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Bicester rail commuters accept short-term pain for long-term gain
COMMUTERS have taken their last train ride on the Bicester to Oxford line for at least two years.
The last train left Bicester Town station for Oxford just before midnight yesterday ahead of £130m of work to upgrade the line and completely rebuild the station.
The line between London Marylebone, Bicester Town and Water Eaton, which will be called Oxford Parkway, will open next summer and the Oxford/London Marylebone link will open in spring 2016.
From today, buses will replace trains and will stop at Bicester Town, Islip and Oxford station.
But commuters said the “short-term pain” will be worth the gain.
Regular commuter Pete Osborne, 54, of Bicester, said he will get the bus to Oxford.
He said: “We been waiting for this for 20 years. There will be a bit of pain but it’s short-term pain.”
Lorna Nichol, 50, from Langford Village, Bicester, said: “I think it will be really good when it reopens.”
Joakim Selin, from Bicester, has been commuting for the past 18 months and said the journey into the city would be more difficult. But he added: “I hope it will get better in the end.”
Jackie Wood, who runs a mobile coffee stall at the station, said: “We have noticed the number of customers has gone down in the past week – our business has been a quarter of what it has been.”
Ad Hill, 46, from Bicester, said she had a contract working in the centre of Oxford, but once it was finished she would look for work elsewhere. She said: “I have been using it for just over a year. It’s painful to get into Oxford on the A34. It (the closure) doesn’t help with the short term battle on the A34.”
Dr Ian East, from Islip, the chairman of the Oxford-Bicester Rail Action Group, said: “The impact of the closure on regular commuters, and others who rely on the line, is severe.
“Now they face a significantly longer journey time by bus, with the prospect of getting stuck in traffic jams.”
Chiltern Railways said as part of the replacement bus services on offer, four buses would be fitted with cycle carriers that will be able to transport eight bicycles each.
Jenny Payne, customer service director at Chiltern, said: “The new line between Oxford and London Marylebone will bring great benefits for the region.
“However, we recognise that the work significantly affects our Bicester to Oxford customers for an extended period of time.”
Bicester Town station is also used by shoppers heading to Bicester Village. It expects customers and staff will use the replacement bus service, but said the most popular rail route was via Bicester North station.
Once completed, Chiltern Railways Evergreen 3 project will provide Oxford commuters with a second London link to Marylebone, in addition to the existing Oxford-Didcot-Paddington line.
Projected journey times are 66 minutes between Oxford and London, and 14 minutes from Oxford to Bicester.
That compares with the current journey time of Oxford to Paddington of typically 55 minutes and Oxford to Bicester of 25 minutes.
Although the rail line is closed, freight and construction trains will still travel along paets of the line and level crossings will be in use.
Both Bicester Town and Islip stations will be rebuilt and the track doubled and electrified.
The East West Rail link through Oxford and Bicester to Milton Keynes and Bedford is due to open by December 2017.
- For more information on the replacement bus services, see chilternrailways.co.uk