£320m Ox­ford link opens

Rail (UK) - - Front Page - Paul Stephen As­sis­tant Fea­tures Edi­tor paul.stephen@bauer­me­dia.co.uk @paul_rail

CHILTERN Rail­ways be­gan op­er­at­ing trains right the way through from Ox­ford to Lon­don Maryle­bone on De­cem­ber 12, fi­nally com­plet­ing what it calls the first new rail link to be built be­tween the cap­i­tal and a ma­jor Bri­tish city for over 100 years.

Net­work Rail and Chiltern have in­vested £320 mil­lion in the route, which opened as far as Ox­ford Park­way in Oc­to­ber 2015 ( RAIL 787), and has now been ex­tended the re­main­ing four miles to Ox­ford’s main sta­tion.

More than 1.5 mil­lion pas­sen­gers used the link in its first 12 months, and this fig­ure is now ex­pected to rise by 850,000 per an­num.

Two trains per hour now run be­tween Ox­ford and Maryle­bone in each direc­tion, formed of be­tween three and nine cars for peak-time ser­vices. Jour­ney times for the quick­est ser­vices are just over an hour, which is only a few min­utes longer than ex­ist­ing Great West­ern Rail­way ser­vices to Lon­don Padding­ton.

In a day of cel­e­bra­tions on De­cem­ber 12, the first Chiltern Rail­ways commuter ser­vice left Ox­ford at 0720. A rib­bon­cut­ting cer­e­mony was held later at Ox­ford Park­way, con­ducted by Chiltern Rail­ways Manag­ing Di­rec­tor Dave Pen­ney, NR’s’ Lon­don North West­ern Route MD Martin Fro­bisher, Sec­re­tary of State for Trans­port Chris Grayling and NR Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Mark Carne.

“This is an his­toric day for Chiltern Rail­ways, and it’s al­ways nice to be able to say in any­one’s ca­reer that you’ve been able to open a brand new rail­way line,” Pen­ney ex­clu­sively told RAIL.

“It’s also a good day for the peo­ple of Ox­ford be­cause it brings gen­uine com­pe­ti­tion to the rail­ways. And as we’ve seen with Ox­ford Park­way, if you pro­vide the right fa­cil­i­ties peo­ple will use them.”

Pen­ney praised the strength of the col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tion­ship be­tween Chiltern and Net­work Rail, that en­sured de­liv­ery of the pro­ject on bud­get as the first part of the much larger East West Rail scheme. He added that the in­tro­duc­tion of £130m pri­vate in­vest­ment by Chiltern to part-fund the rail link, plus the op­er­a­tor’s fo­cus on meet­ing cus­tomers’ needs, made it a fore­run­ner to the type of closer in­te­gra­tion that the Govern­ment now ex­pects to see be­tween op­er­a­tors and NR from fu­ture fran­chises (see pages 8-9).

“You can­not deny that hav­ing a 20-year fran­chise gave us head­room to in­vest, but £130m is not an in­sub­stan­tial amount of

money.” he said.

“Rail mar­gins are not great, but we wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t think there was a good re­turn to be made and lots of ad­di­tional de­mand in Ox­ford.

“This shows how it [closer in­te­gra­tion] can work as Chiltern Rail­ways ef­fec­tively had joint board re­spon­si­bil­ity dur­ing con­struc­tion, which meant al­ways keep­ing a strong cus­tomer fo­cus on the de­liv­ery of out­comes. That is essen­tially what the Sec­re­tary of State’s re­cent an­nounce­ment wants to see from the rest of the net­work for re­newals and up­grade.”

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