Chiltern unveils £250m main line investment

Chiltern Railways BicesterChiltern Railways has formally announced plans to build a new main line connection from London to Oxford, part of a larger £250 million infrastructure upgrade.

Details of the two-stage project, called Evergreen 3, have been known for some time (see online news July 1), but it has taken until today to be formally unveiled to the public.

Adrian Shooter, chairman of Chiltern Railways, said work had already begun on the first part of the project which includes upgrades to the London-Birmingham main line between Marylebone and Kings Sutton in Oxfordshire.

Subject to government approval (including a public enquiry this summer), the second part of the plan will see around half a mile of new track linking the London-Birmingham line to Bicester Village in Oxfordshire (pictured), and on to the city of Oxford via an existing line. Chiltern hopes to have everything completed by 2016, including a brand new station serving north Oxford called Water Eaton Parkway.

Shooter said journey times on its London to Birmingham services would start to improve as early as December this year, with the full effects felt by May 2011. Chiltern aims to slash its two hour London to Birmingham journey time by as much as 30 minutes (see below for a list of expected journey times).

The work will be ultimately funded through increased passenger revenues, with no cost to the taxpayer, According to Chiltern. Shooter was quick to add that ticket prices “would not be raised as a direct result the project”, and that passenger numbers would rise as a result of improvements to its timetable. By 2016, Chiltern expects to carry 1,200 more passengers across north Oxfordshire in the morning peak hour (0800-0900).

Graham Cross, business development director for Chiltern, said the new line would create an important transport link to north Oxford, home to a hospital and a thriving medical industry. Kidlington Airport, recently renamed London Oxford, would also benefit from the new train services, he said.

The environmental impact of the project has been carefully assessed by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), in consultation with businesses and the general public alike.

Nick Cotton of ERM told Business Traveller the project would take cars off the road and reduce congestion in Oxford city centre and the main roads linking it to London, including the A34 and the M40.

Cotton said that despite the environmental impact of the work, “taking cars off the road can only ever be a good thing, especially with services running at increased capacity.”

Chiltern has applied to the Department of Transport (DfT) for a Transports and Acts Work Order, necessary for work to begin on the link between the main line and Oxford. Shooter added that he expected the order to be granted.

For more information visit chilternrailways.co.uk.

Report by Andrew Gough

A plan of the proposed work (click to enlarge)

Expected improvements to journey times by 2016:

 

  Peak – Fastest Off –peak Average
Now Planned Improvement Now Planned Improvement
Birmingham 117 92 21% 128 100 22%
Solihull 107 84 21% 117 92 21%
Warwick Parkway 90 71 21% 98 75 23%
Leamington 85 67 21% 90 71 21%
Banbury 67 50 25% 71 53 25%
Bicester North 56 44 21% 54 49 9%
Haddenham & Thame Parkway 44 35 20% 49 36 27%
Princes Risborough 41 32 22% 42 42 0%
High Wycombe 34 25 26% 32 22 31%
Beaconsfield 27 21 22% 27 26 4%
Gerrards Cross 21 18 14% 21 18 14%

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