South East England
|Number of tracks||Two|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||100 mph (160 km/h)|
The Oxford–Bicester line is a railway line linking Oxford and Bicester in Oxfordshire, England. Opened in 1850, later becoming part of a through route to Cambridge, it closed in 1967 along with much of the rest of the original line. The section between Oxford and Bicester was reopened in 1987 as a branch line, and closed from early 2014 to late 2015 for a substantial upgrade in which it became part of a new route between Oxford and London Marylebone via High Wycombe. In addition, it is intended that by 2025 the original route eastwards will be restored as far as Bletchley allowing services to run to Bedford. This East West Rail project includes a long term plan to re-establish the route through to Cambridge.
Opening and original operation
The line was opened in 1850 as part of the Buckinghamshire Railway, which in 1879 became part of the London and North Western Railway. In the grouping of Britain's railways in 1923 the L&NWR became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and in the nationalisation of Britain's railways in 1948 the LMS became part of British Railways. Both the LMS and BR ran passenger services between Oxford and Cambridge via the Buckinghamshire Railway, Marston Vale line and Bedford and Cambridge Railway. This led to the Oxford - Cambridge route being informally called the Varsity line.
20th-century closure and reopening
In 1967 British Railways withdrew Oxford - Cambridge services and closed the section of line between Oxford and Bletchley. In 1987 Network SouthEast restored passenger services on the Oxford - Bicester Village Station section on the initiative of Oxfordshire County Council. In 1988, Network SouthEast rebuilt and reopened Islip station, again with Oxfordshire County Council support.
Since 2005, an enhanced service including Sunday services has run during the weeks before Christmas, mainly for the Bicester Village Shopping Centre adjacent to Bicester Village Station (formerly Bicester Town station). An enhanced service was operated on the weekend of 12 and 13 May 2007 to celebrate the 20th anniversary since the section of line reopened.
In May 2009, a partnership between First Great Western and Oxfordshire County Council rebranded and relaunched the line as The Bicester Link. On 22 May 2011, Chiltern Railways took over all passenger operations on the line. The line closed for upgrades in February 2014, instead running a replacement bus service about 15 times a day.
In August 2008 Chiltern Railways announced Project Evergreen 3 to create a new passenger service between Oxford and London Marylebone via High Wycombe by 2012. As part of this project Chiltern Railways would double most of the line, build a new Oxford Parkway passenger station at Water Eaton to serve Kidlington and north Oxford and build the short 'missing-link' from Bicester Town (now Bicester Village), station to the Chiltern Main Line. This was to give Oxford an alternative to Great Western Railway's rail link to London Paddington and provide Oxford with a direct rail-link to High Wycombe for the first time since British Railways closed the Princes Risborough - Oxford section of the Wycombe Railway in 1964.
Work on Evergreen 3 commenced with the closing of the line in February 2014. The works included complete reconstruction of the line to modern standards, with new track, signalling and bridges, and the infrastructure improvements ready for 'East West Rail' services (see below). The line was double tracked from Oxford North Junction to Bicester South Junction, upgraded for 100 mph (160 km/h) operation and prepared for electrification. Between Oxford station and Oxford North Junction the line uses the former 'Jericho' line, bi-directionally. A new 1 km chord has also been built at Bicester (from Bicester Gavray Junction, linking with the Chiltern main line at Bicester South Junction) and 37 level crossings have been eliminated.
Chiltern Railways commenced driver training on the upgraded line in September 2015, and the line between the new Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village stations reopened on 26 October 2015, with two trains per hour running between London Marylebone and Oxford Parkway. It was originally planned these would be extended to Oxford in March 2016, but services to Oxford started on 11 December 2016. Planning permission for the work at Oxford Station allowing the new platforms to be constructed was given on 1 December 2015.
Chiltern Railways reopened the line between the new Oxford Parkway station and Bicester on 26 October 2015. The timetable for December 2015 to May 2016 has two trains per hour between Oxford Parkway and London Marylebone, all of which stop at Bicester Village but only a few at Islip. The fastest trains are scheduled to take just under an hour for the whole journey. Services along the full lengths of the line from Oxford started on 11 December 2016. (The service received its ceremonial opening on the following day.) Chiltern Railways originally proposed that the journey from Oxford to London Marylebone would take 66 minutes.
In addition to allowing new services between Oxford and London via the Chiltern route, the Evergreen 3 project formed the first phase of the "East West Rail" project that is to see a new 100 mph (160 km/h) service linking Oxford with Milton Keynes, Bedford and possibly also Cambridge. The western section of this route, between Oxford and Bedford, was approved by the Government in November 2011. In his budget of November 2017, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, allocated further funding to open the western section by 2024 via a new company, the East West Railway Company, which was established in December 2017.
- "Chancellor accepts East West Rail targets and strengthens plans with extra cash". www.railtechnologymagazine.com.
- Transport Secretary officially launches East West Railway Company at Bletchley Park East West Rail, 22 November 2017
- New rail link is capital idea Oxford Mail
- Chiltern Railway's restores direct trains from High Wycombe to Oxford Chiltern Railways (Press Release)
- "Chiltern starts driver training on Oxford link". International Railway Journal. 29 September 2015.
- Ltd, swlines. "Realtime Trains | 1Y03 0743 Oxford to London Marylebone". www.realtimetrains.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
- "Chiltern Railways Timetable from 11th December" (PDF).
- "Chiltern Oxford Launch". Chiltern Railways News. Chiltern Railways. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
- "Oxford Station planning permission" (PDF). City Development: Planning Control. Oxford City Council. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
- Winter and Spring train times (pdf) – Chilterns Railways, December 2015
- "Evergreen 3 Journey Times". Chiltern Evergreen3 -FAQs. Chiltern Railways. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
- MK rail link plan on track The Oxford Times
- East West Rail could be running by 2017 Accessed 14 December 2011