Last track laid for new Oxford-London line
The last piece of track needed for the new Oxford to London line has been laid, with fewer than 100 days left until the first service starts running.
The £320m project will create the first new rail link between Oxfordshire and London in over a century.
The project won approval in 2013 and construction, which started 17 month ago, has included transforming an old 20-40mph branch line into a multi-track 100mph main line in an effort to maximise travel options for Oxfordshire residents.
The new eight-and-a-half mile stretch connects Bicester Village and the new Oxford Parkway station to the main line to London Marylebone, and will reduce journey times to the capital to about an hour.
Fast trains between the Oxfordshire towns will run twice an hour. The upgrade of the Oxford to Bicester line also marks the first phase of works on the western section of the East West Rail scheme through a partnership between Network Rail and Chiltern Railways.
Network Rail senior programme manager Andy Milne said: “The completion of track laying is a significant milestone for the project and will allow Chiltern Railways to run its new service from Oxford Parkway. It is a real step forward in reconnecting the railway from Oxford and Bicester towards Bletchley, Milton Keynes and Bedford.”
The first train is expected to leave Oxford Parkway on 26 October and arrive in London within 56 minutes. The new station has been built on the site of the derelict Water Eaton silo demolished in October 2013.
The new route into the capital expected to provide a useful alternative route for people from Oxfordshire who do not want to get into London via Reading and the Great Western Main Line to Paddington.
Chiltern Railways managing director, Rob Brighouse, said he was “delighted” with the news and was excited about the official countdown “to the launch of the historic project”.
Track laying was finished more than a month ahead of schedule, as the final connection between Oxford Parkway and the Chiltern Main Line was originally expected in September.
From spring 2016, Chiltern Railways intends to extend services from London Marylebone into Oxford city centre.