Chiltern Railways has begun the final countdown to the launch of its historic new train service between central Oxford and London Marylebone – after Network Rail engineers finished their latest railway upgrade on time and on budget.
A new section of track between the old Oxford station, in the city centre, and the new Oxford Parkway station, on the outskirts, was completed at 2.37am yesterday (Mon 21 Nov).
With the new infrastructure now successfully commissioned, Chiltern’s direct connection between central Oxford and London is almost a reality.
Chiltern Railways will launch its new service – two fast trains an hour to and fro – on Monday 12 December.
On that day history will be made: this is the first new rail link between London and major British city for more than 100 years.
Train passengers will then have two ways to get to London – via Bicester into London Marylebone or on the existing route via Reading into London Paddington.
This is the latest service improvement for customers resulting from Britain’s Railway Upgrade Plan. It was made possible by a £320m joint investment by Network Rail and Chiltern Railways.
Chiltern conceived the plan for the new route based on what its customers wanted. They later teamed up with Network Rail, who brought the infrastructure skills and experience needed to ensure the scheme was delivered on time and on budget.
Also dubbed East West Rail Phase One, the upgraded railway provides the infrastructure and capacity that will be needed in future to accommodate train services between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes. Phase Two of the East West Rail Western Section involved upgrading and reconstructing underused and mothballed sections of railway between Bicester and Bedford, and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury.
Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “This paves the way for our partners Chiltern Railways to launch their new central Oxford-to-London Marylebone services in December.
“This railway upgrade will boost business and create exciting new opportunities for people in the Oxford region.”
Dave Penney, managing director of Chiltern Railways, said: “Over 10 years in the making, this is a major milestone for both Network Rail and Chiltern Railways with less than a month to go before the launch of services from Oxford city centre.
“The current service from Oxford Parkway has been phenomenally successful with over 1.5 million passengers using the line to date. The completion of the historic project allows provides an alternative route to London for over 100,000 people and reopens a key commuting line between the growing town of Bicester and Oxford.”
As well as new services for customers, the project has also seen new stations built, Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village.
In December 2015 a new service between Oxford Parkway and London Marylebone was launched. A new station on the outskirts of the city, Oxford Parkway is designed to be attractive to motorists who want easy access to the railway. Immediately adjacent to the congested A34, it is close to the A40 and A44 trunk roads and has 1,500 car parking spaces on site.
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Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain’s railway – the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 36,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.About the Railway Upgrade Plan
The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail’s investment plan for Britain’s railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail’s £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain’s railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years – so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:
- longer, faster more frequent trains;
- better, more reliable infrastructure; and
- better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.