At 10.36am today, a train will attempt to break a speed record set 36 years ago for the 401-mile journey between London Euston and Glasgow Central
Avanti West Coast, which runs trains on the main line between the two cities, is receiving help from Network Rail in a bid to beat the existing record of 3 hours, 52 minutes and 40 seconds.
The record, representing an average speed of 103mph, was set in December 1984 by an Advanced Passenger Train (APT) – a revolutionary high-speed concept developed by British Rail for the West Coast main line.
Soon afterwards British Rail put all its focus on the diesel-powered High Speed Train, which is still in service, and the APT was abandoned. Its tilting technology was used in developing the Pendolino trains currently used on the line.
Since the record-breaking run, billions of pounds have been spent on upgrading the West Coast main line to allow for faster running and fewer conflicts with other services.
A special Pendolino, freshly named Royal Scot, will make the journey with no scheduled stops. Network Rail will seek to ensure it has a clear run, The APT’s record was set despite a two-minute delay at a signal at Stafford.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “After almost 40 years it’s time for this record to be broken, and I wish everyone the best of luck as they attempt this impressive feat.”
Phil Whittingham, managing director at Avanti West Coast, said: “The West Coast main line has a proud history of delivering industry firsts.
“We’re excited to be teaming up with Network Rail to attempt to break this record which has stood for nearly four decades.”
Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, said: “Today marks a brilliant collaboration across the railway industry. I truly hope we are successful today in our record attempt.
“There will be more on better connectivity by rail and faster journey times between England and Scotland when I publish my final Union Connectivity Report for the prime minister in the summer.”
The Railway Performance Society will be the official timekeeper for the record attempt.
Charities including the Railway Benefit Fund (RBF) are set to benefit from ticket sales. The music producer Pete Waterman, president of the RBF, said: “It’s a real privilege for the Railway Benefit Fund to be involved in this record run attempt.
“Time is of the essence for us all.”
According to the Real Time Trains website, the journey is planned for three hours 53 minutes – 20 seconds longer than the record. But the hope is that the train will be able to gain time on its journey north.
The record attempt will involve Royal Scot overtaking to 10.10am scheduled passenger train from London Euston to Glasgow Central, which will follow exactly the same route. It is timed leave 26 minutes before the Royal Scot and arrive 37 minutes after it.
The nonstop train is expected to get ahead of the scheduled service shortly after leaving Crewe in Cheshire.
On the East Coast main line, Wednesday’s auspices were not encouraging. The final train from Edinburgh on Avanti’s rival, LNER, was scheduled for a leisurely five hours, 39 minutes, yet arrived late at London King's Cross.
The record heading south from Glasgow to London is held by a Pendolino operated by Virgin Trains – the predecessor of Avanti West Coast. In December 2006 it covered the ground between the two cities in three hours, 55 minutes.