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Chiltern’s Oxford city centre to London services up and running

The first commuter services on the £320m rail link connecting Oxford to London Marylebone began today, marking the first new rail link between a major British city and the capital in a century.

Chiltern Railways will operate two trains per hour between Oxford and London Marylebone, with the journey taking around an hour.

Rail industry leaders claim that the service will give passengers “real choice and flexibility” as it looks to compete with Great Western Railway’s (GWR’s) already existing services between the two cities and Paddington station in a rare case of franchise competition.

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 first trains began running from the route on Sunday, with the first weekday services departing from Oxford at 5.36am and from London Marylebone at 6.09am this morning.

Annual season tickets between the two cities will cost £4,920 from 2 January following the annual rail fare increase, with more than 850,000 journeys are expected on the services each year.

The project was funded by both Network Rail and Chiltern, with the infrastructure owner contributing £190m and Chiltern investing £130m.

Network Rail boss Mark Carne said of the project: “Chiltern told us what their customers wanted and put up some money – then Network Rail, working closely with Chiltern, made it happen.”

Carne also suggested that Network Rail should support more privately-funded railway projects and called for “many more railway upgrades following this model” in the future.

Chiltern Railways’ managing director, Dave Penney, said: “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.”

The line from London Marylebone previously opened as far as Oxford Parkway in October 2015, with around 1.5 million passengers using the line in its first year, before the extension into the city centre was completed in September of this year.

The re-opening of the line has been praised as part of a small but not insignificant part of the arrival of East West Rail. Grayling announced last week that a new East West Rail organisation separate from Network Rail would be created.

The new organisation will look to secure private investment to construct and operate the planned new line between Oxford and Cambridge, Britain’s first fully privatised line in 20 years. It will be chaired by Rob Brighouse, Chiltern’s former CEO.

(Image c. Network Rail)

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Monastral Blue   12/12/2016 at 23:10

An indirect service to London via a short new spur at Bicester is the 'first new rail link between a major British city and the capital in a century'? Don't forget the Selby diversion (about 14 miles of brand new track) opened in 1983, which cut a chunk of time off the journey from London to York, Durham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, etc.

Andrew G   14/12/2016 at 00:18

Also the East-West rail link will also provide better journey times as the proposed section between Bedford and Cambridge is decided on whether it will go via Hitchin and to join up with the Cambridge line or to bypass Sandy. Oxford to London Paddington on GWR takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes (depending on the stops). Oxford to London Marylebone on Chiltern Railways takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes (depending on the stops). I might be wrong with the figures.

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