Chiltern Railways began the franchise in 1996 following privatisation. The TOC is owned by Deutsche Bahn and is part of Arriva
At the end of 2017 passenger and freight train companies, Network Rail and their suppliers, launched a ‘single plan’ for Britain’s railway.
Dave Penney, Managing Director of Chiltern Railways, said at the time: ‘Over the next 18 months alone, our investment plans will mean more trains, running more punctually, with value-for-money tickets that are easier to buy and use, and better information at people’s fingertips when things do go wrong.’
Late night trains
A new Winter/Spring timetable came into effect on Sunday, 10th December 2017. Chiltern Railways put on more services and provided more seats over the festive period between Oxford, Bicester and London from December.
Website and app
Chiltern Railway’s new website has introduced several new features including a cheapest fare indicator and the ability to book season tickets, business upgrades and passengers assistance on a mobile. A new app was launched at the start of 2018.
Chiltern Railways also determined that additional DMU vehicles would be needed to account for the planned network growth. In 2015, it took nine Class 170 units on lease following the expiry of the contract between First TransPennine Express and the trains’ owners, Porterbrook.
These units were cascaded to Chiltern on a phased approach and were converted into a Class 168 unit configuration to ensure full compatibility and integration with the other Chiltern DMU units. All nine units are now in passenger service bringing additional capacity to the fleet.
In 2017 Chiltern trialled a ‘hands-free’ fares system for twelve months, partfunded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB). New technology will identify devices in travellers’ pockets or bags using Bluetooth signals and deduct fares when they finish their journey, removing the need to purchase a ticket.
The trial will involve around fifty passengers between five stations: Oxford Parkway, Islip, Bicester Village, Bicester North and London Marylebone. Chiltern is also working on providing passengers with continuous Wi-Fi through a partnership with EE, the biggest, fastest and most reliable network in the UK.
Arriva will use a planned, innovative project with EE as a test bed for possible roll-out across other franchises including the new Northern Rail franchise. The partnership will involve EE adding extra network capacity and coverage through a wireless trackside network, making ‘no Wi-Fi bars’ onboard a thing of the past – even through tunnels.