Chiltern Railways - A

Chiltern Railways - A
Chiltern Railways (legal name The Chiltern Railway Company Limited) is a British train operating company that has operated the Chiltern Railways franchise since July 1996. Since 2009, it has been a subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains.
Chiltern Railways was founded as M40 Trains by a group of ex-British Rail managers backed by John Laing and 3i; in June 1996, it was announced that M40 Trains had been awarded the Chiltern Railways franchise. On 21 July 1996, it took over operations from British Rail. The company promptly commenced the redoubling of the Chiltern Main Line under the Evergreen initiative and ordered the Class 168 Clubman diesel multiple units (DMUs) to supplement its ex-British Rail fleet.
Following the awarding of a 20-year franchise to Chiltern Railways in August 2000, Evergreen phase 2 works begun to raise line speeds around Beaconsfield, built two new platforms at its London Marylebone terminus. In January 2010, a £250 million upgrade package was agreed for Evergreen phase 3, remodelling the line and permitting 100 mph operations, thus greatly reducing journey times.
In August 2002, the John Laing Group became the sole owner of Chiltern Railways after buying out all other shareholders; shortly after John Laing's purchase by Henderson Equity Partners, the company was sold to the German publicly owned railway company Deutsche Bahn in January 2008. Chiltern Railways became a subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains as a result of restructuring during early 2011.
Around this time, Chiltern was considered one of the best railway operators in Britain, with Public Performance Measure (PPM) regularly over 90%. However, the introduction of new timetables during the 2010s was repeatedly received negatively by the travelling public. Severe disruption to Chiltern's services occurred following the collapse of Gerrards Cross Tunnel on 30 June 2005; an unplanned six week closure of the main line was forced, resulting in compensation being paid by Tesco to both Chiltern Railways and Network Rail.
Chiltern Railways operates commuter/regional rail passenger services from its central London terminus at 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 to Birmingham Moor Street, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford, with some peak-hour services extended to Stourbridge Junction.
Chiltern Railways also runs trains on the London–Aylesbury line to Aylesbury (some of which continue on to Aylesbury Vale Parkway), and on the Princes Risborough to Aylesbury and Oxford to Bicester branch lines. From December 2010, Chiltern began operating the Chiltern Mainline service of two peak-hour locomotive-hauled services consisting of a Class 67 hauling a rake of modernised Mark 3 coaches and a Driving Van Trailer.
Chiltern Railways History
Chiltern Railways originated with a number of former British Rail managers who sought to conduct a management buyout on one of the soon-to-be-created rail franchises that would be produced as a part of the privatisation of British Rail.
  • In April 1995, they were granted a licence by the railway regulator. However, the team recognised that they lacked the resources to successfully pursue a bid, thus they secured the backing of the infrastructure investment group John Laing and the venture capital specialist 3i.
  • In October 1995, M40 Trains Limited was established; the various railway managers held a combined 51% shareholding in the business, while the John Laing Group and 3i held 26% and 23% stakes respectively. The company reportedly spent £38 million in its bid for the Chiltern Railways franchise.
  • In June 1996, the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising awarded the franchise to M40 Trains for an initial period of seven years. It was the only franchise operator to have as many as 51% of its shared controlled by its directors.
  • On 21 July 1996, the company commenced operations, taking over from the publicly owned British Rail. Chiltern Railways was the first railway franchise to order new rolling stock in the post-privatisation era in the form of the Class 168 Clubman diesel multiple units (DMUs).
However, their introduction was marred by unreliability, in part due to their rushed entry into service in response to booming passenger demand. By April 1999, the company claimed to employ 50% more staff than it had at the start of the franchise, and to be running 25% more services than had been operated by British Rail.
Meanwhile, under the terms of the franchise agreement, the annual subsidy provided by the British government was gradually reduced.
  • During early 1999, the ownership of M40 Trains underwent substantial changes; the John Laing Group opted to increase its shareholding in the venture to 84% via the purchase of shares from their previous holders; the outstanding 16% of shares were owned by several members of the former British Rail management team.
  • In March 2000 the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority announced that both M40 Trains and the British transport group Go-Ahead had been shortlisted to bid for the next Chiltern franchise.
  • In August 2000, M40 Trains was awarded the new franchise, which was set to run for 20 years, conditional on various investments being made across that period.
  • On 3 March 2002, the new franchise period began.
  • In August 2002, John Laing acquired the remaining 16% of shares in M40 Trains that it did not already own. In September 2006, John Laing was purchased by the global investment firm Henderson Equity Partners in exchange for £887 million.
  • During December 2004, Chiltern Railways took over operation of passenger services on the Leamington Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon branch line from First Great Western Link.
  • In June 2006, M40 Trains was invited by the Department for Transport to lodge a bid to operate the Snow Hill Lines, then operated by Central Trains, as part of the letting of the West Midlands franchise. However, this bid was not successful.
  • During mid-2005, Chiltern Railways' services were heavily disrupted by the collapse of Gerrards Cross Tunnel. In 1996, the British retailer Tesco sought to build a supermarket near Gerrards Cross railway station, despite the local council's initial objection to the scheme, it was approved by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in July 1998.

Due to a lack of available space, Tesco started building a tunnel over the active railway line to provide suitable land for the development. On 30 June 2005, the partially-constructed tunnel collapsed, nobody was injured, but a complete closure of the line was enacted for over six weeks before being permitted to reopen on 20 August 2005.

Tesco paid an estimated £200 million of compensation to both Chiltern Railways and Network Rail for the disruption, the retailer also pledged to fund a media campaign to win back passengers lost by the route's unplanned closure. The tunnel's construction resumed in January 2009. In late November 2010, the completed store was opened.

  • In July 2007, Henderson Equity Partners announced its intention to sell on Laing Rail along with the Chiltern Railways franchise. Amongst the parties to express interest in acquiring the company were the transport groups Arriva and Go-Ahead.
  • However, by December 2007, only the German publicly owned railway company Deutsche Bahn and the Dutch transport company NedRail reportedly remained in the bidding contest. In January 2008, Laing Rail was purchased by Deutsche Bahn; accordingly Chiltern Railways became a part of the DB Regio group. During early 2011, the company was restructured, with DB Regio becoming a subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains.
  • During May 2011, Chiltern took over operating services on the Oxford–Bicester line from First Great Western. On 26 October 2015, the company opened two new stations, Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village, providing services between north Oxford and London Marylebone. In December 2016, Chiltern Railways started running train services from Oxford to London Marylebone.
  • In 2021, following the COVID-19 emergency measures, Chiltern was awarded a new direct contract by the Department for Transport, replacing its franchise agreement, expiring on 12 December 2027.
Chiltern Railways is one of several train operators impacted by the 2022–2023 United Kingdom railway strikes, the first national rail strike in the UK for three decades. Its workers were amongst those are participating in industrial action due to a dispute over pay and working conditions.
Chiltern Railways Services
Chiltern Railways Operates Regular Services on Five Routes.
The Chiltern Main Line is the core route for the majority of Chiltern Railways services and is one of two "mainline routes" operated by the company. The route links the major cities of London and Birmingham (Marylebone and Snow Hill stations respectively), passing through the towns of High Wycombe, Banbury, Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick and Solihull. Chiltern Railways operates trains along the entire line, services ranging from stopping suburban trains (e.g. London Marylebone – Gerrards Cross) to express trains running the full length of the line between London and Birmingham.
The fastest timetabled journey from Birmingham to London by this route is 99 minutes (compared with 82 minutes using Avanti West Coast services between Birmingham New Street and London Euston via the West Coast Main Line). In addition to the Chiltern Railways services, CrossCountry also operates regular services on the line north of Banbury, and West Midlands Trains operates regular services north of Dorridge.
The London–Aylesbury line is the second "mainline route" operated by the company. The route links London (Marylebone) with Aylesbury via Amersham. All Chiltern Railways services on this route run the full length of the line between Marylebone and Aylesbury stations and call at all stations north of Amersham; most trains are extended one station further to Aylesbury Vale Parkway.
The line runs alongside London Underground's Metropolitan line between Finchley Road (just north of Marylebone station) and Harrow-on-the-Hill, each operator running on separate tracks. Beyond Harrow-on-the-Hill, the tracks are shared between Chiltern Railways and Metropolitan line services. This is an example of National Rail services using non-Network Rail tracks, and it uses a unique unregulated track-access agreement with London Underground. Beyond Amersham (where the Metropolitan line terminates), all services are operated by Chiltern Railways only.
The other three routes regularly served by the company are all branch lines. The Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line links Princes Risborough, on the Chiltern Main Line, with Aylesbury, on the London to Aylesbury Line.
Most trains on the line continue beyond Princes Risborough to London Marylebone, which gives Aylesbury an alternative route to reach central London; however, a few services terminate at Princes Risborough. The Oxford–Bicester line branches off the Chiltern Main Line just south of Bicester and links the town with Oxford.
The line is mostly served by express services to and from Marylebone. Until December 2016, the line terminated a few miles northeast of Oxford, at the nearby Oxford Parkway station; the line was then extended to the main Oxford station. The Leamington–Stratford line branches off the Chiltern Main Line at Hatton (a few miles west of Leamington Spa) and runs to Stratford-upon-Avon. The branch line is also operated by regular West Midlands Trains services.
Chiltern Railways Routes
As of May 2023, a simplified description of the routes served off-peak Monday to Friday are as follows:
London – Birmingham
  • London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill[a] 1[b] tph
High Wycombe, Bicester North, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway, Dorridge, Solihull, Birmingham Moor Stree
  • London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street 1 tph
High Wycombe, Haddenham & Thame Parkway, Bicester North, Kings Sutton (1tp2h) Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway, Dorridge, Solihull
London – Oxford
  • London Marylebone to Oxford 1 tph
Gerrards Cross, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Bicester Village, Oxford Parkway
  • London Marylebone to Oxford 1 tph
Wembley Stadium, Gerrards Cross, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Haddenham & Thame Parkway, Bicester Village, Islip (1tp2h) Oxford Parkway
London – High Wycombe and Aylesbury
  • London Marylebone to High Wycombe 1 tph
Wembley Stadium, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Northolt Park, South Ruislip, West Ruislip (1tp2h) Denham, Denham Golf Club (1tp2h) Gerrards Cross, Seer Green and Jordans, Beaconsfield
Trains either call at West Ruislip or Denham Golf Club
Monks Risborough   Little Kimble
  • Princes Risborough to Aylesbury 0 tph
Trains run irregularly with either hourly or 90 minute gaps
  • London Marylebone to Aylesbury 1[c] tph
Harrow-on-the-Hill, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood, Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham, Great Missenden, Wendover, Stoke Mandeville
  • London Marylebone to Aylesbury Vale Parkway 1 tph
Harrow-on-the-Hill, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood, Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham, Great Missenden, Wendover, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury
Leamington – Stratford and Birmingham
  • Leamington Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon 1⁄2 tph
Warwick, Hatton, Claverdon, Bearley, Wilmcote, Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway
  • Leamington Spa to Birmingham Moor Street 1⁄2 tph
Warwick, Warwick Parkway, Hatton, Lapworth, Dorridge, Solihull
a.^ 3 trains per day from London and 1 train per day towards London extend to Stourbridge Junction, calling at Rowley Regis, with Smethwick Galton Bridge served once per day in each direction and Jewellery Quarter, The Hawthorns, Langley Green, Old Hill, Cradley Heath and Lye served once per day Stourbridge-bound only.
b.^ Some trains only run between London and Banbury
c.^ Doesn't run some hours
Chiltern Railways Parliamentary Trains
Chiltern Railways operates two parliamentary train services:
  • Cherwell Valley line: there is a single daily parliamentary service operating on the Cherwell Valley Line from Oxford to Banbury, operated by Chiltern Railways. This service runs on Tuesdays to Saturdays just after midnight and calls at Tackley, Heyford and Kings Sutton - the three intermediate stations on the line. There is no corresponding return service heading towards Oxford. This service exists to maintain route knowledge for Chiltern Railways' drivers. Regular services on the line are operated by Great Western Railway and CrossCountry.
  • New North Main line/Greenford branch line: the company also operated a weekday parliamentary service to and from West Ealing in the late morning. Until December 2018, these services ran to and from London Paddington. They were then diverted to West Ealing following closure of the easternmost section of the New North Main line for High Speed 2 construction. The parliamentary service used to run a return service, with the returning service terminating at High Wycombe. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the service was suspended until December 2021. As of December 2022, the service no longer runs and has been replaced by a bus service.
Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
On certain Bank Holiday Mondays, services are extended from Aylesbury to the Buckinghamshire Railway Heritage Centre facilities at Quainton Road, a short way north of Aylesbury Vale Parkway. However, this did not happen in 2019 and their future is uncertain. The link will continue to be used by freight services to Calvert.
Chiltern Railways Tickets
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 Avanti West Coast 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 Avanti services.
Until January 2022, Chiltern offered a premium economy "Business Zone" carriage on their Class 68 loco-hauled services between Birmingham or Oxford and London. Passengers would pay an upgrade fee to sit in a larger first-class-style seat, and formerly, this upgrade came with complimentary refreshments but, since May 2017, refreshment services have been cut on all Chiltern Railways services, meaning the "Business Zone" no longer comes with complimentary refreshments.
From January 2022, Business Zone is no longer offered, and the former Business Zone carriage can be used by any customers holding a valid ticket to travel at no extra cost.
Chiltern Railways Overview
Chiltern Railways Franchise(s): Chiltern
Chiltern Railways Main route(s): Chiltern Main Line
Chiltern Railways Other Route(s):
London–Aylesbury line
Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line
Leamington–Stratford line
Oxford–Bicester line
Birmingham-Kidderminster line (peak only)
Chiltern Railways Fleet Size:
6 Class 68 locomotives
6 Mark 3 Driving Van Trailers
25 Mark 3 carriages
39 Class 165 Networker Turbo sets
24 Class 168 Clubman sets
1 Class 01 shunter
Chiltern Railways Stations Called at: 66
Chiltern Railways Stations Operated: 32
Chiltern Railways Parent Company: Arriva UK Trains
Chiltern Railways Reporting Mark: CH
Chiltern Railways Dates of Operation: 21 July 1996–12 December 2027
Chiltern Railways Technical Length: 336.4 km (209.0 mi)
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