Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Western - Bicester review 1

Bicester Town train at Oxford railway station


22/12/07 Oxford to Bicester Town

Cost of ticket £2.00 (cheap day return)

Dept Oxford: 13.22  Arrive Bicester Town: 13.48

Journey time: 27 minutes

Distance: 12 miles   Weather: sunny but cold

Train type: Class 156 2-car DMU  (single track all the way)

Railway company: First Great Western

Frequency of trains - one every two hours


Oxford station in my opinion is one of worst mainline stations on the railway network, having the bare minimum in facilities and being a modernised station with no character. It has two main platforms and two bay platforms. We leave from platform 3. The train I take is one of an extra Saturdays only over the Christmas period. It is now an hourly service instead of a usual 2/3 hourly service. We are already to depart when we are told to get off our train and change to another one, which has just come in. We then leave about four minutes late. We go straight past the carriage sheds on either side of the mainline and pass allotments, then a lake on the left. We then change tracks and stay on the right side of the mainline and go past lots of newly built blocks of flats on the right. We run parallel to the mainline for about another mile before we go north eastwards onto a single track and pass through a cutting, tunnel and cutting, before emerging by a golf course on our right. A second track appears on the right as we pass some general sidings, going quite slowly at about 30 mph. The A40 dual carriageway is on our left and very busy with cars speeding past us. The land is flat with a mixture of ploughed fields and grazing fields, one of which has a pillbox in it. We slow down to about 20 mph for a level crossing, and then speed up again. We enter another cutting with a stream on the left and then come into Islip station, where one person gets on. It has a nice red brick platform and a blue framed bus stop type shelter. There are some sidings to the left of the station, but very few houses. Again it's open fields; mainly rough pasture, with some sheep grazing. There's an occasional farm to be seen, with Cotswold stone, being the main type of brick round here. We go under the M40 at about a steady 30 mph. As I'm sitting there the guard and his assistant come round giving out mince pies and mulled wine as a nice Christmas gesture. Now would Virgin ever do that?!! We see some chimneys on the right and then some sidings, as a line joins us on the right, running parallel to us for the rest of the journey. In fact we are passing the entrance to the Bicester Military railway, which was set up in the 2nd world war as a munitions depot. We slow once more as we reach Bicester Town station about two minutes late. It has just a single platform with a small shelter. I notice that some of the station signs are in Chinese. It's not the end of the line as a line goes onto join the line from Aylesbury, but doesn't now go to Bletchley as this stretch has been mothballed.

Summary: This line was just a freight line until 1987 when it was reopened to passenger traffic. Bicester does have another mainline station on the Banbury to London Marylebone line, but I suppose Oxford is a more useful link to have for shopping and entertainment and some commuters must use this line.   MC