Published 5th November 2012
The first new rail route between London and a major British city in 100 years will drastically improve rail capacity between the two cities said Chiltern Railways after being given the go-ahead to construct the new line.
The work will benefit thousands of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire commuters as the line from Bicester Town to Oxford will be upgraded to a double track 100mph route. The current single line is a slow branch line with few services, and to complete the new link, it will be joined to the existing Chiltern route near Bicester running into Marylebone via Princes Risborough.
This new link completes the renaissance of northern home counties railways following the East West Rail announcement also made last month re-opening the line to Bedford from Bicester, 50 years after closure.
The Transport and Works Act promoted by Chiltern Railways was granted giving permission for them to commence work on the line at a cost of £130m.
Trains will run over the new link from 2015 and Chiltern say that this work brings their total investment in their routes line to £600 million since the start of their franchise.
The trains will run every half-hour each way serving new stations in Bicester and in north Oxford. The latter will be a new parkway station located at Water Eaton near Kidlington and will be part of a multi-modal interchange allowing passengers to avoid the congestion of central Oxford.
Bicester Town station will also be redeveloped from a short unstaffed single platform providing a first-class gateway to the town and to the nearby popular Bicester Village fashion outlet centre.
Graham Cross, Business Development Director of Chiltern Railways said: “We are pleased to have been granted the power to proceed with this significant railway investment, which will benefit thousands of commuters and businesses in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The Oxford to London link is the latest in a long line of innovative Chiltern-led projects to upgrade the rail infrastructure, fuelled by our understanding of rail’s potential to make a significant contribution to economic growth and prosperity.”
The East West Rail project will be working closely with Chiltern as both schemes will use the upgraded line between Bicester and Oxford. The Chiltern project offers Oxford commuters a second choice of routes travelling to London and reopens the route via High Wycombe, closed since the 1960s. Once complete it will become the first new rail link between London and a major city in 100 years.
The scheme says that two new platforms will be provided at Oxford station and that Islip station would also be rebuilt. Projected journey times are 66 minutes between Oxford and London, and 14 minutes from Oxford to Bicester.
That compares with the current journey time of Oxford to London Paddington of typically 55 minutes and Oxford to Bicester of 25 minutes.
It is expected that trains will run from Reading to Bedford via Oxford, Bicester Town station and Milton Keynes, and from London Marylebone to Milton Keynes creating a new network relieving crowded roads in the area.
Oxfordshire County Council’s transport chief Rodney Rose, also deputy leader and deputy chairman of the East West Rail Delivery Board, welcomed the £130m project.
He said: “Anything along that line, including electrification, is fantastic. Another option for going to London is great, and this provides better links between Oxford and Bicester with Bicester being a major growth area in the county.”
He said eventually the East West line would also take freight trains helping to relieve pressure on the A34.
This announcement means that pressure will grow for a link with HS2 at Calvert, just a few miles away from Bicester. The new route between Bedford, Milton Keynes, Marylebone and Oxford has potentially the best commercial payback of any rail scheme so would be a great feeder route for HS2.
Property values are already reflecting the new lines’ potential and will attract people to what are now rural areas where at the moment you need a car to travel anywhere. Now rail will be available in all directions from 2017, why not link HS2 and complete the railway matrix announced in October this year.
The two re-opening projects will undoubtedly benefit the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway. Chiltern service Princes Risborough and when the preserved line also reaches the station, it should be within 45 minutes by rail, of Milton Keynes, Marylebone and Oxford, a fabulous catchment area.
Conversely, The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre will find itself at the centre of the two lines. HS2 will dissect the railway centre on an east west axis while the existing 30mph freight line will become a key intensively used 90mph main line running north south through the centre.
It is unlikely that the existing Victorian main line platform will be able to be used as now, on a few days a year given the new planned services. The platform is leased from Network Rail and this could be revoked as being required for operational railway purposes.