A new travel option has emerged for my annual trip to Oxford: Chiltern have created a direct link to the new Oxford Parkway station via a new south to west chord from the old GC/GW route at Bicester. Twice a day, the Oxford services from Marylebone are covered by the Chiltern Mainline loco-hauled sets (six refurbished Mark 3 coaches and a DVT), now hauled by Vossloh built, DRS owned Class 68 locomotives.
So it was that I went to Marylebone to watch the 1815 to Kidderminster leave with No 68012, as I waited in the first coach of the 1818 to Oxford Parkway, headed by No 68013. Following three minutes later,, it took us seven minutes to reach Dollis Hill (4.45 miles) at 62 mph followed by 69 at Neasden LUL and 67 at Wembley Stadium. Then she surged forward, with 75 at Sudbury & Harrow Road, 84 at South Harrow Tunnel and 92 at South Ruislip. On we went reaching 94 at Denham and then we braked suddenly down to 36 at Denham Golf Club. I suspect we caught yellows from our counterpart which left three minutes before we did.
We were up to 56 again by Gerrards Cross and hit 95 at Beaconsfield, then stayed in the 90s to just before High Wycombe, where we had another heavy slowing. From there we accelerated sharply against the 1 in 179/164, from 54 at Wycombe to 78 at Saunderton station and a maximum of 82 as we ran on to Princes Risborough where we slowed again.
We recovered from 54 to 84 at Ilmer before slowing for Haddenham and Thame Parkway, where we arrived three minutes late. Once again we got away briskly, reaching 94 at Brill and staying in the 90s until slowing for the new Bicester South Junction, making it round the chord to Bicester Village station some four minutes late. We had a last blast along the old line from Bletchley, hitting 95 before our final arrival at Oxford Parkway four and a half minutes late.
Are the 68s the twenty first century Deltics? Well, with both the locomotive and the linespeed from Wembley set at a maximum of 100 mph, we didn’t come near that figure, but we were in the middle of an intensive evening rush hour service. And a loco-hauled ride in a nicely modernized Mark 3 can never be bad.
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures