise in 1967, when the mainline London-West Midlands service was consolidated into the newly electrified route via Rugby.

Profitable Operations

Following sectorisation of British Rail, InterCity became profitable. InterCity became one of Britain’s top 150 companies with civilised city centre to city centre travel across the nation from Aberdeen and Inverness in the north to Poole and Penzance in the south.[2]


InterCity was divided into the following divisions:

The InterCity sector was also responsible for Motorail services to and from London Kensington Olympia.


InterCity operated High Speed Trains under the brand-name "InterCity 125", as well as InterCity 225s for the electric high-speed trains operated on the East Coast route. The "125" referred to the trains' top speed in miles per hour (mph), equivalent to 201 km/h, whereas "225" referred to the intended top speed in km/h (equivalent to 140 mph) and for signalling reasons their actual speed limit was the same 125 mph. InterCity 250 was the name given by InterCity to the proposed upgrade of the West Coast Main Line in the early 1990s. The existing trains operating on the West Coast were intended to be marketed under the brand InterCity 175, again referring to those trains top operating speed of 110 mph roughly equivalent to 175 km/h, although this idea was subsequently dropped.

All InterCity day services ran with a buffet car and the majority ran at speeds of 100 mph or above. If expresses on other sectors are included, there was a period in the early 1990s when British Rail operated more 100 mph services per day than any other country. Special discounted fares, including the Super Advance and the APEX, were available on InterCity if booked ahead.

Rolling stock

A Virgin Trains' MK 3 carriage at Crewe station in 2000. It is in its former Intercity livery.

InterCity 125 HST services were first introduced in 1976 on the Great Western Main Line from London to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea. Formations consisted of 2 first-class, a Restaurant Buffet and 4 standard-class MkIII carriages with a Class 43 power car at each end.

East Coast - InterCity 125 HST services started in 1977: Typically 2 first-class, a Restaurant Kitchen, Buffet Standard and 4 standard-class British Rail Mark 3 carriages with a Class 43 power car at each end. These progressively replaced Class 55 "Deltics" which were finally withdrawn in 1981. Later on, as catering needs changed, the Restaurant Kitchen was replaced by a fifth standard-class coach. InterCity 225: A Class 91 Electric Locomotive, 9 MkIV coaches and a Driving Van Trailer (DVT) operating in push-pull mode introduced in 1990 with electrification completed in 1991. This saw most of the HSTs transferred to Great Western and Cross-Country routes but some remained for the runs to/from Aberdeen & Inverness.

West Coast - Euston to Wolverhampton used Class 86 electric locomotives hauling MkII coaches and operated at 100 mph. Euston to Glasgow services used Class 87 and Class 90 locomotives hauling MkIII coaches and operated at 110 mph. Euston to Holyhead services used Class 47 hauled MkII or HSTs. From 1988, West Coast trains operated in push-pull mode with a DVT at the London end of the train. Before DVTs were introduced, larger fleets of Classes 81-87 were used to haul the trains conventionally. Class 50s operated in pairs north of Preston until electrification was completed in 1974.

Great Western - Intercity 125s from new which replaced Class 52s. Services were also operated by MkII carriages hauled by Class 47s and 50s. These trains were transferred to Network SouthEast and replaced by Class 165 'Thames Turbo' DMUs.

Anglia - Class 86 Electrics hauling MkI and MkII carriages using MkII DBSOs in push-pull mode. Class 47s were used before electrification in 1987. Some routes transferred to Network SouthEast leaving London-Norwich and the London-Harwich boat-train with InterCity.

Cross Country - Intercity 125s but with only one First-class carriage, and standard-class seats in the buffet car replaced the restaurant. Conventionally hauled MkII carriages using Class 47 diesel locomotives. Services operating north of Birmingham on the West Coast main line switched to electric traction using Class 86 and Class 90 locomotives. DVTs were not used.

Midland Mainline - Class 45, 46 and 47 locomotives hauling MkI and MkII carriages. HSTs replaced the loco-hauled trains in the 1980s.

Gatwick Express - Originally used dedicated Class 423 Electric Multiple Units as part of the Southern Region. Prior to being transferred to InterCity the service ran from London Victoria calling at Clapham Junction, East Croydon (sometimes via Redhill) and Gatwick Airport running via Haywards Heath to Brighton. The service was transferred to InterCity with Class 73 electro-diesel locomotives (electric third-rail current or diesel-powered) hauling MkII coaches and a modified Class 414 driving motor carriage were introduced in 1984 in push-pull mode. When InterCity took over the service just served London Victoria and Gatwick Airport.

Sleepers - Originally consisted of MkI or MkII seating coaches with MkI sleeper cars. MkIII sleeper cars replaced the MkIs in the early 1980s. DVTs were not used. The Night Riviera (Paddington-Penzance) was hauled by Class 47s while the Euston-Scotland sleepers were usually hauled by Class 86, 87 or 90 electric locomotives as far as Edinburgh & Glasgow. The sections north of Edinburgh were hauled by Class 37 or 47 diesel locomotives to/from Aberdeen & Inverness while the section to/from Fort William was hauled by Class 37s. The London Euston to Stranraer Harbour service worked on the same basis with a change from electric to diesel at Carlisle for example. The service to Holyhead saw locomotive changes at Crewe.

Train formation

Formations of HST and push–pull train sets would always place the driving van at the London end of the train, then two or three 1st-class carriages, restaurant and buffet car, 5 standard-class carriages and the locomotive would always be at the country end of the train. The only exception was the London to Norwich route. As Crown Point depot is to the south of Norwich station, the locomotives worked from the London end as this facilitated easier loco changing at Norwich if necessary. Operating trains in push-pull mode eliminated the requirement to attach locos at terminus stations in order to turn the trains around. This also saved maintenance costs and reduced the number of locomotives and carriages needed to operate the services.

Main destinations

East Coast Main Line: London Kings Cross, Stevenage, Peterborough, Grantham, Newark North Gate, Retford, Doncaster, Hull, Wakefield Westgate, Leeds, York, Northallerton Darlington, Durham, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Edinburgh, Glasgow Central, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen, Inverness.

West Coast Main Line: London Euston, Watford Junction, Bletchley, Milton Keynes Central (opened 1982), Rugby, Coventry, Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly, Runcorn, Liverpool Lime Street, Llandudno Junction, Bangor, Holyhead, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme: The Lake District, Carlisle, Motherwell, Glasgow Central.

Great Western Main Line: London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Bath Spa, Bristol Parkway, Bristol Temple Meads, Weston-super-Mare, Newport, Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway, Neath, Swansea, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St. David's, Newton Abbot, Paignton, Totnes, Plymouth, Bodmin Parkway, St. Austell, Truro, Penzance.

Midland Main Line: London St. Pancras, Luton, Bedford, Wellingborough, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Scarborough.

Cross Country Route: Penzance, Truro, St. Austell, Plymouth, Totnes, Paignton, Torquay, Newton Abbot, Exeter St. David's, Taunton, Bristol Temple Meads, Bristol Parkway, Cardiff Central, Newport, London Paddington, Poole, Bournemouth, Southampton, Brighton, Gatwick Airport, Reading, Oxford, Gloucester, Cheltenham Spa, Coventry, Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Crewe, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Bolton, Hartford, Runcorn, Liverpool Lime Street, St Helens Central Preston, Blackpool North, Lancaster, Oxenholme: Lake District, Penrith, Carlisle, Motherwell, Glasgow Central, Derby, Sheffield, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy, Dundee, Arbroath, Aberdeen.

Great Eastern Main Line: London Liverpool Street, Chelmsford, Colchester, Manningtree, Harwich International (for the ferry to Hook of Holland), Ipswich, Stowmarket, Diss, Norwich.

Gatwick Express: London Victoria, Gatwick Airport.


Original British Rail Inter-City livery

British Rail introduced a new corporate livery in 1965. The basic blue colour was relieved on long-distance coaches by a light grey panel around the windows. The fronts of locomotives and multiple-unit trains were painted yellow to improve visibility, and this was often wrapped around on to the side in varying amounts.[3] This was therefore the colour scheme used by the new Inter-City services when they were launched the following year. Coaches used on these routes later had a white 'Inter-City' logo added to the blue area near the door at the left end of each side. This was extended to show the purpose of specialist vehicles such as 'Inter-City Sleeper'.[4]

When the production High Speed Train (HST) sets entered service in 1976, they too carried the blue and grey livery. The coaches carried an 'Inter-City 125' logo by the left-hand door. The part of the power car nearest the passenger coaches was also painted blue and grey, but most of the power car was painted yellow with a wide blue panel which lined up with the grey on the coaches. On this blue panel was a large 'Inter-City 125' logo, albeit in outline rather than solid white.[5]

Executive livery

The first production Advanced Passenger Train was unveiled on 7 June 1978. It was painted in a new livery with dark grey upper body and light grey lower body separated by wide white and red bands. The roof was white to reduce solar heating, and a large 'InterCity APT' logotype was positioned on the dark grey section of the power cars – 'InterCity' had no hyphen and was solid white but the 'APT' was an outline.[6] A new 'Executive' service was part of the relaunch of the InterCity Sector on 3 October 1983. This saw the coaches of the Manchester Pullman and two HSTs refurbished and repainted experimentally into the same colour scheme as the APT. The HSTs continued to carry an outline 'InterCity 125' logotype (now with no hyphen) and the large yellow area on the power car that had been a feature of the blue and grey livery. The logotype on coaches was positioned as before but changed to black.[7] By May 1984 other coaches and locomotives were entering service in the dark and light grey livery. 87012 Coeur de Lion entered service with black numbers on the cab side but no logo. 73123 Gatwick Express had white numbers and a large double arrow logo on the dark grey of its bodyside, although the new Gatwick Express service was not operated by the InterCity Sector.[8] In use there were problems with the light colour showing dirt on the diesel HSTs and so dark grey was extended from the roof to cover louvres near the top of the power car body, and the logotype was changed from an outline to solid white to make it more striking.[9] The use of the term 'Executive' was dropped in 1985 and the livery was then referred to as just 'InterCity'.[4]

Swallow livery

A new logotype was introduced on 1 May 1987 as part of InterCity's 21st anniversary celebrations. The colours were unchanged (although locomotives often carried less yellow than before) but locomotives, carriages and advertising received a new logotype. The word INTERCITY was presented in italic, serif upper case letters. A new swallow logo 'to symbolise grace and speed' replaced the double arrow. It was announced that the new branding would appear on 'all InterCity trains that meet high quality standards'.[10] The logotype was omitted from some older locomotives that were otherwise carrying InterCity livery, although some locomotives that predominantly worked in Scotland were given a ScotRail logotype.[11]

InterCity 125 in InterCity Executive livery. 
Older Class 86 with no InterCity branding. 
Class 91 in InterCity livery with INTERCITY and Swallow. 
The direct InterCity from Shrewsbury to London Euston with a DVT and mailbags delivering the Royal Mail at a time when British Rail ran the network. 


After the privatisation of British Rail, InterCity trains were divided up into several franchises. The Caledonian Sleeper service was transferred to ScotRail, then First ScotRail and now Serco. Initial plans were for the train operating companies to co-operate to continue providing a consistent InterCity network, but disagreements meant this did not occur. Great Western Trains registered the term as a British trademark and applied it to its High Speed coaches, but the term fell into disuse before Great Western was bought by FirstGroup in 1998. Occasional services are run using 'Inter-City' branded coaches, usually where additional rolling stock has been hired, but the term is not in official use by train operators. However, it should be noted that the planned upgrade to many of Britain's former-InterCity lines has been termed "Intercity Express Programme".

In 2013, Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Maria Eagle was reported as intending to propose reviving the InterCity brand.[12]

Franchise Name Original Franchise Subsequently and Currently Franchised Next Planned Franchise Change[13]
East Coast GNER Then passed to National Express East Coast (NXEC), but returned to temporary public ownership on 14 November 2009, following termination of the NXEC franchise when it was taken over by Directly Operated Railways as East Coast[14] Now operated by Virgin Trains East Coast. March 2023
West Coast Virgin Trains Incumbent until 8 December 2012. Virgin Trains have been granted a 23-month extension to their franchise following government withdrawal of InterCity West Coast contract from FirstGroup in October 2012. 2018-Apr
East Midlands Midland Mainline Then passed to Stagecoach operating as East Midlands Trains 2018-Mar
Great Western Great Western Trains Renamed First Great Western in 1998, and later Great Western Railway in 2015. Also operates Night Riviera from London Paddington to Penzance. 2019-Mar
Gatwick Express Gatwick Express Merged into the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise and now a sub-brand 2021-Sept
Cross Country Virgin CrossCountry Then passed to Arriva UK Trains operating as CrossCountry 2019 Oct
Great Eastern Anglia Railways Merged into National Express East Anglia, then passed onto Abellio Greater Anglia and renamed it again as Greater Anglia in October 2016. 2025
Caledonian Sleeper Serco Caledonian Sleepers Limited Standalone franchise since 31 March 2015, formerly a sub-brand of ScotRail from 31 March 1997 to 31 March 2015. 31 March 2030

See also


  1. "The British Railways era" (PDF). Virgin Trains. p. 24. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
  2. "The fall and rise of Britain's railways". Rail Staff News. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  3. Haresnape, Brian (1979). British Rail 1948–1978: a journey by design. Shepperton: Ian Allan. pp. 119–121. ISBN 0-7110-0982-1.
  4. 1 2 Parkin, Keith (1991). British Railways Mark 1 Coaches. Truro: Pendragon Books. pp. 68–69. ISBN 0-906899-49-4.
  5. "Inter-City 125 Into Service". Modern Railways. Vol. 33 no. 337. Ian Allan. October 1976. ISSN 0026-8356.
  6. "First impressions of ATP-P". Modern Railways. Vol. 35 no. 359. Ian Allan. August 1978. pp. 354–358. ISSN 0026-8356.
  7. "The InterCity relaunch". Modern Railways. Vol. 40 no. 423. Ian Allan. December 1983. pp. 635–638. ISSN 0026-8356.
  8. Modern Railways. Vol. 41 no. 430. Ian Allan. July 1984. pp. 347, 385. ISSN 0026-8356. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. Haresnape, Brian (June 1984). "A Journey By Design". Modern Railways. Vol. 41 no. 429. Ian Allan. pp. 299–300. ISSN 0026-8356.
  10. "The InterCity relaunch". Modern Railways. Vol. 44 no. 465. Ian Allan. June 1987. p. 285. ISSN 0026-8356.
  11. "The InterCity relaunch". Modern Railways. Vol. 43 no. 453. Ian Allan. June 1986. pp. 336–337. ISSN 0026-8356.
  12. Wintour, Patrick (19 September 2013). "Labour to call for state rail company to be allowed to bid for east coast mainline". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  13. "Rail Franchise Schedule" (PDF). Dept for Transport. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  14. Report and Financial Statements (PDF). Directly Operated Railways. 2013. p. 8.

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Trains in InterCity Sector livery.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/23/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.