The Department for Transport (DfT) has granted Chiltern Railways an extension to its rail franchise in return for £250M of improvements, including a £190M contract with Bam Nuttall to create a new main line from London to the Midlands.
The £250M improvements to the line from London’s Marylebone station to Birmingham will cut journey times by more than 20%.
Subject to planning consents, the project could also link Oxford to the Chiltern main line with a stretch of new railway to be constructed at Bicester to allow new direct passenger services to operate between Oxford and London Marylebone.
Chiltern Railways awarded Bam Nuttall a £190M contract for the Oxford link. Known as Evergreen 3, the project will involve the upgrade of the Banbury to Marylebone main line, the upgrade of the existing line between Bicester and Oxford and the creation of a new link between the Chiltern line and the Bicester to Oxford line.
The centrepiece of the Oxford link would be Water Eaton Parkway in North Oxford; an integrated transport hub linked to the A34, A40 and Oxford city centre.
Mainline journey time improvements will be delivered from 2011 and the possible new main line to Oxford, including Water Eaton Parkway could open by 2013. In total, over 50 miles of track will be upgraded to 100mph running.
The infrastructure upgrade will be supported by new trains designed for faster acceleration, the introduction of mainline style carriages for the Birmingham route, the opening of additional platforms at Birmingham Moor Street station and new ticketing technology.
“This upgrade scheme is a powerful testament to the remarkable renaissance that rail has undergone.”
Transport secretary Lord Adonis
The scheme is funded by Network Rail, who will reimburse the cost through the payment of a facility charge over the next 30 years, initially by Chiltern Railways − whose franchise expires in 2021/2 − and then by the future franchisee
Passengers would not be landed with higher fares to pay for the line and it would be paid for “through extra customers”, said Chiltern Railways chairman Adrian Shooter. The DfT said the scheme will cut rail journey times along the busy M40 corridor, thereby making rail more competitive with road travel.
“This is the biggest passenger rail project for several generations not to call on the taxpayer for support,” said Shooter.
“Working closely with Network Rail, we are going to create a new main line railway for the people of Oxfordshire and the Midlands. This deal demonstrates that real improvements to rail services can be paid for without public subsidy by attracting people out of their cars and onto trains.”
Journey times slashed
The project will see journey times of just 92 minutes from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill slashing the present journey time by 25 minutes. Banbury will be just 50 minutes away (presently 67mins). There will also be faster trains from the M40 park and ride hubs at Warwick Parkway (J15) and Haddenham & Thame Parkway (J7).
The extra seven-and-a-half years of Chiltern’s 20-year franchise, which was dependent on investment in the franchise, has been confirmed with the official announcement of the project.
The improvements would bring big economic benefits on the route by attracting investment and encouraging tourism, as well as cutting journey times and increasing capacity, said transport secretary Lord Adonis.
“The Government is committed to improving our railways and this upgrade scheme is a powerful testament to the remarkable renaissance that rail has undergone in recent years,” he added.
Average journey time improvements based on key Chiltern Railways stations
|Peak - Fastest||Off –peak Average|
|Haddenham & Thame Parkway||44||35||20%||49||36||27%|