Network Rail publishes timetable and plan

Network Rail have published their version of the timetable for the new service.

Sadly, service at Islip is missing the two trains that would  render commuting with London and High Wycombe viable :  the 06.12 and 20.15 departures for Oxford. (The 06.12 allowed connection at Oxford Parkway for London; the 20.15 allowed a departure from London at 19.07 – o’wise 17.50 or 21.35.) Earliest arrival in London is otherwise 09.27.

Chiltern have informed me that the NR timetable is not final, and that they still intend to run the two trains mentioned above. (I had thought that the NR timetable, published in May and December, was definitive, but that appears not to be the case.)

Aside from this, the NR timetable closely matches the earlier one provided by Chiltern, which is very welcome news.

NR have also just published their “Control Period 5″ (CP5) Plan, which only confirms what we already knew :

  • EWR infrastructure will not be ready for the proposed Dec 2017 service between Milton Keynes and Reading until 2019
  • Oxford Parkway to Oxford opening remains scheduled for March 2016, but is subject to delays in obtaining planning permission for works at Oxford station and approval by Oxford City Council of noise and vibration mitigation.

At least the Oxford Area Resignalling project appears to have been completed on time (May 2015). Electrification also remains part of the plan but with no clear schedule.

Delayed opening

Chiltern have announced the date when the new service will open west towards London Marylebone from Oxford Parkway and Bicester: 26th October 2015, approx. 7 weeks later than previously proposed (5th September).

The date for reopening service into Oxford seems to be anybody’s guess, given that planning approval has only recently been granted for the construction of two new platforms at Oxford station, lengthened to accommodate the new trains. (This requires the demolition of the building which used to be the post office depot.) No reliable date is available for the completion of the Oxford Area Remodelling project, which will renew the track layout north of the station and replace signalling.

It seems likely that tunnel, bridge and track work on the line will be complete long before Oxford station is ready.  Chiltern will obviously have difficulty running the new service into Oxford without the modifications necessary for a half-hourly additional service to London with appropriate rolling stock. Even were it possible, the service would be prone to much disruption as work progresses and congestion occurs.

OBRAG has proposed running a reduced shuttle service with a two-car train, similar to the old service in this period.  This would eliminate disruption to the mainline service, while allowing Islip and Bicester commuters to resume access to the city of Oxford without slow and unreliable buses. It would also spare Chiltern the expense of running ‘bustitution’.

I will add their response here when it arrives.

Renaming Bicester Town station (cont.)

Here is a summary of the replies I have had thus far regarding the proposed renaming of Bicester Town station :

From the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR) :

  • Network Rail does indeed own the station, which is merely operated by Chiltern

From Network Rail :

  • To change the name, Chiltern must follow the “Station Change Procedure”
  • ORR is ‘responsible for the above procedure
  • provided there is no net cost to NR, they will “will respond to their application taking into account the regulatory requirements of the Station Change Procedure”.

From the Dept. for Transport (DfT) :  “The Department does not have an approvals locus in the renaming of stations. This is a matter for the proposer to gather relevant stakeholder support and to agree the name change with the relevant operator(s) and Network Rail. It will then be for the train operator(s) to ensure the relevant contractual amendments are made to reflect the name change.”

I have no idea what language that was written in, but it sure ain’t English.  My best guess is that the following two points are made :

  • Chiltern have only to persuade NR to effect the change, since there is currently no other operator
  • they must gain stakeholder support before NR would respond positively (which they have patently failed to do).

They have yet to demonstrate the support of any ‘stakeholder’ other than the shopping mall concerned.

I am still awaiting a description of the Station Change Procedure from ORR, and how an objection may be made.

Meanwhile, I repeat my request for anyone who feels strongly on the matter (either way) to write to their Sir Tony Baldry (the local MP) who has promised to forward all material to his successor. (He has been a friend to our cause for many years and I wish him well.)

Train frequency and speed, including freight

I thought it would be useful to affected residents to pass on the details I’ve been given of train movement on the new line :

  • max speed :  100mph passenger, 75mph freight
  • speed through Islip likely lower than this, as within 2m of Oxford Parkway (OPW) station
  • passenger operation :  06.30 – 24.00
  • passenger frequency :  2 trains per hour (tph) until March 2019, then 4tph, in each direction
  • freight frequency :  2 trains per day until March 2019, then up to 1tph.

March 2019 is when EWR Phase 2 (Oxford – Bedford) service is currently anticipated.

I remain sceptical about train speed through Islip being reduced by proximity to OPW. There is considerable financial incentive to shave every second off journey time. (There is no requirement to reduce speed around the bends or through station.)

The above does not represent the final word. Electrification is still intended, and service level afterward remains ‘unknown’. Other operators are free to propose services which use the line  as a link within the wider network.  The capacity of the line is likely around 20tph (in each direction) with current signalling technology, and could perhaps increase further with a “moving-block” system.

Railfuture AGM

Railfuture will be holding their AGM on Saturday 18th April 10.30 at West Oxford Community Centre, Botley Road (5min walk from Oxford station).

Adrian Shooter, former MD of Chiltern Railways, and the instigator of the Evergreen 3 project will be speaking, and perhaps taking a question or two.