Whilst this is all about a new rail link to London, it also represents an important step in the construction of the East West Rail link. The fact that Chiltern Railways and Network Rail were prepared to make provision for East West Rail when building the Bicester chord is almost certainly the catalyst that finally made the project move from an aspiration to a reality.
I decided to give the new service a try and my first opportunity to do this was on 28th October. If you book early enough and are prepared to book a specific off peak train, it is very cheap, starting at £3.95 per leg. I have to say I was hoping that I was not going to be travelling on a rail replacement bus, doubter that I was! I am pleased to say that my doubts were misplaced and the journey went smoothly. This was my first visit to Marylebone station and I was surprised (and pleased) to see that the logo of the Great Central Railway was still on both entrance gates some 92 years after it ceased to be an independent entity. The photo below shows the left hand gate:-
After crossing the A41, we slowed to 40mph for the approach to the chord. As we descended towards Gavray Junction I took a couple of shots through the quite dirty carriage window so I apologise for their poor quality.
From Bicester to Oxford Parkway, there was still a lot of work being carried as we passed through including at Islip station. I noticed quite a few new bridges which were (quite rightly) necessary for safety
reasons with the line speed increasing from 40mph to 100mph. I will try and take a closer look at this section when time allows.
Looking down from the footbridge towards Islip.
Car park from the footbridge staircase. Water Eaton park and ride is to the right.
View towards Oxford from the other platform.
And towards Islip from the same spot.
And finally the station building from the approach road. The replacement bus service to Oxford station was the 500 park and ride bus and one was waiting for us as we arrived so there no delay. It was a bit of a slow grind into Oxford however. There is a small cafe in the station and I chatted to the man behind the counter whilst we waited for our return train. He said that trade had been brisk for the three days that the station had been open.