Sunday, 1 November 2015

Chill Out on Chiltern [2]

Competition and Cowley - but first ...
... we take a moment to think about the thousands of Sheffielders who will be waking up to a new network today about which they know nothing. Or, at best, they might know enough to be confused.
Yesterday - from an Anonymous Sheffield correspondent : I also thought it was one day to go, but apparently the Sheffield Bus Partnership thinks otherwise! Yesterday I finally tracked down three timetable booklets, for new services 7/7A/8/8a, 24/25 and 52/52a. Each one includes journeys run by both First and Stagecoach and on the front it states 'Timetable valid from 26 October 2015', i.e. last Monday!
fbb missed that delight. So they really don't know what they are doing!

There will be more tomorrow!
But back to happier expansive times. Yesterday we were reminded that GWR (the new dark green almost black version) ...
... not the real GWR of fond memory ...
... runs fast trains every 30 minutes between London Paddington and Oxford.
Additionally GoAhead (Oxford Citybus) runs frequent coaches between Gloucester Green bus station and Victoria, taking one hour and forty minutes.
And Stagecoach ditto.
So what is Chiltern up to?

The service that started last week runs from Marylebone to Oxford Parkway Station. This was built on the site of the distinctive but demolished grain silos ...
... just across the road from the long closed and removed "Oxford Road Halt"
The new Oxford Parkway station is part of Water Eaton Park and Ride site.
For the pedants, Water Eaton is an old manor with associated facilities for the snivelling classes bult on the banks of the River Cherwell.
You have to bet that the fifteenth Baron Water of Eaton will be thrilled to know that a Park and Ride site is named after his historic seat!
Here there are three bus bays complete with lavish waiting and shelter facilities (you have to lurk under the awning of the station building; OK if the rain is falling straight down!) The left hand bays are used by peak buses on various services. The main service is the existing 500 Park and Ride bus ...
... which has been extended from the city centre to Oxford Rail Station to complete the link. Chiltern will run into the main station next year when (as Alan reports) the bats in Wolvercote Tunnel have received a period of extended counselling.
Other local buses stop at the attractive facilities on the main road outside the station site.
Bus times for the 500 are shown on the Chiltern train timetable ...
... and the electronic female on the train exhorts passengers to transfer to the "Rail Replacement Bus" outside Parkway Station. Connections seem a bit on the generous side, but No 1 son (who worked in Oxford for many years) opines that the route via Summertown is prone to all-day cloggage, so slack is a useful knack!

The bus fares are £1.80 single and £2.80 return.

Can you buy a through ticket to Oxford station including the bus? According to the timetable, yes!
But rather expensively! Here is National Rail's quoted fare from Haddenham and Thame to Oxford Parkway.
And here is the fare to Oxford itself, presumably plus £18.30 for the bus.
Whoops! No doubt National Rail will get it right one day!

But the big offer for Chiltern is the cheap car parking.
To park anywhere near the centre of Oxford requires sums similar to the national debt of a small balkan republic, so Chiltern surmise that oodles of motorists will drive to Oxford Parkway and ride to London in a train that takes the same time as the less convenient service run by GWR.

fbb reckons they are onto a winner.

To what extent non-car-reliant passengers will use Chiltern from Oxford's not-very-central station is unclear. If Chiltern offers cheaper fares they might well eat into GWR's revenue stream.

But Chiltern haven't finished there. There next aspiration for Oxford involves running passenger trains on the Cowley line. Originally a through route to Princes Risborough, it became a siding to the huge Cowley car factory.
But Chiltern will be eyeing up the park and ride traffic from south of the city! Alas this aspiration is dependent on the rebuilding of Oxford station with extra tracks and platforms; so, dear readers, don't hold your breath!

But in amongst this exciting rail developments is at least one piece of grim news; and fbb does not refer to the traumatised bats of Wolvercote tunnel.

Correspondent Alan reports that there were no printed timetables at Oxford Parkway; no printed timetables at Bicester Village and no printed timetables at Haddenham and Thame Parkway.

Presumably Chiltern Trains management, like the bus blunder people in Sheffield, didn't know they were starting a new service?

 Next bus blog (Sheffield again) : Monday 2nd November 


  1. There's also the Oxford Tube service from Oxford to London.

    Probably the most used of the three companies on the route.

  2. Ah, the power of brand names. The Oxford Tube service IS the Stagecoach service mentioned - there is no third road operator. However, it is possible to book with NatEx, but travel is on a Go Ahead service.

    1. That probably explains why I couldn't remember ever seeing any Stagecoach liveried coaches barrelling up and down the M40 - they were cunningly disguised as Oxford Tubes. Sneaky.

  3. Interestingly, one of the big reasons Chiltern have given for doing this extension was that Oxford to London was one of the only corridors where more people used the coach than the train. Against that, aside from simple boarding to alighting speed, the coach is more comfortable than most trains, more frequent, gets further into Central London and has very affordable walk-up fares.

    They also acknowledged the difficulty for potential passengers to get to the Rail Station due to its location and are hopeful that running from the Park & Ride will be more attractive for potential passengers (highlighting a potential draw out to the Cotswolds possibly even as far as Cheltenham) which would impact on Great Western services.