Great Western Trains

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Great Western Trains
Greatwesterntrainslogo.PNG
Overview
Franchise(s): Great Western
4 February 1996 - March 1998
Main region(s): South Wales, South West England, Thames Valley
Other region(s): Cotswolds
National Rail abbreviation: GW
Parent company: Great Western Holdings

Great Western Trains[1] was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by Great Western Holdings that operated the Great Western franchise from February 1996 until March 1998.

History[edit]

The Great Western name was derived from that of the Great Western Railway which served a similar, but larger, area prior to nationalisation of Britain's railways in 1948. The Great Western franchise was awarded to Great Western Holdings whose shares were held by Richard George, Brian Scott and some other British Rail managers (51%), FirstBus (24.5%) and 3i (24.5%).[2][3]

In March 1998 FirstGroup bought the remaining 75.5% of shares it did not own to give it 100% ownership.[4][5] The Great Western franchise was due to run for a maximum of ten years, during which time public subsidy was scheduled to reduce from over £61 million annually to just under £27 million.

Services[edit]

Great Western Trains operated InterCity services from London Paddington to the Cotswolds, West of England, South West England and South Wales and an overnight sleeper service from London Paddington to Penzance.

Soon after privatisation, Great Western pioneered the mobile phone-free quiet carriage,[6] as well as a dedicated family carriage[7] at weekends and holiday periods.

A franchise commitment was to reintroduce a Motorail service to carry passengers' cars between London and south west England which was eventually introduced after the sale of the company to FirstGroup.

Routes served[edit]

- London Paddington, Slough, Reading, Newbury, Hungerford, Bedwyn, Pewsey, Westbury, Frome, Bruton, Castle Cary, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Torquay, Paignton

- London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Chippenham, Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, Weston Super Mare, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Totnes, Plymouth, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, St Erth, Penzance

- London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Newport, Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Swansea, Carmarthen, Fishguard Harbour

- London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Oxford, Hanborough, Combe, Finstock, Charlbury, Ascott-under-Wychwood, Shipton, Kingham, Moreton-in-Marsh, Honeybourne, Evesham, Pershore, Worcester Shrub Hill, Great Malvern, Ledbury, Hereford

- London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Kemble, Stroud, Stonehouse, Gloucester, Cheltenham Spa

- (Sleeper service, later named Night Riviera) London Paddington, Reading (Only on outbound services), Taunton, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Plymouth, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, Hayle, St Erth, Penzance.

Branding[edit]

Great Western progressively introduced a new dark green and ivory livery across their fleet from 1996, along with the distinctive Merlin logo.[8] Publicity materials, new equipment and station decoration all made use of the same colour scheme.

At the time of Great Western's establishment, it was expected that British Rail's well-known InterCity brand would continue to be used by privatised operators, possibly with the various operators co-operating in joint marketing.[9] Accordingly, earlier fleet repaints featured the established InterCity logo, while publicity referred to Great Western, providing InterCity services. This policy was ultimately discontinued as the privatised train operators each abandoned the brand in favour of developing their own identities.

Rolling stock[edit]

Train interior
Standard class of a refurbished Great Western High Speed Train

Great Western Link inherited a fleet of Class 08s, Class 47s, Mark 2 carriages, Mark 3 sleepers and High Speed Trains from British Rail.

Great Western Trains refurbished all of the Mark 2 and Mark 3 carriages at Railcare, Wolverton.

A fleet of Class 180 Adelantes was ordered but not delivered until after the sale of the company to FirstGroup.

Depots[edit]

Great Western's rolling stock was maintained at five depots: Old Oak Common (London), St Phillips Marsh (Bristol), Landore (Swansea), Laira (Plymouth) and Long Rock (Penzance).

Southall rail crash[edit]

The 1997 Southall rail crash, in which seven people died and 139 were injured, occurred when a Great Western train driver became distracted and failed to stop for two consecutive red signals. The train collided with a freight train entering Southall goods yard, first hitting the 8th wagon of that train, operated by EWS. It was found that the train's automatic warning system, which would have provided additional visual and audible warnings to the driver, was not working and the company was fined £1.5 million. It also emerged that the newer, more sophisticated Automatic Train Protection system fitted to the train had been disabled due to problems with its introduction and inadequate training of drivers.[10]

Demise[edit]

In March 1998 FirstGroup bought the remaining 75.5% of shares it did not own to give it 100% ownership.[11][12] The franchise was rebranded First Great Western.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 2938992 Great Western Trains Company Limited
  2. ^ The passenger train The Guardian 20 September 1997
  3. ^ Railway Organisations Research Paper 99/80 House of Commons Library 20 September 1999
  4. ^ Rail bosses cash in on privatised gravy train The Independent 7 March 1998
  5. ^ FirstGroup plc Annual Report 31 March 1999
  6. ^ Field, Paul (8 April 1996). "All quiet on the Western line". The Independent (London). 
  7. ^ http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/news/rss/64439/WEEK-Great-Western-twin-tracks/
  8. ^ Liveries 125 Group
  9. ^ Vincent, Mike (April 1994). The Intercity Story. OPC Railprint. ISBN 978-0-86093-524-7. 
  10. ^ "1997: Six dead in Southall train disaster". BBC News. 19 September 1997. 
  11. ^ Rail bosses cash in on privatised gravy train The Independent 7 March 1998
  12. ^ FirstGroup plc Annual Report 31 March 1999


Preceded by
InterCity
As part of British Rail
Operator of Great Western franchise
1996 - 1998
Succeeded by
First Great Western