At 7.20am on Monday 12th December 2016 the first Chiltern Railways commuter service left Oxford station heralding the opening of the first new rail link between a major British city and London in more than 100 years.
The new £320m Oxford to London Marylebone line is expected to see over 850,000 journeys per year to and from Oxford station. Delivered on time and on budget the new line forms the latest segment of Britain’s Railway Upgrade Plan.
Conceived by Chiltern Railways to provide and alternative route to the existing Oxford to Paddington line it is envisage that the new route will provide flexibility and choice for customers.
The rail infrastructure, namely track and stations, was delivered on time and on budget by Chiltern Railways partner Network Rail while Chiltern Railways will be providing the trains and operating them.
Oxford is now connected by rail to London Marylebone and Bicester Village. Twelve months ago, in October 2015, the first phase of the line opened from Oxford Parkway on the outskirts of Oxford. During the first year of operation the Oxford Parkway to London Marylebone line has seen over 1.5 million passengers using the line however this is expected to grow to with the extension into the city of Oxford.
The new service will offer two new trains per hour throughout the day between Oxford and London Marylebone with journey times to the capital from around an hour.
The project was jointly funded by Network Rail and Chiltern Railways. Chiltern Railways invested £130million of the £320million total cost while Network Rail contributed £190m as part of the wider East West Rail project.
Commenting on the launch of the new line, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘This is the first new rail link between a major British city and the capital in 100 years and also a shining example of partnership working between the private and public sector.
From today travellers to and from London Marylebone and Oxford will get increased choice, more trains and faster journey times.
The link is also an important part of the new East West line to be built between Oxford and Cambridge and will bring growth and prosperity to this corner of Britain.‘
Dave Penney, Managing Director of Chiltern Railways said: ‘This is a significant milestone in the history of Chiltern Railways. The new line delivers meaningful benefits for those living and working in the region and will be economically advantageous for the regional economy.
It creates direct competition in the rail market between Oxford and London giving customers a real choice and flexibility, as well as delivering the first new service between a major British city and London for over 100 years.‘
Mark Carne, Chief Executive of Network Rail, said: ‘I am delighted that Network Rail has delivered the first part of East West Rail on time and on budget for our customers.
What’s really satisfying is how this happened: Chiltern told us what their customers wanted and put up some money – then Network Rail, working closely with Chiltern, made it happen.
Privately-funded railway upgrades to improve service based on customers’ needs – that is exactly what Network Rail is all about. Here’s to many more railway upgrades following this model in future.‘