A few miles of new track between Oxford and Oxford Parkway, which saw train services starting today (December 12), heralds completion of the first step towards delivering the East West rail route from the city centre across to Cambridge, nearly 50 years after it closed.
Chiltern Railways and Network Rail today opened a new rail link connecting central Oxford with the capital, following a unique £320m investment by the franchise operator and the infrastructure manager.
The completion of the new rail link to London – the first from a major British city in more than 100 years – sees central Oxford connected to Marylebone via successful new stations Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village. It has been just 12 months since the line opened from Oxford Parkway on the outskirts of Oxford in October 2015. The first year has seen over 1.5 million passengers using the line; this is expected to grow to with the extension into the city.
Chiltern’s new service offers Oxford commuters an alternative to travelling into London. The new service will offer two new trains per hour throughout the day between Oxford and London Marylebone with journey times to the capital from around an hour.
The new service was launched by the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Chris Grayling, who 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 link is also an important part of the new East West line to be built between Oxford and Cambridge and will bring growth and prosperity to this corner of Britain.”
Mark Carne, Chief Executive of Network Rail, said:
“I am delighted that Network Rail has delivered the first part of East West Rail on time and on budget for our customers.
“What’s really satisfying is how this happened: Chiltern told us what their customers wanted and put up some money – then Network Rail, working closely with Chiltern, made it happen.
“Privately-funded railway upgrades to improve service based on customers’ needs – that is exactly what Network Rail is all about. Here’s to many more railway upgrades following this model in future.”
As well as receiving a massive cash injection of £110m in last month’s Autumn Statement, the full delivery of East West Rail received a further boost last week from Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling as he announced the establishment of a new organisation – ‘East West Rail’ – to deliver the design, construction and operation of the new line.
Chairman of the East West Rail Western Section Joint Delivery Board and Deputy Leader at Oxfordshire County Council, Rodney Rose said that he very much welcomed the Government’s announcements.
“It’s terrific to see the trains running between Oxford city centre and Bicester today – it’s really good news for rail passengers. Now we must focus our attention on the next phase of work, to upgrade the line east of Bicester, for services from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes, and between Milton Keynes and Aylesbury.
“When you hear the Transport Secretary say that East West Rail is one of the most strategically important rail developments for this country, I think he means business.
“The scheme is a sure fire winner as far as I’m concerned and we look forward to working alongside the Government to get the rest of the scheme delivered as quickly as processes allow.
“East West Rail has the full commitment of local leaders, businesses and investors backed up by the fact that councils are investing £46 million of their own money to help get this scheme delivered.”
Mr Rose added, “just do the maths – the quicker we can build it, the earlier we can reap the expected £200 million a year of economic benefits we know the scheme will generate.”
Press Office contacts:
Chiltern Railways Press Office call: +44 (0)20 7333 3014
Network Rail Press office call: 0161 880 3142
East West Rail Consortium: 07785 927210