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Improved rail link survives end of subsidy
THE enhanced train service that has operated between Oxford and Bicester for the past three years is to continue, despite the end of a subsidy for the extra trains.
It was used to increase the number of trains between Oxford, Islip and Bicester Town stations on weekdays and Saturdays and support the introduction of Sunday services.
The extra trains have led to a boom in custom on the line, with a 73 per cent jump in passenger numbers at Bicester Town between 2009 and 2010, with 105,329 journeys, up from 60,638 in 2008-9, and a 40 per cent rise at Islip, with 23,885 journeys, up from 17,062 the previous year.
Chiltern Railways, which took over the route from First Great Western last May, as part of preparations for its proposed Evergreen3 project to create a second Oxford-London rail link, via Bicester, said it wanted to continue to increase traffic on the line.
A spokesman said: “In our May timetable, we have kept the enhanced level of service between Bicester Town and Oxford despite the removal of funding from Oxfordshire County Council. This is because we are keen to develop the market and retain these services.”
The news was welcomed by the Oxford-Bicester Rail Action Group (Obrag), which represents passengers.
Chairman Dr Ian East said: “We welcome the fact that the current timetable will continue for now but are not so happy about the possible loss of trains at Islip under the Evergreen3 service.”
He added: “The issue for us is to get the minimum public service requirement increased by the DfT. If a station is left below the level of service that is useful, then custom declines.
“At Islip, traffic was falling when there were only seven trains a day each way, but with 11, traffic jumped. That change took us past the tipping point where the service became useful. It showed the demand is there.”
Obrag is talking to Chiltern about its Evergreen3 timetable plans, which currently suggest eight trains each way at Islip on weekdays. The group is asking passengers to give their views, to help it build a case for more trains to call.
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