Chiltern Railways - Chiltern Railways History - B

Chiltern Railways - B
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 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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