RAIL bosses are celebrating more than 1.5m journeys made in the first year of a new link between Oxford, Bicester and London Marylebone.

As it prepared to open the final section of the line into central Oxford, Chiltern Railways said the new route had already ‘transformed the travel landscape’.

It opened Oxford Parkway Station, near Water Eaton, exactly one year ago today – marking the first new rail link between a major British city and London in a century.

Since then 638,000 passengers have used it, with another one million using the new Bicester Village station, the firm revealed.

Chiltern Railways provided £130m of private funding for the scheme, with government-owned Network Rail providing £190m.

Dave Penney, Chiltern Railways managing director, said: “The first year of the new Oxford Parkway to London Marylebone line has transformed the travel landscape within Oxfordshire.”

And chief project engineer Stephen Barker added: “We are really satisfied with our new service and it has been tremendously successful.

“What we are focusing on now is extending the service to central Oxford in December and providing the best possible experience for our customers.”

Network Rail area director Martin Ball said the work had been part of the organisation’s improvement plan for the national rail network.

He said: “We continue to work closely with Chiltern Railways.”

At the moment Chiltern runs two fast trains per hour from Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village station to London, with journeys typically taking an hour.

But the company hopes to run trains from central Oxford in December.

This has involved work by Network Rail to double the tracks through North Oxford, but the firm has also been required to follow strict rules for providing noise reduction measures for people living next to the tracks.

It is hoped the final section of the line, between Oxford Parkway and Oxford Station, will open on December 12.

From that point, passengers will for the first time have a choice between operators for trips to London. A season ticket costs £4,832.

A spokesman for rival operator Great Western Railway said yesterday: “The GWR network is undergoing it’s greatest investment programme since Brunel, which will deliver more trains, more seats and more frequent services for our passengers, including those from Oxford.

“The first inter-city express trains are being tested in the UK and are due into passenger service within a year.”

Ian Hudspeth, Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said he hoped the extension of Chiltern services to Oxford Station would boost competition.

He added: “I know the service from Oxford Parkway is first class and, like GWR, have used it many times.

“The two compliment each other and hopefully the competition means even better experiences for customers.”

Mr Hudspeth, a county councillor for Woodstock, said he also wanted bus companies to introduce a service from the town via Oxford Parkway, so residents can get connections to London.

He said: “That would be a fantastic thing to have and I hope we see it soon.”

However Chiltern’s new service has not been controversy-free.

After it was first introduced, commuters complained of delayed and overcrowded trains because of the new timetable.