21 July 1996 – 2 March 2002
3 March 2002 – 21 December 2021
|Main route(s):||Chiltern Main Line|
|Other route(s):||London to Aylesbury Line
Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Line
Leamington to Stratford Line
Oxford to Bicester Line
|Fleet size:||6 Class 68 locomotives
16 Mark 3 carriages
39 Class 165 Turbo sets
24 Class 168 Clubman sets
4 Class 172 Turbostar sets
2 Class 121 Bubble Car
2 Class 01/5 shunters
|Stations called at:||62|
|Route km operated:||336.4|
|National Rail abbreviation:||CH|
|Parent company:||Arriva UK Trains a Deutsche Bahn company.|
Chiltern Railways is a British train operating company owned by Arriva UK Trains that has operated the Chiltern Railways franchise since July 1996. It operates commuter/regional rail passenger services from its Central London terminus at London Marylebone along the M40 corridor to destinations in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, as well as long-distance services to the West Midlands along two routes. Services on the Chiltern Main Line run from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford Parkway, with some peak-hour services to Kidderminster.
Chiltern Railways also runs trains on the London to Aylesbury Line to Aylesbury (with some trains terminating at Aylesbury Vale Parkway instead), on the Princes Risborough to Aylesbury and Oxford to Bicester branch lines, and a once-a-day weekday service from South Ruislip to London Paddington returning to West Ruislip.
In June 1996 M40 Trains was awarded the Chiltern Railways franchise by the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising for a period of seven years with operations commencing on 21 July 1996. M40 Trains was a management buyout led by some former British Rail managers who held a combined 51% shareholding backed by John Laing plc (26%) and 3i (23%). A restructure in March 1999 saw John Laing taking an 84% shareholding with the remaining 16% owned by the former British Rail managers.
In March 2000 the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority announced M40 Trains and Go-Ahead had been shortlisted to bid for the next Chiltern franchise. In August 2000 M40 Trains was awarded a new franchise, to run for 20 years conditional on various investments being made. The new franchise started on 3 March 2002.
In June 2006 M40 Trains was invited by the Department for Transport to lodge a bid to operate the Snow Hill Lines lines then operated by Central Trains, as part of the letting of the West Midlands franchise. The bid was not successful.
In July 2007 Henderson Equity Partners put Laing Rail up for sale. Arriva and Go-Ahead both expressed an interest in acquiring Laing Rail, but by December 2007 only Deutsche Bahn of Germany and NedRail of the Netherlands remained in the bidding contest. In January 2008 Laing Rail was purchased by Deutsche Bahn and Chiltern became part of the DB Regio group.
Chiltern operates services on five routes:
- Chiltern Main Line
- London to Aylesbury Line
- Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Line
- Leamington to Stratford Line
- Oxford to Bicester Line
The "core" off-peak Chiltern Railways timetable is currently as follows:
- Half-hourly London Marylebone – Aylesbury via Amersham stopping service
- Hourly London Marylebone - Gerrards Cross stopping service
- Hourly London Marylebone – High Wycombe stopping service
- Hourly London Marylebone – Princes Risborough stopping service
- Hourly London Marylebone – Bicester North via High Wycombe semi-fast service
- Hourly London Marylebone - Banbury via High Wycombe semi fast service. Extended to Stratford upon Avon every 2 hours.
- Hourly London Marylebone – Birmingham Snow Hill via High Wycombe semi-fast service,
- Hourly London Marylebone - Birmingham Moor Street fast service
- Half hourly London Marylebone - Oxford Parkway fast service
Chiltern Railways runs once a day from High Wycombe railway station to London Paddington to maintain traincrew route knowledge (as the route is sometimes used for diversions during periods of engineering work), from Oxford to Banbury and from Stratford-upon-Avon to Oxford.
Off-peak trains between London and Birmingham operate every half-hour. The fastest timetabled journey from Birmingham to London via this route is 90 minutes (compared with 82 minutes using Virgin Trains' services between Birmingham New Street and London Euston).
The line to Aylesbury Vale Parkway via Amersham runs alongside London Underground's Metropolitan line between Finchley Road) and Harrow-on-the-Hill, with each operator running on separate tracks, then shares the tracks with Metropolitan line services. This is the only situation where National Rail services use non-Network Rail tracks and it uses a unique unregulated track-access agreement with London Underground.
On certain Bank Holiday Mondays, services are extended from Aylesbury to the Buckinghamshire Railway Heritage Centre facilities at Quainton Road, a short way south of Verney Junction. These services are often run by one of Chiltern's two Class 121s.
A shuttle service operates on the branch line between Aylesbury and Princes Risborough on the line to Birmingham via High Wycombe. Certain services from Marylebone via High Wycombe also provide a limited through service to Aylesbury.
Since winning the franchise, Chiltern has introduced "Route: High Wycombe" tickets for the Chiltern route between Birmingham and London that are considerably cheaper than "Route: Any Permitted" tickets, valid on the faster Virgin service to London Euston as well a number of other operators and routes. Chiltern offers only Standard Class, not Standard and First Class as on Virgin services. However, Chiltern does offer a premium economy "Business Zone" cabin on a small number of Birmingham to London peak-time trains. Passengers pay an upgrade of £15 (off-peak) or £25 (peak time) to sit in a larger first-class-style seat with refreshments included.
Chiltern is the first train operator in the UK to pilot – and subsequently implement – a full system for purchasing, retailing, fulfilling and validating train tickets electronically. As of April 2008, over 18,000 "E-Day" customers have registered to use the service, and more than 40,000 electronic tickets have been sold, mainly as barcodes delivered as text messages to customers' mobile phones and also as 'Self-Print' tickets.
Chiltern was considered one of the best operators in Britain, with Public Performance Measure (PPM) regularly over 90%, until the introduction of changes in November 2015 and infrastructure issues saw punctuality fall to 86% in December 2015. Chiltern's PPM is measured on stricter conditions than its long-distance rivals, such as Virgin Trains, as Chiltern has a 5-minute window for performance while others have a 10-minute window.
Performance figures published by Network Rail rate Chiltern Railways sixth in train operating companies in the UK at 89.4% (PPM – period 9) and 94.3% (MAA) for the year to 12 December 2015.
A new timetable introduced on 4 September 2011, combined with significant disruption caused by engineering work, caused a negative reaction from customers. A petition to have the service reviewed was started, and articles highlighting the plight of commuters appeared in the local press.
A new timetable introduced on 10 December 2012 also met with frustration and opposition from some customers, particularly those using Saunderton and Princes Risborough stations.
Evergreen is the name given by Chiltern to the major infrastructure works that the company has committed to over the 20-year duration of its franchise to improve routes and services. This has been divided into three distinct phases.
The main focus of phase 1 was the redoubling of the Chiltern Main Line between Princes Risborough and Bicester North in 1998 and Bicester North and Aynho Junction in 2001, together with the reconstruction of Haddenham and Thame Parkway from a single platform to two platforms, the installation of a new platform at Princes Risborough, and the raising of the line speed limit.
Phase 2 began after the award of Chiltern's new 20-year franchise. This entailed a realignment of the route through Beaconsfield to allow speeds to be increased to 75 mph, improved signalling between High Wycombe and Bicester and between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury, the construction of two new platforms at London Marylebone on the old carriage sidings, and the construction of a new depot at Wembley.
Phase 1 of the project, now complete, involved upgrading the Marylebone – Birmingham Chiltern Main Line to permit 100 mph running on 50 more miles of route. Junctions at Neasden, Northolt and Aynho were remodelled to permit higher speeds. The 'up' through track has been restored at Princes Risborough, the existing 'up' line becoming a platform loop, a new turnback siding has been provided at Gerrards Cross, and a new, straighter 'down' through track built from Northolt Junction (where the original layout favoured the now little-used Paddington route) to Ruislip Gardens. The existing 'down' track continues to serve South Ruislip station. The former speed restrictions through Bicester North have been removed to permit 100 mph running. Two additional terminating platforms at Birmingham Moor Street were reopened in December 2010. Accelerated services were initially planned to start in May 2011, but there were delays and it was not until 5 September 2011 that Chiltern was able to introduce a new timetable to take advantage of the improvements.
As a result of the speed increases, journey times have been reduced significantly. From Marylebone, the fastest peak-hour journey time to Birmingham Moor Street is now 90 minutes, instead of 117 minutes previously. The table below outlines the peak timetable improvements.
|Previous||Post Phase 1|
|Birmingham (Moor Street)||117||92|
Chiltern Railways former chairman Adrian Shooter said, "This is the biggest passenger rail project for several generations not to call on the taxpayer for support. 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 on to trains."
In October 2012 the Secretary of State for Transport granted permission for work to begin on Phase 2 of the Evergreen 3 project, with services between London Marylebone and Oxford. Under Phase 2, a quarter-of-a-mile double track has been constructed joining the Oxford to Bicester Line at Bicester Town to the Chiltern Main Line, allowing a new Oxford to London Marylebone service to operate. A new station, Oxford Parkway, has been constructed at Water Eaton; the service between Oxford Parkway and London started on 26 October 2015, with the link from Oxford Parkway to Oxford due to become operational on 12 December 2016. All signalling on the route (including the new platforms at Oxford) is controlled by Marylebone Signalling Centre.
As part of Phase 2, the Oxford to Bicester Town service transferred from First Great Western to Chiltern in May 2011. Part of the line between Wolvercote Tunnel (on the outskirts of Oxford) and Bicester Town will be restored to double track, and the scheme will include additional platforms at Oxford, Islip and Bicester Town. The £200m project had originally proposed doubling the entire route from Oxford to Bicester, but structural problems[clarification needed] found in September 2009 may mean that the section between Islip and Bicester will remain single-track.[a]
Network Rail provided the capital for the upgrade and will recover this through a facility charge over the next 30 years, initially payable by Chiltern until its franchise expires, and then by the next franchisee. The infrastructure upgrade was carried out by main contractor BAM Nuttall, in partnership with Jarvis and WS Atkins.
Oxfordshire County Council supports the scheme, but had to be convinced of the benefits of the new Oxford Parkway station at Water Eaton, which is in the Green Belt. There was a further setback to the plan when in November 2011 a planning inspector withheld approval because it was found that bats were roosting in Wolvercote Tunnel. Great Crested Newts also have a breeding habitat close to the route. The "bat problem" however seems to have been resolved.
Chiltern Railways inherited a fleet of 34 Class 165 Turbos from British Rail. In December 2004 a further five Class 165s were transferred from First Great Western Link. All 39 were overhauled by Bombardier, Ilford in 2003 – 2005 including the installation of air-conditioning and removal of the hopper opening windows. As they were designed for suburban rather than InterCity use, they tend to be concentrated on services to Aylesbury and Banbury, although this stock can be found operating the service between Birmingham and Leamington Spa.
Chiltern ordered several batches of Class 168 Clubmans, entering service between 1998 and 2004, and now has nine three-carriage and ten four-carriage sets. These operate across the network.
In April 2003 Chiltern restored a Class 121 Bubble Car for use on the Aylesbury to Princes Risborough shuttles, a second following in May 2011 after overhaul at Tyseley TMD. In March 2013, a third Class 121 (121032) was acquired from Arriva Trains Wales for use as a spare parts donor.
In January 2008 Chiltern ordered four two-coach Class 172 Turbostars. These entered service in June 2011. Because they cannot be fitted with tripcock safety equipment necessary to operate on London Underground lines, they cannot operate via Amersham unless attached to a Class 165 or 168. Although initially intended for use on all-stations services out of London, they frequently operate to Birmingham.
From December 2010 Chiltern began operating two peak-hour loco-hauled services consisting of a Class 67 hauling Mark 3 coaches and a Driving Van Trailer. One set was hired from fellow DB Regio subsidiary Wrexham & Shropshire to operate a Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone service while the other was made up of some DB-Regio-owned Mark 3s painted in British Rail blue/grey and Virgin Trains livery and operated from Banbury to London Marylebone.
After Wrexham & Shropshire ceased operations in January 2011, Chiltern began using a second ex-Wrexham & Shropshire set from May 2011. For the introduction of Chiltern's new timetable in September 2011 they had a Mainline logo and blue stripes added to their silver livery. Motive power was provided by Class 67s, 67010, 67012-015 and 67018, all modified to operate with Driving Van Trailers.
In 2012 the ex-Wrexham & Shropshire Mark 3s were overhauled fitted with sliding plug doors (similar to those fitted to South West Trains' Class 444 Desiros) and toilet retention tanks by Wabtec. Once this programme is complete, a further ten Mark 3s will be overhauled by Wabtec to create a fifth set and bring the existing sets up to six coaches. In 2012 the DB-Regio-owned Mark 3s used on the peak-hour Banbury service were given a light overhaul at LNWR, Bristol, and the Virgin-liveried examples repainted into British Rail blue/grey.
To allow Class 168s to be cascaded to the new Oxford services as part of Evergreen 3, more Mark 3s are to be returned to service in the future. The Class 170 Turbostars currently with First TransPennine Express were to be transferred to Chiltern Railways. MP Stephen Hammond revealed on 12 March 2014 that all the class 170/3s will remain with First TransPennine Express until the May 2015 timetable change. In January 2015 it was confirmed Chiltern will take 5 of the First TransPennine Class 170s from May 2015 and the other four from February 2016. Upon delivery, the Class 170s will be modified to allow them to be used with Chiltern's existing Class 168s, and will be reclassified as Class 168/3s. First TransPennine will sublease Class 156s from Northern Rail (which were originally intended to be used for extra capacity on Northern Rail services) to cover for the shortfall until February 2016.
In early 2014, Chiltern Railways agreed a sub-lease from DRS for six Class 68 locomotives for use on its London Marylebone to Birmingham service. The new locomotives are planned to eventually replace the existing fleet of Class 67s. Maintenance and commissioning for the new fleet will be assisted by DRS.
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Carriages||Unit Numbers||Total||Routes operated||Built|
|DMU||70||112||1||121020, 121034||2||Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Line||1959–60|
|DMU||75||120||2/3||165001-165039||39||London Marylebone- Gerrards Cross/High Wycombe/Aylesbury/Aylesbury Vale Parkway/Bicester North/Banbury/Stratford-upon-Avon
Leamington Spa- Birmingham Moor Street (stopper)
|DMU||100||160||4||168001-168005||5||London Marylebone- Bicester North/ Birmingham Moor Street/Birmingham Snow Hill/Kidderminster (occasional service)||1998|
|DMU||100||160||3/4||168106-168113||8||London Marylebone- Bicester North/Birmingham Moor Street/Birmingham Snow Hill||2000|
|DMU||100||160||3/4||168214-168219||6||London Marylebone - Bicester North/Birmingham Moor Street/Birmingham Snow Hill/ Kidderminster (occasional service)||2004|
|DMU||100||160||2||168321-168322, 168324-168325, 168329||5||London Marylebone - Bicester North/Birmingham Moor Street/Birmingham Snow Hill||2000|
|Class 172/1 Turbostar||DMU||100||160||2||172101-172104||4||London Marylebone-Bicester North/Stratford-upon-Avon||2011|
|Class 68||Diesel locomotive||100||160||N/A||68008-68015||8||Chiltern Main Line||2014|
|Mark 3||Passenger Carriage||125||200||N/A||N/A||31||Chiltern Main Line||1975–88|
|Driving Van Trailer||110||175||N/A||82301-82305, 82309||6||Chiltern Main Line||1988|
Gerrards Cross incident
Tesco proposed building a supermarket over the railway line near Gerrards Cross railway station in 1996, which, following an initial objection by the local council was approved by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in July 1998. Due to a lack of space in the area, Tesco had proposed building over the railway line, which would free up a large area of land suitable for the development.
During construction, the partially built tunnel collapsed on 30 June 2005. Nobody was injured but the line was closed for over six weeks, eventually reopening on 20 August 2005. Compensation by Tesco to Chiltern Railways and Network Rail was estimated to be between £5-20m and the retailer pledged to fund a media campaign to win back passengers lost by the closure of its route[clarification needed]. Construction of the tunnel finally resumed in January 2009. The store opened in late November 2010.
In addition to the completed and ongoing Evergreen initiatives many other potential enhancements for Chiltern's route have been discussed, but not (yet) progressed to date. These include:
- In June 2008 it was revealed that Network Rail was examining the possibility of building high-speed lines shadowing five main-line routes, one of them being the Chiltern Main Line.
- Lengthening of platforms at South Ruislip, West Ruislip, Saunderton, Kings Sutton, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Sudbury and Harrow Road and Northolt Park to accommodate eight vehicles, thereby obviating the need for vehicles to be locked out of use on departure from London Marylebone.
- The restoration of the quadruple track between South Ruislip (Northolt Junction) and West Ruislip, allowing trains to call at both stations without blocking the line. Triple track currently exists at West Ruislip, with the up platform loop still in situ, and at South Ruislip, with the Down Main through line also in situ. This would involve the reconstruction of the new down platform at West Ruislip, and the reconstruction of the up platform at South Ruislip. This 'Chiltern Metro' service was not programmed into the last round of franchising agreements.
- Restoration of fast through lines at Beaconsfield as part of a longer-term aspiration for a 90-minute journey time between London and Birmingham.
- Double-track the line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury.
- Remodelling Banbury Station and tracks.
- Building of the West Hampstead interchange to allow easy interchange with the London Overground - North London Line, Jubilee line, Metropolitan line and Thameslink services.
- New Chiltern Metro Service that would operate 4+tph for Wembley Stadium, Sudbury & Harrow Road, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Northolt Park, South Ruislip and West Ruislip. This would require a reversing facility at West Ruislip, passing loops at Sudbury Hill Harrow, and a passing loop at Wembley Stadium (part of the old down fast line is in use as a central reversing siding, for stock movements and additionally for 8-car football shuttles to convey passengers to the stadium for events).
- Re-opening the line between Oxford and Princes Risborough, which would provide an alternative to the Oxford-Paddington route. The Oxford to Banbury spur would then be handed over to the Chiltern Main Line to create a diversionary loop from Princes Risborough to Banbury via Oxford. This option would require an expensive crossing of the M40 motorway.
- Re-opening the passenger line between Aylesbury via Milton Keynes to Bedford and the line from Oxford to Bedford as part of the East West Rail Link. Two miles of the line north of Aylesbury re-opened on 14 December 2008 terminating at a new station, Aylesbury Vale Parkway.
- Opening a rail line from Aylesbury to an M6-M1 Parkway Station near Rugby. If this ever happened it would constitute a major re-opening of much of the Great Central Main Line, closed in the 1960s.
- Re-opening the former Great Western Railway branch line to Uxbridge High Street, continuing the route to Heathrow Airport. This would give Birmingham a direct rail link with Britain's largest airport.
- Extending Oyster Pay-as-you-go to High Wycombe and Aylesbury.
- The Croxley Rail Link received approval on 31 July 2013.
As successful completion of Project Evergreen 3 will fulfill Chiltern Railways' obligation to invest in infrastructure there is no clear road to completion for these projects.
East West Rail Link
In July 2012 the government confirmed the East West Rail Link project will see the Varsity Line reopened between Oxford, Aylesbury Vale Parkway and Bletchley in December 2017, however on 31 March 2014, Network Rail announced that the project had been delayed until 2019. This is likely to see Chiltern operate services continuing north of Aylesbury and east of Bicester to either Bedford or Milton Keynes.
- Chiltern Main Line
- London to Aylesbury Line
- Varsity Line
- Deutsche Bahn, Chiltern Railways' owner
- London Midland
- The whole route is double track
- Companies House extract company no 3007939 The Chiltern Railway Company Limited
- Companies House extract company no 3005018 M40 Trains Limited
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1996 – present