Chiltern Railways says that its Oxford-London link will offer competition based on better punctuality, fast Wi-Fi and other quality factors, not price




Chiltern Railways has launched its new Oxford Parkway-London service with the aim of attracting 250,000 return commuter journeys per year.

Although Chiltern billed the launch of the half-hourly services from the new station on the north east outskirts of the city as “a rare example of direct competition on Britain’s railways”, it is priced almost identically to FirstGroup’s existing Great Western Railway service to London from Oxford’s city centre station. Instead, Chiltern managing director Rob Brighouse told Passenger Transport that part of Chiltern’s business plan was based on providing superior customer experience to win commuters from GWR. “This is not price competition, it’s quality,” he said. Brighouse highlighted the standard of seating on his trains, Chiltern’s status as the country’s top train operator for right time punctuality, fast onboard Wi-Fi and the accessibility of Oxford Parkway as key competitive factors.

Although Chiltern’s rail journey time to London is similar to GWR’s at around one hour, he said the location of Oxford Parkway, adjacent to the A34, A44 and close to A40, would reduce the overall door-to-door journey times significantly from many parts of Oxfordshire.

“People no longer need to drive into Oxford to catch a train – that last three miles has a 30 minute penalty because Oxford is such a congested city,” he commented.

In addition, Chiltern is upgrading the free onboard Wi-Fi service to 4G to provide faster internet connections.

Brighouse added that Chiltern did not intend to compete on price when services are extended from Oxford Parkway to Oxford station next year where Chiltern will have dedicated platforms and track for its services.

In the leisure market, Brighouse said Chiltern’s targets include the 6.3 million annual visitors to Bicester Village shopping centre, served directly by the new Bicester Village station, and the large Oxford-London coach market, as well as generating new trips.

The project to provide the new route involved linking the existing Oxford-Bicester branch line to the Chiltern Main Line, upgrading and double tracking the branch line, building the new stations at Bicester Village and Oxford Parkway and new track and platforms at Oxford station.

The works also form part of the East-West Rail project to link Oxford to Bedford and then Cambridge, and have been specified to provide the capacity required for that project.

The overall project cost is £320m with Chiltern’s contribution £130m. Network Rail provided the finance for
the upgrade and will recover the costs through a facility charge over the next 30 years.


Related coverage in the latest issue of Passenger Transport:


Rail tickets valid on Parkway bus link
Oxford Bus Company has enhanced its services


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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