London–Aylesbury line

London–Aylesbury line
Amersham tube station 2.jpg
Amersham station
TypeCommuter rail, Suburban rail, Rapid transit
Depot(s)Neasden (Met), Aylesbury TMD (Chiltern)
Rolling stock
Opened1892 (fully)
  • Quainton Rd – Verney Junction/Brill – 1936
  • North of Calvert (GCML) – 1966
Number of tracks2
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Electrification750 V DC fourth rail (LUL section only)
Operating speed75 mph (121 km/h) maximum
Route map
London–Aylesbury line.png
(Click to expand)
London–Aylesbury line
Calvert Freight Depot
Quainton Road
Waddesdon Manor
Aylesbury Vale Parkway
Aylesbury Maintenance Depot
Stoke Mandeville
Great Missenden
Amersham London Underground
Chalfont & Latimer London Underground
Chorleywood London Underground
Rickmansworth London Underground
Watford South Junction
Non-stop section
Non-stop section
Moor Park
(LU only)
Northwood Hills
North Harrow
Harrow Junction
Harrow-on-the-Hill London Underground
Non-stop section
Non-stop section
Northwick Park
Preston Road
Wembley Park
Neasden Junction Chiltern ML
Dollis Hill
Willesden Green
West Hampstead
Finchley Road
Hampstead tunnel
St. John's Wood tunnel
Lords tunnel
London Marylebone London Underground

The London–Aylesbury line is a railway line between London Marylebone and Aylesbury, going via the Chiltern Hills; passenger trains are operated by Chiltern Railways. Nearly half of the line is owned by London Underground, approximately 16 miles (26 km) – the total length of the passenger line is about 39 miles (63 km) with a freight continuation.

The line is part of the former trunk route, the Great Central Main Line.


Development of the route

The route towards Aylesbury opened in stages between 1868 and 1899:

  1. The Metropolitan & St. John's Wood Railway (later part of the Metropolitan Railway) opened from Baker Street to Swiss Cottage in 1868.
  2. The Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway connected Verney Junction with Aylesbury in 1868. The route would become part of the Met in 1891.
  3. In 1879 the Met was extended from Swiss Cottage to Willesden Green.
  4. In 1880 to Harrow -on-the-Hill.
  5. In 1885 to Pinner.
  6. In 1887 to Rickmansworth.
  7. In 1889 to Chesham.
  8. Then in September 1892 the Metropolitan connected to Aylesbury via Amersham, making the Chesham route a branch line.

The Great Central Railway (GCR) decided to build a main line called the London Extension from Annesley Junction north of Nottingham to London via the Metropolitan Railway. It was the last main line to be built in Britain in the Victorian era. The line was completed in 1899. In 1903 the line between Harrow and Canfield Place (near Finchley Road) was built, thus bypassing this part of the Metropolitan tracks. The route was a major trunk route with many prestigious trains, such as The Master Cutler and The South Yorkshireman.

The line beyond Aylesbury Vale Parkway is currently closed to almost all passenger services: the Metropolitan line service north of Aylesbury to Verney Junction and Brill was withdrawn in 1936 as London Transport (LT) wanted to focus more closely on London.


The line north west from Harrow was electrified in stages. In 1925, four rail electrification reached Rickmansworth and Watford, and the Metropolitan Railway planned to electrify the line as far as Aylesbury by 1935. However, when the Met was absorbed into LT the plans were put on hold. Electrification of the final leg of the Met finally got under way in the late 1950s, but LT decided later to electrify only up to Amersham. The original intention to electrify further is evidenced by the colour light signalling which was fully installed as far as Aylesbury and by platform extensions up to Stoke Mandeville. In 1961 LT withdrew the Metropolitan line from Aylesbury and since then it goes only as far as Amersham. Following the end of steam-hauled Metropolitan line trains in 1961 the service was provided by British Rail Class 115 diesel multiple units until 1992 (which were then replaced by the line's current rolling stock) – along with Metropolitan line electric multiple units south of Amersham. Responsibility for the line north of Amersham was transferred from London Transport to British Railways on 11 September 1961; London Underground signage at the stations on this section was gradually replaced by those of British Railways.

Rationalisation from 1960s onwards

The mainline services north of Aylesbury (via Woodford Halse, Rugby and Loughborough to Nottingham Victoria and beyond) were withdrawn in 1966 as the Great Central Main Line was seen by Dr Beeching as a duplicate of the Midland Main Line. Now only freight services to Calvert and on certain Bank Holidays special passenger train service runs to and from Quainton Road. The track remains in situ from Calvert west to Bicester Village and the line to Bletchley is being reconstructed for future reopening as part of East West Rail.

InterCity 125 trains were used on the line, albeit rarely, during the 1980s.[1] Also in the 1980s, there were passenger specials north to Milton Keynes from Marylebone via Aylesbury and High Wycombe, which picked up passengers at Quainton Road and the disused Winslow railway station.[2]

On 14 December 2008, Chiltern Railways opened a new station, Aylesbury Vale Parkway. This station is situated two miles NW of Aylesbury station.

Route description

Class 165 and 168 trains at London Marylebone

From Marylebone the line runs through a series of tunnels as far as Finchley Road, from where the line runs overground and runs parallel to the Metropolitan and Jubilee lines. At Neasden Junction, the Chiltern Main Line diverges to the west, while the Aylesbury line continues north parallel to the underground lines. The line then joins the Metropolitan line tracks a few yards south of Harrow-on-the-Hill station and shares this track with the London Underground's fast Metropolitan line services to Amersham from Baker Street. Beyond Moor Park, the line to Watford diverges.

Harrow-on-the-Hill station

Between Rickmansworth and Chorleywood, the M25 motorway crosses on a viaduct. After Chalfont & Latimer station, the Chesham branch diverges, and the main line continues to Amersham, the terminus for Metropolitan line trains. Beyond Amersham, the line returns to Network Rail control and runs northwest to Aylesbury, following the A413 road. The Princes Risborough line joins the main line at Aylesbury, where Chiltern Railways have a maintenance depot. There, the line becomes single track, and after Aylesbury Vale Parkway, freight only, passing through Quainton Road to Calvert, the site of a major waste transfer station and landfill site. Beyond Calvert, at the former junction, the line turns east to join the Varsity Line, while the trackbed of the former Great Central Main Line continues northwest.

Aylesbury station

London Underground own the track and co-run on the line between Harrow on the Hill and the property boundary north of Amersham.[3]

The line serves the following stations:


Passenger services are provided by Chiltern Railways. From Marylebone to Neasden Junction the track is shared with the Chiltern Main Line and from Harrow to Amersham the track is shared with London Underground's Metropolitan line, and is used by their "fast" services. As a result, all Chiltern trains must be fitted with the tripcock braking system to run on Underground lines. Marylebone Signalling Control Centre controls all the signals on the line between Marylebone and south of Harrow, and also from north of Amersham to Aylesbury. Marylebone can see all train movements throughout the line but does not control the signals on the Metropolitan line section. These are operated by London Underground signal cabins at Harrow, Rickmansworth and Amersham. The Network Rail-controlled section of the line is fully equipped with ATP, one of three lines in Britain to have this (the others being the Chiltern Main Line and the Great Western Main Line). As a result, all Chiltern trains must be equipped with ATP equipment.

The line operates lower frequency timetables during autumn as trains need to take more time to brake due to the leaves that fall on the line in the heavily wooded section between Amersham and Rickmansworth.[4]

Weekday off-peak service pattern

As of 28 December 2014:[5]

Chiltern Railways[6]
Service Type Frequency Additional Information Chalfont & Latimer – Marylebone journey time
MaryleboneAylesbury Fast 2 tph 1 tph extended to Aylesbury Vale Parkway 35 minutes
Metropolitan line[7]
Service Type Frequency Additional Information Chalfont & Latimer – Baker Street journey time
AldgateAmersham Slow 2 tph Some rush-hour services are limited-stop 48 minutes
AldgateChesham Slow 2 tph Some rush-hour services are limited-stop 48 minutes

† – tph = train(s) per hour


  • Following completion of a major track work project in December 2006, journey times on the line were cut by about 10 minutes. Major track replacement work is under way on the London Underground parts of the line, to increase maximum speeds and reduce delays.[8]
  • The line north of Aylesbury was reopened to regular passenger traffic in 2008 as far as the new Aylesbury Vale Parkway station.[9] In the long term, the line is to reopen beyond Aylesbury Vale Parkway to allow passenger services to reach Milton Keynes Central and Bedford via East West Rail.[10][11][12]
  • A proposal announced in March 2010 would have routed the future high speed line, High Speed 2, parallel with a section of the Chiltern Main Line. If this was undertaken, it would have be a non-stop service, with no interconnections with the Chiltern Line.[13]

National Rail passenger volume

These are the passenger usage statistics on the National Rail network from the year beginning April 2002 to the year beginning April 2012. Large increases in the final year in some stations are mainly due to the introduction of Oyster Cards on the National Rail Network. The reason there were no usage figures in the first three years for stations from Amersham to Harrow-on-the-Hill was because these figures were not yet separated from the London Underground figures, who own and share the same tracks at this point. Aylesbury Vale Parkway has no previous data for the first five years as it only opened in 2008.[14]

Station usage
Station name 2002–03 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20 2020-21 2021-22
Aylesbury Vale Parkway 13,058 49,212 55,864 72,760 81,696 100,886 128,644 168,610 169,164
Aylesbury 939,033 1,101,302 1,048,931 1,092,423 1,129,973 1,093,076 1,025,136 1,067,280 1,060,698 1,068,894 1,104,398 1,134,222 1,158,350 1,176,646
Stoke Mandeville 267,307 318,451 316,986 313,188 309,449 312,744 282,086 292,478 294,944 288,208 303,742 312,744 316,102 318,494
Wendover 382,436 409,616 405,386 403,674 405,247 427,314 406,506 414,214 435,292 434,952 462,490 487,472 506,538 502,368
Great Missenden 402,511 488,401 525,041 526,800 530,999 524,694 500,418 535,652 561,832 541,878 592,470 603,548 625,050 622,988
Amersham No data No data No data 1,805,767 1,510,922 1,059,766 1,218,936 1,713,718 1,784,026 2,035,452 2,164,370 2,133,978 1,944,310 1,958,866
Chalfont and Latimer No data No data No data 446,522 349,370 254,398 398,650 686,488 718,268 702,438 748,158 817,372 822,284 831,716
Chorleywood No data No data No data 650,033 499,400 339,532 402,688 608,914 613,282 632,460 671,680 721,940 537,576 552,374
Rickmansworth No data No data No data 276,561 202,743 152,268 285,790 663,990 735,116 733,604 807,286 931,434 1,124,216 1,162,196
Harrow-on-the-Hill No data No data No data 207,167 293,939 157,534 453,158 1,309,328 1,444,386 1,410,622 1,396,730 1,925,856 2,395,172 2,463,400
Marylebone 6,354,517 6,949,363 6,819,287 11,638,642 11,559,187 11,396,645 11,758,094 13,200,221 14,410,072 14,685,1481 15,520,762 15,977,862 15,932,954 16,666,936
The annual passenger usage is based on sales of tickets in stated financial years from Office of Rail and Road estimates of station usage. The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve-month periods that start in April. Methodology may vary year on year. Usage from the periods 2019-20 and especially 2020-21 onwards have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic


  1. ^ Smiler, Simon. "Track Sharing & Route Sharing". Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  2. ^ "The Quaintonian". Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  3. ^ The myth of Mantles Wood Metropolitan Line and Network Rail boundary and Mantles Wood myth – METADYNE
  4. ^ New train simulator helps drivers deal with autumn leaf fall Archived 27 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine – Chiltern Railways
  5. ^ "London Underground Tube Guide" (PDF). Transport for London. 28 December 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Chiltern Railways May 2011 timetable" (PDF). 22 May 2011.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Metropolitan line Amersham/Chesham Guide Dec 2010 timetable" (PDF). 22 May 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 January 2014.
  8. ^ "Four Lines Modernisation". Transport for London. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  9. ^ New Aylesbury Vale Parkway station to open in 2010 Archived 21 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine – Chiltern Railways
  10. ^ East West Rail Prospectus Archived 3 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 14 December 2011
  11. ^ Rail Magazine, Issue 685, 14–28 December 2011, pp. 10–11
  12. ^ "Disappointment as East West Rail delayed by two years". Bucks Herald. 31 March 2014. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  13. ^ "Greengauge21 proposal for a High Speed Two" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 October 2007.
  14. ^ "Station Usage". Rail Statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 2 January 2013.

Further reading