Franchise(s):Not subject to franchising
Main region(s):All 1966 - 1996
Other region(s):All
Fleet size:?
Stations called at:?
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 nameEdit

British Rail first used the term Inter-City in 1950 as the name of a train running between London and Wolverhampton. 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.[citation needed]


InterCity was divided into the following divisions:

  • Cross-Country: Services between city pairs that use a combination of the various main lines, but in general do not call at any London terminus; many of these served the Cross-Country Route.

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


It operated High Speed Trains under the brand-name "Inter-City 125", as well as InterCity 225s for the locomotive-hauled 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 stockEdit

File:VT at Crewe station 2000.png

East Coast - InterCity 125 HSTs: Typically 2 first class, a Restaurant Buffet and 5 standard class MkIII carriages with a class 43 power car at each end. These replaced class 55 "Deltics" in 1981. Intercity 225: A Class 91 Electric Locomotive, 9 MkIV coaches and a Driving Van Trailer operating in push-pull mode introduced in 1990. This saw most of the HSTs transferred to Great Western and Cross-Country routes.

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. All west coast trains operated in push-pull mode with a Driving Van Trailer at the London end of the train. Before DVTs were introduced larger fleets of classes 81-85 were used to haul the trains conventionally. Class 50s operated north of Preston until electrification was completed in 1977.

Scot-Rail - Class 26 and 27 locomotives top and tailing rakes of MkII carriages. These were later replaced by Class 47s and DBSOs before subsequently being replaced by class 158s. Transferred to Provincial Sector.

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 DMUs.

Great Eastern - 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 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 that operated north of Birmingham on the West Coast main line switched to electric traction using class 86 and class 90 locomotives. DVTs were not used.

Trans-Pennine - Class 45 and 47s hauling MkI and MkII carriages. Route subsequently became part of Provincial during sectorisation and class 158s were introduced.

Gatwick Express - Originally used dedicated 4-VEP Electric Multiple Units. Class 73 Dual mode locomotives hauling MkII coaches and a modified class 414 driving motor carriage were introduced in 1984 in push-pull mode.

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

Formations of HST and push pull train sets would always place the Driving Van at the London end of the train, then 2 or 3 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 maintemance costs and reduced the amount of locomotives and carriages needed to operate the services.

Main DestinationsEdit

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

West Coast Mainline: London Euston, Watford Junction, Milton Keynes Central, 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 Mainline: London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Bath Spa, Bristol Parkway, Bristol Temple Meads, 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 Mainline: 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, Exeter St. David's, Taunton, Bristol Temple Meads, Bristol Parkway, Cardiff Central, London Paddington, Poole, Bournemouth, Southampton, Brighton, Gatwick Airport, Reading, Oxford, Cheltenham Spa, Coventry, Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Crewe, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly, Runcorn, Liverpool Lime Street, Preston, Blackpool North, Carlisle, Glasgow Central, Derby, Sheffield, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy, Dundee, Arbroath, Aberdeen.

Great Eastern Mainline: London Liverpool Street, Chelmsford, Colchester, Manningtree, Ipswich, Stowmarket, Diss, Norwich. Some trains did terminate at Harwich International for the ferries at Harwich International Port


See also: British Rail corporate liveries
File:British Rail Mk 3 M12043 at Marylebone A.jpg

The original InterCity livery consisted of standard British Rail corporate blue and grey with the brand "Inter-City" added in white lettering on each coach. The power cars at each end of Inter-City 125 trains had extensive yellow panels, hence the nickname "flying bananas". A separate InterCity livery was introduced in 1986 after sectorisation, which consisted of dark grey on white with a red stripe. There were several variations:

  • Executive - introduced in 1984, based on the APT-P livery. It consisted of a dark grey upper body, an off-white lower body, and horizontal red and white below-window bodyside stripes. On HSTs, half-yellow front ends wrapped around the lower cab ends. InterCity branding was on the upper grey body, with white numbers carried on the upper grey cabside.
  • ScotRail - as Executive livery, but with red stripe replaced by a light blue stripe, and ScotRail branding.
  • Mainline - introduced in 1988. As Executive livery, but minus the branding and with full-yellow front ends.
  • Swallow - final version, introduced in 1989. As Mainline livery, but with white lower body (on locomotives), half-yellow front end, InterCity branding and Swallow logo on upper grey bodyside, and black lower cabside numbers.

The success of the HST trains and the investment in electrification schemes, resulting in shorter and more reliable journey times, coupled to innovative marketing led to InterCity becoming one of the great successes for British Rail in the 1980s. Patronage increased markedly, and it soon became the most profitable part of the state-owned rail operator, and cross-subsidisation from InterCity's profits was used to safeguard the future of unprofitable (but necessary) rural routes which had been under threat from closure since the Beeching Axe of the 1960s.


After the privatisation of British Rail, InterCity trains were divided up into several franchises. The Caledonian Sleeper service was transferred to ScotRail, now First ScotRail. 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".

Divisions Original Franchise Currently
East Coast GNER Then passed to National Express East Coast, renationalised as East Coast in 2009
West Coast Virgin Trains Remained unchanged
Midland Midland Mainline Then passed to East Midlands Trains
Great Western Great Western Trains Renamed First Great Western. Also operates Night Riviera from London to Penzance
Gatwick Express Gatwick Express Merged into Southern and now a sub-brand
CrossCountry Virgin Cross Country Then passed to CrossCountry
Great Eastern Anglia Railways Then merged into National Express East Anglia


simple:InterCity (British Rail)