UK Transport Wiki
Chiltern Railways
File:Chiltern railways logo.png

Main route(s):Chiltern Main Line
Other route(s):London to Aylesbury Line
Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Line
Leamington to Stratford Line
Fleet size:39 Class 165 Turbo sets
19 Class 168 Clubman sets
1 Class 121 "Bubble Car"
Stations called at:62
Stations operated:27
Passenger km 2007/8:897.1 million
Route km operated:336.4
National Rail abbreviation:CH
Parent company:DB Regio

Template:Chiltern Railways Route Map

Chiltern Railways is a train operating company in England. It was formed by the privatisation of British Rail in 1996, and operates mainline passenger trains from Marylebone station in London to Aylesbury and Birmingham Snow Hill. In 2002, the company began a new franchise of up to twenty years, promising significant investment in the route — the 20-year term is conditional on various investments and improvements over the life of the franchise.

Initially, the line was franchised to a company formed by the British Rail managers of the route, but in 2003 it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Laing Rail, who had owned a much smaller shareholding at privatisation. In 2008, Laing Rail was taken over in turn by Germany's Deutsche Bahn AG.


Chiltern operate services on four routes.

File:Marylebone station.jpg

The main entrance to Marylebone station, the London terminus operated by Chiltern Railways.


The booking hall and main entrance Banbury station, managed by Chiltern Railways.

File:165020 at South Hampstead.jpg

A refurbished class 165 unit at South Hampstead

The London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill route used by Chiltern Railways goes via High Wycombe, Bicester, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick Parkway, Dorridge and Solihull.

Although the fastest timetabled journey between London and Birmingham via this route is 1 hour and 56 minutes, most express services take 2 hours and 5 minutes with semi-fast services sometimes taking up to 2 hours and 30 minutes (compared with approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes using Virgin Trains services between London Euston and Birmingham New Street).

Train tickets for the slower "High Wycombe" Chiltern route between Birmingham and London are cheaper than Birmingham to London tickets for "Any Permitted Route" (also valid on the faster Virgin service to London Euston). Peak travel restrictions are also different for the two operators.

Some trains continue beyond Birmingham Snow Hill station to Stourbridge Junction or Kidderminster, where the preserved steam Severn Valley Railway starts at the adjacent Kidderminster Town.

The line to Aylesbury Vale Parkway via Amersham shares its route with London Underground's Metropolitan Line between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Amersham.

On certain Bank Holiday Mondays services are extended from Aylesbury to the Buckinghamshire Railway Heritage Centre facilities at Quainton Road, a short way south of Verney Junction. These services are often run by Chiltern's Class 121 diesel multiple unit, referred to as a "bubble car".

A shuttle service operates on the branch line from Aylesbury to Princes Risborough on the line to Birmingham via High Wycombe. Certain services from Marylebone via High Wycombe also provide a limited through service to Aylesbury.

In 2004 Chiltern Railways took over the operation of passenger services on the Leamington Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon branch line.

Chiltern's newly formed sister company, Wrexham & Shropshire, runs services from North Wales along the Chiltern route to London. The service began on 28 April 2008.

Chiltern was also asked to bid for the Snow Hill Lines of the former Central Trains area of Birmingham as part of the new West Midlands Franchise competition. However the bid was unsuccessful.

Chiltern is the first train operator to pilot - and subsequently implement - a full system for purchasing, retailing, fulfilling and validating train tickets electronically in the United Kingdom. As of April 2008, over 18,000 "E-Day" customers have registered to use the service and more than 40,000 electronic tickets have been sold; mainly as barcodes delivered as text messages to the mobile phones of their customers and also as 'Self-Print' tickets. Chiltern's electronic ticketing system is specified, built, operated and maintained by YourRail, based in Barnsley, Yorkshire.


On 6 July 2007, Henderson Fund Managers, the owner of John Laing, announced the sale of its Laing Rail subsidiary, as it wanted to focus on its public infrastructure portfolio.[1] Arriva plc and Go-Ahead Group both expressed an interest in acquiring the company,[2][3] but the final bidders were Germany's Deutsche Bahn and the Dutch NedRail.[4]

In January 2008 it was announced that the Laing Rail company had been sold to Deutsche Bahn.[5] Once approval from the Department for Transport, Transport for London and the Office of Rail Regulation had been granted, the company became part of DB Regio. The Chiltern Railways management and brand remained unchanged.


The "core" off-peak Chiltern Railways timetable currently comprises the following services:

In addition, Chiltern Railways runs one train a day from London Paddington to keep traincrew route knowledge up-to-date, as the route is regularly used for diversions during periods of engineering work, one train a day from Birmingham Snow Hill to Oxford, and a single train per week from Stratford to Oxford.


Chiltern is considered one of the best operators in Britain, with PPMs regularly over 90% during the past 5 years. Chiltern is the only operating company which has achieved over 95% performance over 12 months.[6] This is even more remarkable as Chiltern operates on much more strict conditions compared with its long-distance rivals, such as Virgin Trains, as Chiltern has a 5-minute window for performance while others have a 10-minute window.

The latest performance figures, published by the ORR (Office of Rail Regulation), rate Chiltern Railways as the fourth most punctual train operating company in the UK at 94.3% (PPM) - slipping down 1% compared to the same quarter last year - and 95.2% (MAA) as of the fourth quarter of financial year 2009-10.[7]

Project Evergreen[]

Evergreen is the name given by Chiltern to the major infrastructure works that the company has committed to over the 20-year duration of its franchise to improve the routes and services. Up to 2009, this has been divided into three distinct phases.

Evergreen 1[]

The main focus of phase 1 was the redoubling of the Chiltern Main Line between Aynho Junction and Princes Risborough, which also saw the reconstruction of Haddenham and Thame Parkway from a single platform to two platforms, the installation of a new platform at Princes Risborough, and the speed limit raised.

Evergreen 2[]

Phase 2 began after the award of Chiltern's new 20-year franchise. This saw a realignment of the route through Beaconsfield to allow speeds to be increased to 75 mph, improved signalling between High Wycombe and Bicester and between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury, the construction of two new platforms at London Marylebone (located on the old carriage sidings) and the construction of a new maintenance depot near Wembley Stadium.

Evergreen 3[]

The Department of Transport, Chiltern Railways and Network Rail agreed on 15 January 2010 to a £250m upgrade of the Chiltern main line. A quarter-of-a-mile double track will be constructed joining the Oxford to Bicester Line at Bicester Town to the Chiltern Main Line, allowing a new Oxford to London Marylebone service to operate. This will call at Bicester Town and High Wycombe. Part of the track between Wolvercote Tunnel (on the outskirts of Oxford) and Bicester Town will be restored to double track, and a new station constructed at Water Eaton Park-and-Ride. The scheme will include additional platforms at Bicester Town, Islip and Oxford. This part of the Evergreen project is subject to a Transport and Works Act application being approved by the Secretary of State, and is expected to be completed by 2013.

The second part of the Evergreen 3 project will upgrade the Marylebone - Birmingham Chiltern Main Line to permit 100 mph running on 50 more miles of track. Junctions at Neasden, Northolt and Aynho will be rebuilt to permit higher speeds. The 'up' through track will be restored at Princes Risborough, the existing 'up' line becoming a platform loop, a new turnback siding provided at Gerrards Cross and a new 'down' through track built from Northolt Junction to Ruislip Gardens, the existing 'down' track will continue to serve South Ruislip station. The current speed restrictions through Bicester station will be removed to permit 100 mph running. There will also be additional platforms at Birmingham Moor Street. Accelerated services are planned to start in May 2011.[8][9]

Due to the proposed speed increases on large parts of the line, journey times will be reduced significantly. From Marylebone, the fastest peak-hour journey time to Birmingham Moor Street will be 92 minutes, instead of the 117 minutes it currently takes. The table below outlines the proposed peak timetable improvements.[10]

Chiltern Railways chairman Adrian Shooter said, "This is the biggest passenger rail project for several generations not to call on the taxpayer for support. Working closely with Network Rail, we are going to create a new main-line railway for the people of Oxfordshire and the Midlands. This deal demonstrates that real improvements to rail services can be paid for without public subsidy by attracting people out of their cars and on to trains."

Network Rail said its investment will be reimbursed by a "facility charge" over the next 30 years—initially by Chiltern Railways, whose franchise expires in 2022, and then by the future franchisee. The infrastructure upgrade will be carried out by main contractor BAM Nuttall, in partnership with Jarvis and Atkins.

Fastest Peak Time from London (mins)
Current Evergreen 3
Gerrards Cross 21 18
High Wycombe 34 25
Princes Risborough 41 32
Bicester 56 44
Banbury 63 50
Leamington Spa 85 67
Solihull 107 84
Birmingham (Moor Street) 117 92

The £200m project, which is being promoted by Chiltern Railways, had originally proposed doubling the entire route from Oxford to Bicester; however, structural problems found in September 2009 may mean that the section from Bicester and Islip remains single-track. This would not affect the Evergreen plans but would limit intended services between Oxford and Milton Keynes as part of the East West Rail Link.[citation needed] Oxfordshire County Council supports the scheme but remains to be convinced of the benefits to be gained from building the new station at Water Eaton, which would be in the Green Belt.[11]

All signalling on the route (including the new platforms at Oxford) would be controlled by Marylebone Signalling Centre.

Rolling stock[]

File:121020 at Bewdley.JPG

Chiltern Railways operate a single Class 121 "Bubble Car" on Aylesbury to Princes Risborough shuttles.

Chiltern Railways operates services using a fleet of Class 165 "Turbo" and 168 "Clubman" units. The "Turbo" units have undergone refurbishment work at Bombardier's Ilford Works, and the Class 168s have recently been lengthened. Chiltern also operates a single Class 121 "Bubble Car" on its Aylesbury to Princes Risborough line. This heritage unit was extensively refurbished, and operates the majority of the services on the line. In 2008, Chiltern ordered four 2-car Class 172 "Turbostar" units to increase capacity.

When starting in 1996, Chiltern inherited 34 Class 165/0 (Networker) diesel multiple units fitted with Automatic Train Protection and a tripcock so they could be used on London Underground lines on the approach to London Marylebone. The trains were originally used for both suburban and commuter services, including to Birmingham. However the class 165 was designed for suburban travel and not intercity services, unlike its sister, the Class 166, and so, following healthy growth, Chiltern took order of Class 168 units, leaving the Class 165s to be concentrated on stopping services to Banbury and Aylesbury, although they are still sometimes seen on the runs to Birmingham. Chiltern now runs all 39 Class 165/0 made after the five First Great Western units were transferred over.

The first Class 168s ("Clubman") to arrive was the 168/0, which externally resembles the Networker Turbo but is better suited for the intercity service to Birmingham, and was, in fact, the basis for the Class 17x Turbostars. The Clubman trains were the first to be delivered after privatisation, and allowed Chiltern to intensify the commuter services, whilst also providing more comfort on the intercity runs. Later orders of the Class 168 provided the 168/1 and 168/2, which had the Turbostar wiring and external design, and so can be considered to be Turbostars. The Class 168 differs from the rest of the Turbostar family in that it is fitted with the tripcock and ATP, the same as the Class 165/0.

Chiltern is in the process of building up a fleet of Mark 3 coaches, which it intends to use on its planned main line services from London to Birmingham that will use the newly reopened platforms at Birmingham Moor Street. The intention is that they will be completely refurbished, and will have both sliding doors (similar to those of the Mark 3s operated by Iarnród Éireann) and toilet rentention tanks fitted. Deutsche Bahn owns 12 coaches and a number of DVTs already, with options on others from ROSCOs. Introducing these on the Birmingham express trains will then allow Chiltern to cascade the Class 168s currently used on to other services.[12] In June 2010, Chiltern confirmed its intention to introduce a loco-hauled service from December 2010 [13]

Chiltern has also obtained a second Class 121 unit, to supplement its existing one on the Aylesbury-Princes Risbrough route.

Current fleet[]

Class Image Type Top speed Cars per set Unit Numbers Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 121
‘Bubble Car’
File:121020 at Bewdley.JPG diesel multiple unit 70 112 1 121020, 121034 2 Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Line 1959-60
Class 165/0
Networker Turbo
File:165001 B London Marylebone.JPG diesel multiple unit 75 120 2/3 165001-165039 39 Chiltern Main Line
London to Aylesbury Line
Class 168/0
Networker Clubman
File:Chiltern train at Marylebone.jpg diesel multiple unit 100 160 4 168001-168005 5 Chiltern Main Line
London to Aylesbury Line
Class 168/1
Turbostar Clubman
File:Class168Banbury.jpg diesel multiple unit 100 160 3/4 168106-168113 8 Chiltern Main Line
London to Aylesbury Line
Class 168/2
Turbostar Clubman
File:Chiltern at Marylebone.jpg diesel multiple unit 100 160 3/4 168214-168219 6 Chiltern Main Line
London to Aylesbury Line
Class 67 Wrexham and Shropshire 67012 Marylebone TT1.jpg Diesel Locomotive 125 200 5 Chiltern Main Line 1999–2000
Mark 3 Coach[14][15] File:N Mark IIIA TSO 12127.JPG Passenger Coach 125 200 12 Chiltern Main Line 1975–1984
File:Chiltern DVT Wrexham and Shropshire.JPG Driving Van Trailer 125 200 5 Chiltern Main Line 1988

Future Fleet[]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Cars per set Seat layout Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 172/1 Turbostar[16] Diesel Multiple Unit 75 120 4 2 2+3 Chiltern Main Line 2010


File:Class 168 Chiltern Railways Diagram 1.PNG

Gerrards Cross incident[]

Main article: Gerrards Cross tunnel collapse

Near to Gerrards Cross railway station, a tunnel is being constructed to enable the building of a new Tesco store above the railway line. However, the partially-built tunnel collapsed at 19:30 on 30 June 2005. Nobody was injured but the line was closed for over six weeks, eventually reopening on 20 August 2005. Compensation by Tesco to Chiltern is believed to have cost at least £8.5m and the retailer pledged to fund a media campaign to win back passengers lost by the closure of its route. Construction of the tunnel finally began again in January 2009.[17]

Future plans[]

File:165001 B London Marylebone.JPG

Chiltern Railways refurbished Class 165/0 No. 165001 at London Marylebone.

File:165014 B M Interior 2.JPG

The refurbished interior of a Chiltern Railways Class 165/0.

File:168107 A London Marylebone.JPG

Chiltern Railways Class 168/1 No. 168107 at London Marylebone.

File:168107 B M Interior 1.JPG

The refurbished Interior of a Chiltern Railways Class 168/1.

Wrexham & Shropshire[]

From 2010, the operating rights of Wrexham & Shropshire, in which Deutsche Bahn is also a shareholder, were transferred to Chiltern Railways. However, the separate Wrexham & Shropshire brand will be retained.[18]

Other plans[]

  • The High Speed 2 mainline route is under consideration and preliminary budgets have been made. Detailed alignments have not yet been made public but it is likely to involve a route paralleling the M40 / Chiltern Railways route between London and Birmingham. If this goes ahead, one possibility is that the new line would be built between Aynho (just south of Banbury) and the existing High Speed 1 line, joining it between St. Pancras International and Stratford International. A spur to Heathrow Airport has also been proposed. The HS2 route would be at least to French TGV standard and is likely to split somewhere in the Midlands to serve the North via Birmingham International Airport, with a spur to Birmingham City Centre, possibly near Birmingham Moor Street. This might allow passengers from Birmingham and other places (Coventry, Warwick, Banbury, Bicester, Aylesbury, Oxford) a direct train link to High Speed 1, previously known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, with the passenger only having to get off at St. Pancras or Stratford to board a Eurostar train.[19] In June 2008 it was revealed that Network Rail was indeed seriously looking into the proposal of building high-speed lines shadowing five routes (WCML, ECML, MML, GWML) one of them being the Chiltern Main Line.[20][21]
  • The restoration of the quadruple track between South Ruislip (Northolt Junction) and West Ruislip, allowing trains to call at both stations without blocking the line. Triple track currently exists at West Ruislip, with the up platform loop still in situ, and at South Ruislip, with the Down Main through line also in situ. This would involve the reconstruction of the new down platform at West Ruislip, and the reconstruction of the up platform at South Ruislip. This 'Chiltern Metro' service was not programmed in to the last round of franchising agreements.
  • Restoration of fast through lines at Beaconsfield as part of a longer-term aspiration for a 90-minute journey time between London and Birmingham.[22]
  • Double-track the line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury.
  • Remodelling Banbury Station and tracks.[23]
  • New Chiltern Metro Service that would operate 4+tph for Wembley Stadium, Sudbury & Harrow Road, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Northolt Park, South Ruislip and West Ruislip. This would require a reversing facility at West Ruislip, passing loops at Sudbury Hill Harrow, and a passing loop at Wembley Stadium (part of the old down fast line is in use as a central reversing siding, for stock movements and additionally for 8-car football shuttles to convey passengers to the stadium for events).[24]
  • Re-opening the line between Oxford and Princes Risborough,[25][26] which would provide an alternative to the Oxford-Paddington route. The Oxford to Banbury spur would then be handed over to the Chiltern Main Line to create a diversionary loop from Princes Risborough to Banbury via Oxford. This option would require an expensive crossing of the M40 motorway.
  • Re-opening the passenger line between Aylesbury via Milton Keynes to Bedford and the line from Oxford to Bedford as part of the East West Rail Link.[25] Two miles of the line north of Aylesbury re-opened on 14 December 2008 terminating at a new station, Aylesbury Vale Parkway.[27]
  • Opening a rail line from Aylesbury to a M6-M1 Parkway Station near Rugby.[28] If this ever happened it would constitute a major re-opening of much of the Great Central Main Line, closed in the 1960s.
  • Re-opening the former Great Western Railway branch line to Uxbridge High Street, continuing the route to Heathrow Airport. This would give Birmingham a direct rail link with Britain's largest airport.
  • If the Croxley Rail Link gets the go-ahead from TfL and Hertfordshire County Council, direct services into Watford Junction from Aylesbury will be likely, as it will link the Chilterns to the important commercial centre at Watford and the important transport connections at the Junction.

See also[]



  1. Template:Cite news
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  5. Template:Cite press release
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  7. National Rail Trends Chapter 2. ORR.
  8. Template:Cite news.
  9. Template:Citeweb
  10. All figures are from Network Rail - Network Rail document. Retrieved on 1 November 2009.[dead link]
  11. Template:Cite news.
  12. "Marylebone-Birmingham expresses from December" (2010). Today's Railways (99): 7. .
  14. Passenger Board Annual Report 08/09. Chiltern Railways (2009-06-24).
  15. Template:Cite news
  16. Template:Cite press release
  17. Template:Cite news
  18. Wrexham & Shropshire backed by respected rail firm. Wrexham & Shropshire (24 September 2009). Retrieved on 2009-10-03..
  19. High Speed Two - a Greengauge 21 proposition (PDF). Greengauge 21 (June 2007).
  20. Template:Cite news
  22. Page 12
  23. Page 35
  24. There's more to Chiltern than the Chilterns - The Case for a Chiltern Metro. London Travel Watch (January 2001).
  25. 25.0 25.1 Bid To Reopen Central Railway To Passengers. CWN (10 August 2000). Retrieved on 2008-04-15.
  26. Page 17
  27. Template:Cite news
  28. The Next Train Calling At Rugby... Could Be Chiltern. CWN (11 August 2000). Retrieved on 2008-04-15.
  29. Template:Cite press release

External links[]

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Preceded by
Network SouthEast
As part of British Rail
Operator of Chiltern franchise
1996 — present

Template:Deutsche Bahn

de:Chiltern Railways fr:Chiltern Railways nl:Chiltern Railways ja:チルターン・レイルウェイズ pl:Chiltern Railways