CHILTERN Railways has agreed a deal to lease six new 100mph diesel locomotives for services linking Bicester and Banbury with London and Birmingham.

It said their haulage capabilities meant extra coaches could be added to Mainline Silver trains if passenger numbers continued to grow.

The Class 68s will be sub-leased from freight train operator Direct Rail services, which has 15 of the 3,750-horsepower locomotives on order.

They will replace 12-year-old Class 67s hired from Chiltern’s sister company DB Schenker.

These have been used on the Mainline Silver express trains and ‘queue-buster’ rush-hour commuter trains between Banbury and London since 2010.

The first Class 68 to arrive in the UK from builder Vossloh's factory in Spain is undergoing tests, with another on trial at a rail technology centre in the Czech Republic.

The five allocated to Chiltern will be delivered this autumn for driver training and are expected to enter service in December.

Chiltern managing director Rob Brighouse said: “It allows us to prepare for future expansion as demand for our line increases.”