by Phil Marsh

Chiltern Railways’ Oxford project ahead of the curve at Bicester

Published: 23rd December 2014

Former GWR and LNWR main lines connected creating a new main line between London and Oxford

A kilometre of new double track main line railway was laid joining two main lines at Bicester in just a few days in mid December. The tracklaying of a new curve, or chord, was underway as construction work commenced at Bicester Town, Chiltern Railways’ new station.

The first concrete was ceremonially poured into trenches to form the foundations of the new station buildings at Bicester Town station site by Rob Brighouse, Chiltern’s Managing Director. The, what in essence will be a new station, will boost the development of the region and in particular for Bicester which has just been announced by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg as the location for a new Garden City.

The station which will have two eight carriage platforms, is part of a £130 million pound investment programme by Chiltern Railways who is creating a new rail route linking Oxford and London Marylebone. This will be the first new rail link between London and a major British city in over 100 years and creates real choice in the London to Oxford rail market as well as opening up lots more journey opportunities.

The station will have level access, two new platforms, a rebuilt car park, a greatly improved station approach road and integrated transport with cycle parking and bus stops. All lighting will be energy efficient and the station building has been designed to make as much use of natural light as possible. The previous station was a four carriage long single platform with a waiting shelter.

When does it all start?

Public trains will commence in September 2015 but will be operating from the month before to test the track and signaling and for driver training purposes. Bicester will then be able to boast two stations offering fast trains to London and from Spring 2016 Bicester Town will be able to be used by commuters to Oxford allowing them to avoid the congested road network in the area.

Village people for the Town

Many people will know of Bicester Village, one of the UKs top visitor attractions with many well known shops. Bicester Town is next to the retail village which is anticipated will boost visitors using rail rather than road and is also very close to the town centre.

The new twin tracked railway line will have a top speed of 100mph, well over double the previous single line. This has meant huge earthworks and the first 20 metres of the new double track is now in place at Bicester Town giving a glimpse of the new layout.

They said:

Rob Brighouse, Managing Director at Chiltern Railways said: “Investment in rail can play an important role in stimulating the economy. The Chiltern Railways Oxford to London project will make Bicester one of the best connected places in the UK. The new rail link and stations will support the town as it continues to grow and transform into a garden city over the coming years.

Bicester will benefit from two stations with fast trains to London, providing a sustainable transport solution to meet the current and future demand for services. We strongly believe that this project will open up exciting opportunities for the region both in terms of employment prospects for residents and for the visitor economy.”

Oxford Parkway

Another brand new station is being built at Oxford Parkway to serve residents of North and East Oxford and beyond and will be one of the best located stations in the county due to its proximity to the Water Eaton park and ride site beside the A34 / A40 / A44 junctions.

Chiltern Railways and Network Rail are working together to upgrade the 12 miles of line between Bicester and Oxford and in 2019 will form part of the East-West Rail Link with trains running to Bedford and Milton Keynes.

Mr Brighouse told that construction of the new stations and the 12 miles of new double track are on schedule as was the delivery of some extra trains about to be leased for the new operation. These are Class 170s currently in use with First Transpennine and these would operate from September 2015 as planned following being internally refreshed in similar fashion to Chiltern’s Class 168 ‘Clubman’ trains. They would also have wi-fi fitted and be reliveried into ‘Clubman’ livery.

Even as the concrete was being poured, rails were being laid on the nearby new one kilometer Bicester Chord which forms the missing link between the former GWR Paddington to Birmingham main line with the former LNWR Bedford-Oxford cross-country route. The whole Bicester to Oxford Collaboration project as it is known, is a joint venture between Carillion and Buckingham Group Contracting who are building the new railway and stations assisted by the East West Rail Consortium.

23 kilometres of newt fencing

The Project’s Construction Manager Gordon Simpson, has had to supervise eight kilometres of piling, moving a hundred thousand tons of earth and ballast and install 23 kilometres of newt fencing. The Bicester chord had to be built on a flood plain on a falling gradient of 1 in 33 from the former GWR line towards Bicester Town round a tight curve with a linespeed of 40mph.

The chord required a huge drainage system to be installed and a fantastic view of all this will be available when a new footbridge opens replacing a public footpath. The footbridge is currently in the construction site and not accessible to the public but when it opens, it is guaranteed to be a magnet for railway photographers as it affords spectacular views of two main lines and the chord.

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