Posted 5th September 2011 | 3 Comments

Chiltern mounts Silver Trains challenge to Virgin

CHILTERN RAILWAYS is launching accelerated services between London and Birmingham today, complete with a new class of accommodation which will be known as Business Zone.

The fastest of the new 'Chiltern Mainline' trains will be operated by locomotive-hauled stock which became spare after Chiltern's associated open-access company Wrexham & Shropshire ceased trading on 28 January this year.

Forming four daily 'silver trains', the loco-hauled sets will link London and Birmingham with a best time of 90mins. Chiltern is keen to attract some Virgin passengers from the Euston-New Street route by offering a superior class with at-seat service for a much lower premium, which will be £10 or £20 more than standard tickets.

Catering, however, will not be complimentary. Chiltern said it believed that passengers 'did not value paying more than £100 extra for a sandwich, pretzels and a glass of wine', although the Business Zone will offer more space and Wifi. Passengers will be able to buy Business Zone tickets in advance or upgrade on board.

The new services are a result of the £250 million Evergreen 3 project, which has included track upgrades at a number of locations between Marylebone and Moor Street. The faster trains were to have been launched in May, but the project overran amid some controversy, which saw Network Rail take over the management of the upgrades in March, following intervention by the Office of Rail Regulation.

The ORR warned at the time that there were 'significant risks to timescales', which was why it had taken action.

The ORR's director of railway planning and performance, Michael Lee, had said: "The risk of not completing it on time to introduce new services in May had been growing and that was behind the decision to hand over project management to Network Rail." 

The project has been a railway version of 'just in time' delivery. The upgrades were only being completed early on 2 September, with the last blockade taking place the previous night. Chiltern told Railnews this final work consisted of tamping, so that speed restrictions could be lifted for the launch today.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.


    Historically this railway existed a century before the NIMBYs and HS2 will not be operational until a large number of these same NIMBYs are long gone i.e. mid-late 2020's.
    The anti's are not listening to the facts; no HS2 means a totally clogged, inadequate rail system as on all current estimates West Coast and East Coast Lines will be clogged for passenger traffic (not to mention freight) before the end of this decade.
    Standing room only wont begin to describe it.

  • Kevin Boyd, Sutton Coldfield, England

    Actually, there was quite a lot of fuss on the Chiltern Mainline project - it ran late and caused many weekend closures. True, this was on a smaller scale than the West Coast upgrade, when travelling on a weekend meant catching rail replacement buses for part of your journey over months and years on end. Being able to build a brand new railway from scratch with no disruption to traffic, and relieve congestion on parallel routes while bringing much improved journey times should be an idea that sells.

    The anti HS2 gang is not a cohesive band of people - they have many varied and mainly selfish reasons for opposing it. They should be easy to argue against - indeed a band of them were verbally torn to pieces in a parliamentary committee recently. What will kill this project will be huge costs, but there seems to be cross-party support for this so HS2 is in good shape.

    Well, what has Chiltern got to show for all the fuss? A better service it is true, but at a price - try finding information about those all important cheaper fares and you will come up against a deliberate policy that saw a reduction in their advertising. Four fast trains doesn't constitue a railway summer, either.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island< Essex, England

    We hear all the nonsense about how HS2 will tear up the countryside and despoil the Chilterns and yet Chiltern Railways have gone from an extension to the Metropolitan Line to an inter city railway to the West Midlands without all the fuss!!

    How much is HS2 problem about describing what that is going to happen (i.e HS2 is being badly sold!!). Odd thing is the anti HS2 brigade talk about tearing up the countryside when the reality is the plans are to re-use part of the old Great Central Railway and then roof it over and join back together two pieces of land but no body in the HS2 camp seems to make this reality clear?