Friday, 11 November 2011

Chiltern Line

The Chiltern Train Operating Company is one of the most go-ahead of the TOCs. It has accelerated and added to the frequency of trains betwen Birmingham and London and has plans to operate a service between London Marylebone and Oxford in direct competition to the London Paddington - Oxford service.  The real test for Chiltern will come when the Paddington-Oxford line is electrified. I expect Chiltern trains will be slower but significantly cheaper.

In a letter to Modern Railways I expressed the opinion that Chiltern should be permitted to take over the operation of the route between Leamington Spa and Nuneaton via Coventry, build a station at Kenilworth and introduce a service from Marylebone to Leicester along this route.  This would introduce fare competition between London and Coventry and Nuneaton as well as providing new travel opportunities between the East Midlands and Reading avoiding London and, just as importantly, Birmingham New Street which is near to full capacity.  No new lines would have to be opened.  A station at Kenilworth would serve the large population of a dormitory town for Coventry and Birmingham and thereby reduce road usage and 'rail-heading' to Leamington and Coventry.

The real problem Chiltern has is its London Marylebone terminus.  The issues are: platform capacity and integration with London Underground and Overground.

Platform capacity.  Some trains could be diverted to London Paddington along what was the old Great Western Railway main line. there should be capacity at Paddington for this once Crossrail commences.  The advantage of such a diversion is that passengers from the Chiltern route would have access to Crossrail and also London Heathrow services.

Integration: the only route serving Marylebone is the Bakerloo line. A project which has been under consideration for years is improving interchange facilities at West Hampstead.  Currently there are three routes with stations at West Hampstead: Thameslink, Jubilee Line and North London Line.  Chiltern and Metropolitan Line trains pass through the area but have no stations. Adding platforms to these two lines would add hugely to travel opportunities for passengers on all five routes and save travelling time.

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