Headcodes Explained

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Headcodes (also known as train reporting numbers, or WTT IDs) are four character Train IDs used by operational railway staff to identify particular train services. They are used in signalling systems, the Working Timetable (WTT), train crew rosters and various computer systems such as TOPS and TRUST, although on TOPS they form part of 7 or 10 character train IDs.

The term 'headcode' comes from the period 1961-1975 when the reporting numbers were displayed on the front of trains. Some locomotives used on railtours retain headcode indicator panels. <Example>

The four character WTT IDs were introduced on British Railways in June 1961, but it was not until May 1973 that the Scottish Region adopted them for use on all internal train workings.

This page describes how these headcodes are formed for trains operating within, to and from Scotland. A list of headcodes regularly used in Scotland can be found on the headcodes page

How they work

The headcodes used in the Working Timetable are made up of four characters. For Example 1Y11, the 04:50 Edinburgh - Fort William.

The first character of the headcode is a number and signifies the Train Class - in this case 1 for a Express Passenger Service.

Train Type
Light Engine(s)
Express Passenger/Postal/Parcels, and Test Trains
Slow/Suburban Passenger, also Driver training.
Autumn Rail Head Treatment Trains (from 2006). UTU Test Trains (from 2010). Priority ECS and Freight.
Freight (max speed 75mph)
Empty Coaching Stock (ECS)
Freight (max speed 60mph)
Freight (max speed 45mph)
Freight (max speed 35mph)
Express Passenger, between London Euston & Scotland via Birmingham (from Dec 2013) and TPE services via Newcastle (from December 2019). (Previously used for priority Cross Country passenger trains to/from Scotland 2006-2008.)

The second character is a letter, signifying a destination area or route - Y in this case for Fort William

Destination area or route
Passenger and Freight area: Aberdeen, Dyce, Inverurie, Keith, Montrose
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Barrhead - Kilmarnock - Ayr - Stranraer.
Freight to Riccarton (Kilmarnock)
Passenger and Freight area: Edinburgh, Millerhill, Oxwellmains, Lothians
Passenger route: Bathgate - Livingston N - Edinburgh (and Newcraighall)
Passenger route*: Dalmuir - Glasgow C. LL - Uddingston - Motherwell - Lanark / Carstairs
Passenger and Freight area: Carstairs, Ravenstruther
Passenger and Freight area: Cumbria (not to/from Scotland)
Passenger route*: Glasgow Central - Carstairs - Edinburgh
Passenger route: Dalmuir / Milngavie - Glasgow C. LL - Uddingston - Motherwell (and from Lanark)
Freight area: Mossend, Motherwell, Coatbridge, Uddingston
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Paisley Canal
Passenger route: Motherwell - Cumbernauld
Passenger route*: Edinburgh - Carstairs - Glasgow Central
Passenger route: Edinburgh - Dunbar
Passenger and Freight to former Eastern Region (Newcastle, Tyne Yard, Yorkshire, London King's Cross)
Passenger route: Balloch - Springburn / Airdrie
Passenger Amended East Coast trains to/from Scotland.
Passenger route: Milngavie - Glasgow C. LL - Hamilton - Motherwell / Coatbridge / Lanark
Freight area: Longannet, Thornton, Westfield
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Gourock
Passenger route: Edinburgh - Dunfermline - Cowdenbeath - Glenrothes (and Fife Outer Circle)
Passenger and Freight area: Inverness, Kingussie, Elgin, Kyle, Wick
Passenger route: Helensburgh - Airdrie - Bathgate - Edinburgh
Passenger The Royal Scotsman tour train.
Freight to Drax Power Station (Yorkshire)
Passenger route*: Glasgow Central - Maxwell Park - Cathcart - Glasgow Central
Freight to Hunterston
Passenger route: East Kilbride - Glasgow Central
Passenger route: Glasgow Queen St HL - Springburn - Cumbernauld - Falkirk Grahamston
Freight Engineering trains within Scotland
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Kilwinning - Ayr, Stranraer.
Passenger route: Edinburgh - Kirkcaldy, Markinch (and Fife Inner Circle)
Freight to former East Anglia Region (Harwich, Felixstowe, Tilbury)
Passenger and Freight area: Tayside, Perth, Dundee, Carnoustie, Linkswood
Passenger route: Perth / Dundee - Kirkcaldy - Edinburgh
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Dumfries - Carlisle
Passenger route: Dalmuir - Glasgow C. LL - Hamilton - Larkhall
Passenger and Freight to former London Midland Region (London Euston, Birmingham, Derby, Manchester, Carlisle)
Passenger route: Milngavie - High Street / Bellgrove / Springburn / Airdrie - Bathgate - Edinburgh
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Maxwell Park - Newton
Freight area: Grangemouth, Stirling
Passenger route: Glasgow Queen St - Lenzie - Stirling / Alloa / Dunblane (also to Perth, Falkirk, Kirkcaldy)
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Neilston
Passenger route: Newcraighall - Edinburgh
Passenger route: Dumfries - Carlisle - Newcastle
Passenger and Freight to former Southern Region (Bournemouth, Brighton, Southampton, Dollands Moor)
Passenger route*: Glasgow Central - Queen's Park - Cathcart - Glasgow Central
Passenger route: Edinburgh - Stirling - Dunblane, Perth
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Queen's Park - Newton
Test Trains Track monitoring and measurement trains
Non-Passenger Rolling stock movements with route restrictions
Freight area: Elderslie, Dalry, Prestwick, Falkland Yard, Ayrshire
Passenger route: Edinburgh - Falkirk High - Glasgow Queen St
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Carmyle - Whifflet
Passenger and Freight to Scotland from south of the border
Passenger route*: Milngavie - Glasgow C LL - Hamilton - Holytown - Lanark
RHTT Autumn Rail Head Treatment Trains
Freight On-track plant within Scotland; Engineering trains from Northern England
Passenger to Glasgow Queen St High Level (from Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness)
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Largs, Ardrossan
Freight to English Power Stations (short term flows, but not currently used)
EngineeringRail Grinders or Stoneblowers in transit
Passenger and Freight to former Western Region (Reading, Didcot, Bristol, Plymouth, Penzance)
Passenger route: Dalmuir - Springburn / Airdrie - Bathgate - Edinburgh
Passenger, ECS odd movements in the Glasgow area
Passenger LNER services terminating North of Edinburgh (since May 2019)
Passenger route: Glasgow Central - Wemyss Bay
Passenger route: Glasgow Queen St HL - Maryhill - Anniesland
Passenger and Freight Exceptional load - special instructions apply
Passenger and Freight area: West Highland Line (Glen Douglas, Crianlarich, Fort William area)
Freight Freightliner operated engineering trains within Scotland
Passenger route: Glasgow Queen St - Westerton - Crianlarich, Oban, Fort Willam, Mallaig
Passenger route: North Berwick - Edinburgh - Glasgow Central
Passenger route: Edinburgh - West Calder - Shotts - Glasgow Central / Motherwell
Passenger and Freight Special or short term working (not in WTT)

Note: Route letters apply in both directions (except for routes marked *), with odd and even numbers identifying the direction.

Finally, the third and fourth characters are numbers (11 in this case) which identify individual train services.


Headcodes tend to be sequential, so 1E13, 1E14 and 1E15 are East Coast services to London Kings Cross that pass through Edinburgh at 12:00, 12:30 and 13:00 respectively.

Empty coaching stock trains and Light engines usually use the last 3 characters of the train which they are going to form, or have just finished:
  • 5M11 Polmadie to Glasgow Central forms the 1M11 Glasgow to London
  • 5S26 is the empty coaching stock from Glasgow Central to Polmadie off 1S26 London to Glasgow.

Freight train headcodes may be changed depending on the load:
  • The 6A30 Mossend to Aberdeen could run as 7A30 if it was restricted to 45mph, or run as 0A30 if there were no wagons on the train.
  • The 6S65 Carlisle to Mossend is recoded 6X65 if it conveys loaded 'cartic' wagons as these may be 'out of gauge'.

It should be noted that headcodes are not necesarily unique within a region:

On frequent services headcodes may be reused serveral times a day:
  • 1R25 is used for the 09:00, 15:00 and 21:30 Edinburgh - Glasgow Queen Street trains.

Special movements often use the locomotive class as an identifier:
  • 0Z66 is likely to be a class 66 light engine.

The headcode 1Z99 is used to signify any train which is running to provide assistance to another train:
  • This may be a 'Thunderbird' rescue engine, an empty multiple unit or an ordinary passenger train. This also applies to breakdown cranes, snow ploughs and overhead line trains going to clear the line. These trains are generally given highest priority over other movements.

See also

Internal links

External links