Motorail (British Rail)

Motorail was the brand name for British Rail's long-distance services that carried passengers and their cars, ultimately part of the InterCity sector. It originated with the June 1955 introduction of the Car-Sleeper Limited between London and Perth. (Due to the enginemen's strike that summer the precise start date is uncertain.) The Motorail brand was introduced in 1966 with BR press releases and the opening of London Kensington Olympia terminal.


Motorail operated from London to many places including Penzance, Plymouth, Fishguard Harbour, Carlisle, Edinburgh, Perth, Inverness and Fort William. A short-lived service from London to Glasgow was introduced in the early 1990s.

The service was popular at a time when long distance travel by car involved long journey times, and additional services were introduced in 1972 between Stirling and Dover, London Kensington Olympia and Carmarthen and Birmingham and Inverness. An overnight service was also introduced between London Kensington and Carlisle to supplement the daytime service.

A variety of rolling stock, both open and enclosed, was used. Many routes were operated with overnight sleeper services. The open double deck Cartic 4 was first used on a Kensington Olympia to Perth Motorail on 22 June 1966. and last used in 1978.


Usage on many routes had declined by the early 1990s. In 1989 the London to Stirling service was discontinued. The services operated at a significant loss and the service ceased in 1995 when British Rail was privatised.

First Great Western relaunched a service from London Paddington to Penzance as part of its Night Riviera overnight sleeper service in September 1999, with eight converted General Utility Vans but withdrew it at the end of summer 2005.


File:NVA 96603 at Penzance.jpg|Night Riviera Motorail van NVA at Penzance in August 2003 File:Motorail sign.jpg|Motorail ended in summer 2005; there were still signs for it at Paddington in April 2006. File:Kensington Olympia Motorail Terminal (former) - - 1443634.jpg|The former Motorail terminal at , in 2009. Since Motorail services here ceased, the building has been designated "Olympia Motorail Car Park P4".