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National Rail

The railway network in the United Kingdom is the world’s oldest, having opened in 1825.  Today, the network extends 3,273 miles (5,268 kilometers) across Great Britain.  The railways were originally privately owned but following mergers during World War II, the “big four” were transferred to the public sector in 1948, becoming known as British Railways and later British Rail.  In the 1990s, the network was privatized again.  The stations and infrastructure are now owned by National Rail, a state-owned,not-for-dividend company, but the individual passenger services are tendered out to about twenty different private companies.

National Rail EMUs

The first electric trains in the UK entered service in 1893, and today, more than two-thirds of the national rail services are operated by electric MU trains.


Eurostar is the high speed service that is jointly operated by the British, French, and Belgian rail systems, operating between London and Paris and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel. Service began on November 14, 1994, operating from London-Waterloo to Paris Gare du Nord. Service was later added from London to Brussels South Station (Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid). On November 14, 2007, the London terminal was moved to St. Pancras Station, following the completion of the High Speed 1 line. Formerly, Eurostar trains used conventional tracks in England, which resulted in a slower trip. Currently, a nonstop trip on the Eurostar from London to Paris takes 2:15, and a nonstop London to Brussels trip takes 1:51.

National Rail DMUs

About 23 percent of the passenger rail cars used on the British national railway network are DMUs.

National Rail Diesel Locomotives

The Class 43 diesel locomotive is the world's fastest diesel locomotive. It is capable of reaching speeds of 148 MPH.

West Coast Railway Company

West Coast Railway Company (WCR) has been a licensed Train Operating Company since 1998, when it became the first privately owned company to obtain a license, under rail privatization, allowing the Company to coordinate and run its own trains without third-party involvement. Based at Carnforth, Lancashire, it currently operates three regular timetabled services, which, together with its other charter operations, amount to approximately 400 train operations per year WCR renamed one of its steam locomotives, the "Olton Hall," and repainted it for use in the Harry Potter films. "Olton Hall" is seen pulling the Hogwarts Express in all the movies, and footage was filmed both at King's Cross Station in London and along the Glenfinnan Viaduct, part of the West Highland Line. WCR also operates the Jacobite Express, a steam train excursion that operates during the summer months from Fort William to Mallaig with stops at Glenfinnan (featuring a small museum about the West Highland Line in its station house) and Arisaig (the westernmost railway station on Mainland Britain). The highlight of the route is when it passes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

National Rail Stations

Stations are maintained by the state-owned "National Railway" company as opposed to being part of the franchises tendered to private operators. There are over 2500 stations on the British rail network.