Chiltern Railways : London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill

I can’t recall travelling with Chiltern Railways before, but they offered a £12 fare to get from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill, which seemed excellent value to me. Marylebone Railway Station is a fascinating location and one I rarely go to, and it nearly closed entirely in 1986 and was saved only at the last minute. It opened late for a mainline railway station, starting service in 1899 and it was 100 years before another entirely new station of its size was to be built again. It’s compact compared to the other London mainline railway stations, which means that there’s a limited amount of seating and facilities.

I sat down to check Facebook for the eighth time in an hour, just as the platform number was called, number 4, which was around twenty minutes before the train departed.

It’s the train on the right and I’m not much into trains or train spotting, but for anyone interested, it’s a Class 168 Clubman diesel. This route between London and Birmingham hasn’t been electrified and it’s a route that was nearly lost in parts, but like Marylebone, it has managed to survive.

The train was never that busy, so I had my bank of four seats to myself for the entire journey.

Nicely functional seats, with a pull-out section of the table for laptops and two power points. All comfortable and practical for anyone who wants to get work done. There was a ticket check from a friendly and cheerful guard midway through the journey, although he said he had no scanner to check my digital ticket and so he wouldn’t need to verify it. That seems to be a slight flaw in the ticket checking process, but there we go……

I wasn’t in a rush, so I was happy to stay on the train for a little longer getting things done if there was a delay. This came to pass as the train in front of ours broke down and we were delayed for 20 minutes at Banbury. This meant that I was getting hopeful of a 30-minute delay so that I would get half my fare back. Unfortunately (for me), the train’s delay was limited to 20 minutes and, as Chiltern don’t operate compensation for 15 minute delays, I didn’t have a Delay Repay claim to make this time.

And here we are safely in Birmingham Snow Hill. There’s a theme in this post of things nearly being shut down, but with this railway station it was closed in 1972 and demolished in 1977. It was then realised that this was something of a mistake and a new railway station, which was smaller and less architecturally interesting, was built and opened in 1987.

I had a look at the Birmingham Daily Post from 13 March 1970, when there was some excitement that there would be four tower blocks on the site of the station that they were demolishing, as well as two hotels and a cinema. They were looking at using the rail tunnels to be used by buses instead to help city transit. A completely idiotic decision, as was clear given they had to rebuild the railway station not much more than a decade later.

Anyway, I was very impressed by Chiltern Railways as they delivered a cheap fare, a comfortable train, friendly staff, updates when there was a delay and there were no issues. All rather lovely and it’s a convenient way of getting between London and Birmingham. It’s not clear what will happen after HS2 opens, but I assume that this service will continue in the same form.