Oxford station on track for Marylebone
Source: RTM Oct/Nov 16
Network Rail’s senior programme manager, Jonathan Davies, and its project manager, Rob Mashford, speak to RTM about the ongoing works in and around Oxford station ahead of Chiltern Railways running services on the new Oxford-Marylebone line from December.
Works are progressing well and on time in and around Oxford station, including efforts to build two new bay platforms and a train accommodation building on the site, RTM has been told.
Network Rail’s senior programme manager, Jonathan Davies, and its project manager, Rob Mashford, told us that the station – which is just one element of a major programme in the Oxford area to modernise the Great Western route – is currently undergoing what the infrastructure owner calls its ‘phase 0’ works.
These works, needed to allow the new Chiltern service to run directly to London Marylebone by the end of the year, include building two new extended bay platforms, numbered in May as platforms 1 and 2, to accommodate the new and longer electric IEP trains.
“Platform 2 is partially open at the moment, but we’ll have it open for six-car traffic in mid-December,” Davies explained. “We’ve extended the platforms, we’ve put in a new train accommodation building and we’ll demolish the existing one, which is going to allow for longer trains to get into those bay platforms.”
The accommodation building, which will house operational and catering staff, is a modular structure erected mostly off-site and brought into the station area in cubicles. It was recently bolted together and workers are currently fitting out electrics, air conditioning and other final fixes before staff move into the facility in late October. According to Mashford, the reason behind the re-do is that the new bay platforms will get extended and positioned through where the former accommodation building is.
These ‘phase 0’ works will eventually culminate in the closure of the Aristotle Lane crossing, a dangerous crossing Davies said was “very high” on Network Rail’s safety index. “We want to get that closed as soon as possible so that we make the line safer for people using it,” he noted. Aristotle Lane Bridge will also soon be closed so engineers can raise the bridge deck to facilitate electrification of the line up to Oxford.
Phase 1 track and resignalling
Around the station, work also progresses simultaneously on ‘phase 1’ track and resignalling works, which kicked off in mid-September and are due to finish around summer 2018.
“We’ve been particularly working north of Oxford at a place called Tackley, where we’ve been doing some works to crossovers,” said Davies. “This is the start of our remodelling and resignalling work over the next couple of years on the Oxford Corridor. We’ve been resignalling from the Heyford area in the north of Oxford all the way down to Didcot, and particularly doing a lot of track remodelling in and around the station.”
Mashford added that the main track work is from Hinksey, south of the station, through to Wolvercote. “But as part of the scheme we’re also resignalling the whole of the route which is basically from Appleford, in the Didcot area, all the way up to Heyford, which is the boundary with the next route. The whole area gets resignalled onto the new Thames Valley signalling centre.”
As well as boosting performance by renewing life-expired track, the technology being used in Oxford has been moved “to the 21st century” with the use of axle counters, which Davies and Mashford had previously put in at Reading and saw first-hand the “leap in reliability performance” in the area as a result.
Asked about the council-run Oxford station redesign competition, which chose a handful of winning concepts in March this year, Davies and Mashford said that was run “with no real practical remit”.
“There’s quite a lot of significant funding that needs to be put in place to actually produce the building of any of those architectural concepts,” Davies explained. “And we’re not, certainly from our side, seeing that money being put together.”
But despite no funding being made available for a redesign, the station won’t be forgotten after works are delivered this December. “There’s further works that we may well do post-2019,” Davies revealed, noting that this could include “an additional platform face at platform 5” as well as improvements to Botley Road Bridge, a major intersection into the station which many local pressure groups consider “dreadful” due to its exceptionally low height.
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