Chiltern Railways are to be granted an extension to their rail franchise in return for making £250m of improvements which will cut journey times to the Midlands and could see a new main line from London Marylebone to Oxford established, Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis has announced.
The scheme will cut rail journey times along the busy M40 corridor, making rail more competitive with road travel. Average journey times from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone will be cut more than 20%, from 2h 08m to 1h 40m. Commuting times from Banbury and Bicester will reduce to less than an hour and there will be faster trains from the M40 park and ride hubs at Warwick Parkway (J15) and Haddenham & Thame Parkway (J7).
Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said:
"With journey times being cut and capacity increased, these improvements are not only excellent news for passengers travelling on this busy line; they will also create significant economic benefits along the route by attracting investment and encouraging tourism, boosting local jobs and businesses.
"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.”
Subject to planning consents, the project could also see Oxford linked to the Chiltern mainline by a stretch of new railway to be constructed at Bicester, allowing new direct passenger services to operate between Oxford and London Marylebone. 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.
The improvements, which are being delivered as part of Chiltern's Evergreen 3 project, will be delivered in stages. 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.
Notes to editors
1. Chiltern Railways have secured a 7.5-year extension to their 12.5-year franchise in return for the £250m Evergreen Project.
2. The Chiltern Franchise Agreement is based on a unique investment-led model. Chiltern is required to make sufficient investments to justify extensions to the Minimum Franchise Term, ultimately realising the full 20 year term.
3. The works necessary to provide the link to the Oxford are subject to securing the necessary legal powers, for which Chiltern Railways has recently submitted an application under the Transport and Works Act. These proposals are likely to be the subject of a public inquiry.
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