Chiltern Railways today (26 October) launches its new services into London, connecting Oxford with the capital, following a unique £320m investment by the franchise operator and Network Rail.
The new rail link to London – the first from a major British city in more than 100 years – will serve brand new stations at Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village. The stations, specified by Chiltern Railways and built by Network Rail, also officially open today as part of this ambitious programme.
The new station at Bicester Village will create a direct connection to the shopping destination from London for the first time, enabling many of the 6.3 million shoppers who visit each year to reach the popular retail destination from just 46 minutes from Marylebone.
Chiltern’s new service offers Oxford commuters an alternative to travelling into London via Reading and Paddington and is expected to attract an additional 250,000 return commuter journeys each year. It is a rare example of new direct competition on Britain’s railways.
Oxford Parkway is a brand new station on the outskirts of Oxford designed explicitly to be attractive to motorists, making it easy to take cars off the road. Immediately adjacent to the congested A34, it is close to the A40 and A44 trunk roads and has 1,500 car parking spaces at the site.
Chiltern Railways has invested £130million of the £320million total cost of the new line and stations with Network Rail contributing £190m. Today’s launch is a major landmark for Chiltern Railways, which this year was again named one of the UK’s highest rated franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey. The survey, conducted by Passenger Focus, gave Chiltern Railways an overall satisfaction score of 90%.
The new service will offer two new fast trains per hour throughout the day between Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village station and London with journey times to the capital from under an hour.
Commenting at the launch of the new line and service, Chiltern Railways managing director, Rob Brighouse, said: “This is an historic day. Our significant and unique investment will economically advantageous for the regional economy creating competition in the rail market between Oxford and London, as well as delivering the first new service between a major British city and London for over 100 years. Passengers are at the heart of every decision we make at Chiltern Railways, which is why we conceived this new line to link London, Oxford and Bicester Village for the benefit of shoppers and commuters.”
The project has been delivered in partnership with Network Rail. Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Investing in new rail links and train stations boosts the economy, providing opportunities for new housing and more jobs. By working closely with Chiltern Railways on this part of our Railway Upgrade Plan we have been able to deliver precisely what its customers want – a much-needed new transport option for Oxford-based business and leisure travellers to London. It will also help provide the capacity needed as rail travel is forecast to double over the next two decades.”
Under the agreement, Network Rail will provide the capital for the upgrade and recover this through a facility charge over the next 30 years, payable by the existing Chiltern Railways franchise and by subsequent franchisees.
As an added benefit to commuters Chiltern, who first introduced free Wi-Fi in 2011, is upgrading their free Wi-Fi to 4G giving commuters a faster internet connection. Chiltern Railways carriages also have tables and power sockets making it easy for commuters to be charged and connected throughout their journey.