On Saturday 25 June a train crept quietly into Princes Risborough from Chinnor on a training run, paving the way for regular operations in the future.
previous days the final piece of a two-year administrative jigsaw had dropped
into place with the signing by Network Rail and the Chinnor and Princes
Risborough Railway Association of a ‘Track Access Agreement’, approved by the
Office of Rail and Road (formerly the Office of Rail Regulation). The agreement
allows the heritage railway trains to run over a half-mile long Network Rail
owned siding to reach Princes Risborough at weekends - when the siding is not
otherwise in use.
Scott of Network Rail unlocked the gate which separates the two railways to let
the train through. It was a heritage diesel Class 121 railcar and it
sidled around the curve to arrive alongside Princes
Risborough station just after 15.00 on Saturday. The railcar was an empty
train, running for crew training purposes only. There will be similar route
familiarisation runs in the following weeks, and some special trains for
passengers will begin after that.
Rail and the Association have also agreed Heads of Terms for a lease of land
West of Princes Risborough station. Once the lawyers have done their thing, the
Association will begin work on rebuilding a derelict platform and replacing
track, so that passengers can join and alight there in 2017.
Andy Scott, Output Integration Manager for Network Rail's London North Western Route said, ‘Early in 2014 I was asked to get involved in helping the Chinnor Railway reach Princes Risborough. What seemed to be a simple proposition was actually quite a challenge. Today it gives me great pleasure to open the gate to admit the first train through onto the Thame branch siding!’
Steve Growcott, Infrastructure Director of the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway said: ‘I joined Chinnor Railway 18 years ago in the belief that its extension into Risborough was imminent, but I've grown a few grey hairs since then. This marks the beginning of a new era for the Railway and its volunteers, as we focus on building our new station and then developing and operating the line in new ways!’
An absentee from this event was the Association's Chairman, Danny Woodward, who was abroad for his daughter's wedding. Danny said, 'I was elected 18 months ago with the commitment to obtain the long held goal of running our steam trains into Princes Risborough. I have had overwhelming support from both our membership and the team at Network Rail, plus Chiltern Railways and the local staff from both organisations. I am delighted it will now be happening, but much more still has to be done before our passengers can actually board and alight using a new platform at Princes Risborough in 2017.