Happy Birthday Chiltern Mainline – but how can you make the party bigger?

06 September 2012

On Wednesday, on a spur of moment, I took a Chiltern train for meetings in Birmingham. Caught a ‘Mainline’ service – fewer stops on way.

On virtually every level this is a better experience than the usual Euston to New Street hot crush. Lots of tables, space, air-con just right, really clean, not crowded, information good and clear, and best of all excellent value for money. £27.40 for a super off-peak ticket. Much better than the ghastly Pendolinos and what becomes a local service between Coventry and B’rum with airport baggage thrown in.

The downsides? Marylebone is less well connected; frequency, I got one on the way up, but could not on the way back; and journey time. However, at just over one and half hours this is starting to compare well with the standard West Coast services.

Competition usually provides the best protection for consumers. Here we have one of the few instances of rail competition. But just how can Chiltern reach new passengers? Marketing is expensive and needs sustained investment. So how can competition really take off? A real challenge to Chiltern but they seem to have a good product which is a start.

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