Great Western Railway (train operating company)

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This article is about the present-day train operating company. For the former company that existed from 1833 to 1948, see Great Western Railway.
Great Western Railway
Greater west railw logo.svg
The perils of the late afternoon sun! by Phil Wakely.jpg
Overview
Franchise(s):
  • InterCity Great Western
    4 February 1996 – 31 March 2006
  • Greater Western
    1 April 2006 - 30 March 2019[1]
Main region(s): London, Thames Valley, South West England, South Wales
Other region(s): West Midlands
Fleet size:
Stations called at: over 270
Stations operated: 208
Route km operated: 2129.2
National Rail abbreviation: GW
Parent company: FirstGroup
Website: www.gwr.com
Route map
Route map

Great Western Railway (GWR) is a British train operating company managed by FirstGroup. It manages 208 stations and its trains call at over 270.[2] GWR operates long-distance inter-city services along the Great Western Main Line to South West England and South Wales, as well as the Night Riviera sleeper service between London and Penzance. It also provides commuter/outer-suburban services from its London terminus at Paddington to West London, the Thames Valley region including Berkshire, parts of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and also provides regional services throughout the West of England to the South coast of England.

The company began operating in February 1996 as Great Western Trains, as part of the privatisation of British Rail, in December 1998 it became First Great Western[3] after FirstGroup bought out its partners' shares in Great Western Holdings. In April 2006, First Great Western, First Great Western Link and Wessex Trains were combined into the new Greater Western franchise and brought under the First Great Western brand. The company adopted its current name and a new livery in September 2015 to coincide with the start of an extended franchise that is due to run until 30 March 2019.[4]

History[edit]

As part of the privatisation of British Rail, the Great Western InterCity franchise was awarded by the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising to Great Western Holdings in December 1995 and began operations on 4 February 1996. Great Western Holdings was owned by some former British Rail managers (51%), FirstBus (24.5%) and 3i (24.5%).[5][6]

In March 1998, FirstGroup bought out its partners' stakes to give it 100% ownership.[7][8][9] In December 1998, the franchise was rebranded as First Great Western.[10]

First Great Western Link operated the Thames Trains franchise from April 2004 until it was absorbed into the Greater Western franchise in 2006.

On 1 April 2004, First Great Western Link commenced operating the Thames Trains franchise. It operated local train services from Paddington to Slough, Henley-on-Thames, Reading, Didcot, Oxford, Newbury, Bedwyn, Worcester, Hereford, Banbury and Stratford upon Avon. It also operated services from Reading to Gatwick Airport (via Guildford and Dorking), and from Reading to Basingstoke.[11]

On 1 April 2006, the Great Western, Great Western Link and Wessex Trains franchises were combined into a new Greater Western franchise. FirstGroup, National Express and Stagecoach were shortlisted to bid for this new franchise. On 13 December 2005, it was announced that FirstGroup had won the franchise.[12] The new franchise kept the name First Great Western. Originally, First planned to subdivide its services into three categories based on routes.[13] Following feedback from staff and stakeholders, the decision was taken to re-brand and re-livery all services as 'First Great Western'.[14]

In May 2011, FirstGroup announced that it had decided not to take up the option to extend its franchise beyond the end of March 2013. FirstGroup stated that, in the light of the £1bn plan to electrify the Great Western route from London via Bristol to Cardiff, it wanted to try to negotiate a longer-term deal. CEO Tim O'Toole said: "We believe we are best placed to manage these projects and capture the benefits through a longer-term franchise."[15]

By not taking up the option to extend its original franchise contract for a further three years, FirstGroup avoided having to pay £826.6m to the government; it received extra subsidies totalling £133m from the government in 2010.[16]

GWR Class 800 at Reading Depot

In March 2012 Arriva, FirstGroup, National Express and Stagecoach were shortlisted to bid for the new franchise. The winner was expected to be announced in December 2012, with the new franchisee taking over in April 2013;[17] however, it was announced in July 2012 that the franchise would be extended, due to the late issue of the Invitation to Tender (ITT).[18] The ITT ran from the end of July until October 2012. The winner would have been announced in March 2013, and taken on the franchise from 21 July 2013 until the end of July 2028.[19] The new franchise would include the introduction of new Intercity Express Trains, capacity enhancements and smart ticketing.[20] The award of the franchise was again delayed in October 2012, while the Department for Transport reviewed the way rail franchises are awarded.

In January 2013, the government announced that the current competition for the franchise had been terminated, and that FirstGroup's contract had been extended until October 2013.[21] A two-year franchise extension until September 2015 was agreed in October 2013,[22][23] and subsequently extended until March 2019.[24][25][26] A further extension to April 2019 was granted in March 2015.[1]

The company rebranded itself as Great Western Railway (GWR) on 20 September 2015 and introduced a green livery in recognition of the former Great Western Railway.[27][28] The new brand was first rolled out when first-class HST interiors were refurbished, and on sleeper carriages and Class 57/6 locomotives.[4]

Routes[edit]

Great Western Railway is the primary train operator in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Bristol, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

South Wales
Route tph Calling at
London Paddington to Cardiff Central 2 Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Newport and Cardiff Central. (Extensions to Swansea, see below)
London Paddington to Swansea 1 Reading, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Newport, Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway, Neath and Swansea. The London-bound Capitals United service to London Paddington from Swansea does not call at Reading.
Bristol
Route tph Calling at
London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads 2 Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Chippenham, Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads. Some services are extending to Weston-super-Mare during peak periods, other services are extended to Exeter St Davids then onto Paignton, or Plymouth & Penzance
West Country
Route tph Calling at
London Paddington to Plymouth/Penzance 1 Reading, Newbury, Pewsey, Westbury, Castle Cary, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Totnes, Plymouth, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, Hayle, St Erth and Penzance.

Trains run every 2 hours to Penzance after the 10:06 until 14:06 when every train continues to Penzance. The 10:06 (Cornish Riviera) and 14:06 (Royal Duchy) run Non-stop Reading to Exeter, as well as avoid the call at Totnes.

Oxford/Cotswolds
Route tph Calling at
London Paddington to Oxford (Direct) 2 Slough, Reading and Oxford. (For extension services please see Peak / Limited services below)
London Paddington to Oxford (Slow) 2 Ealing Broadway, Southall, Hayes and Harlington, West Drayton, Iver, Langley, Slough, Maidenhead, Twyford, Reading, Tilehurst, Pangbourne, Goring and Streatley, Cholsey, Didcot Parkway, Appleford, Culham and Oxford.
Cheltenham Direct
Route tpd Calling at
London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa 7 Slough, Reading, Swindon, Kemble, Stroud, Stonehouse, Gloucester and Cheltenham Spa
Greenford
Route tph Calling at
London Paddington to Greenford 2 Acton Main Line, Ealing Broadway, West Ealing, Drayton Green, Castle Bar Park, South Greenford and Greenford This service will be suspended between Paddington and West Ealing once the Greenford Bay platform is reinstated at West Ealing.[citation needed]
Peak Only / Limited Services
Route tpd Calling at
London Paddington to Hereford via Oxford and Worcester 5 to Hereford

17 to Worcester

Slough, Reading, Oxford, Hanborough, Charlbury, Kingham, Moreton-in-Marsh, Evesham, Worcester Shrub Hill / Worcester Foregate Street and Hereford. Additional direct services to Worcester Shrub Hill are available via Cheltenham Spa.[29]
London Paddington to Henley-on-Thames 3 Maidenhead, Twyford, Wargrave, Shiplake and Henley-on-Thames.[30]
London Paddington to Carmarthen 2 Reading, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Newport, Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway, Neath, Swansea, Llanelli, Pembrey & Burry Port and Carmarthen
London Paddington to Pembroke Dock (Summer Saturdays Only) 1 Reading, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Newport, Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway, Neath, Swansea, Llanelli, Pembrey & Burry Port, Carmarthen, Whitland, Saundersfoot, Tenby, Manorbier, Pembroke and Pembroke Dock.

Commuter routes[edit]

Great Western Railway operates commuter services between London and destinations such as Slough, Greenford, Reading, Didcot, Oxford, Newbury, Bedwyn, Hereford, Worcester and Banbury. There are also services between Reading and Basingstoke; between Reading and Gatwick Airport via Guildford and Dorking Deepdene; and between Bristol and Cardiff via Newport.

Trains also run on various north-south routes from Cardiff, Gloucester and Worcester to Taunton, Weymouth, Salisbury, Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton. Many of these run via Bristol. The company also runs trains on local routes including branch lines in Devon and Cornwall, such as the Looe, Newquay, Falmouth and St Ives branch lines in Cornwall; the Exmouth, Paignton and Barnstaple branch lines in Devon; and the Gunnislake branch line in Devon and Cornwall.

Bristol Locals
Route tph Calling at
Severn Beach Line (Bristol Temple Meads - Severn Beach) 2 Bristol Temple Meads, Lawrence Hill, Stapleton Road, Montpelier, Redland, Clifton Down, Sea Mills, Shirehampton, Avonmouth, St Andrews Road and Severn Beach
Heart of Wessex Line (Gloucester - Weymouth) 1 Gloucester, Cam and Dursley, Yate, Bristol Parkway, Filton Abbey Wood, Stapleton Road, Lawrence Hill, Bristol Temple Meads, Keynsham, Oldfield Park, Bath Spa, Freshford, Avoncliff, Bradford-on-Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury, Frome, Bruton, Castle Cary, Yeovil Pen Mill, Thornford, Yetminster, Chetnole, Maiden Newton, Dorchester West, Upwey, and Weymouth
Devon Locals
Route tph Calling at
Riviera Line (Exeter - Paignton) 1/2 Paignton, Torquay, Torre, Newton Abbot, Teignmouth, Dawlish, Dawlish Warren, Starcross, Exeter St Thomas and Exeter St Davids
Avocet Line (Exeter - Exmouth) 1/2 Exeter Central, St James Park, Polsloe Bridge, Digby and Sowton, Newcourt, Topsham, Exton, Lympstone Commando, Lympstone Village and Exmouth
Tarka Line (Exeter - Barnstaple) 1 Exeter St Davids, Newton St. Cyres, Crediton, Yeoford, Copplestone, Morchard Road, Lapford, Eggesford, King's Nympton, Portsmouth Arms, Umberleigh, Chapelton and Barnstaple

Other routes operated include:

Named trains[edit]

For more details on this topic, see List of named passenger trains of the United Kingdom.

Great Western Railway operates a number of named passenger trains, including:[31]

Name Origin Destination Other details
The Armada Plymouth London Paddington Penzance on Westbound Friday service
The Atlantic Coast Express London Paddington Newquay Summer service
The Bristolian London Paddington Bristol Temple Meads Weston-super-Mare Eastbound only
The Capitals United Swansea London Paddington Swansea to Paddington early morning service does not call at Reading
The Cathedrals Express Hereford London Paddington None
The Cheltenham Spa Express London Paddington Cheltenham Spa None
The Cornishman Penzance London Paddington Westbound service additionally calls at Pewsey, Westbury & Castle Cary
The Cornish Riviera London Paddington Penzance Eastbound service does not call at Newton Abbot
The Devon Express London Paddington Paignton Westbound only service. No return journey
The Golden Hind Penzance London Paddington Westbound service additionally calls at Totnes
The Mayflower London Paddington Plymouth Eastbound service does not call at Castle Cary and Westbury
The Merchant Venturer London Paddington Bristol Temple Meads Eastbound only
The Night Riviera London Paddington Penzance See Night Riviera
The Pembroke Coast Express London Paddington Pembroke Dock Summer Saturday only
The Red Dragon London Paddington Carmarthen None
The Royal Duchy London Paddington Penzance Eastbound service calls additionally at Tiverton Parkway & Taunton
The Saint David London Paddington Swansea None
The Torbay Express London Paddington Paignton Westbound service via Bristol TM, Eastbound service via Castle Cary
The Weymouth Wizard Bristol Temple Meads Weymouth Summer Saturday only

The Night Riviera included the UK's last Motorail service, until that aspect of the service was withdrawn at the end of the 2005 summer season due to low usage.

Pullman Dining[edit]

Great Western Railway is the only major UK rail operator which still has restaurant cars. These operate on certain trains between London Paddington to the West Country and Wales. It is available to First Class and Standard Class passengers for a premium on top of the fare. It is normally served in Coach K.[32]

Performance[edit]

Punctuality[edit]

In 2004–2005, 79.6% of trains arrived on time (defined as within 10 minutes of their scheduled arrival time).[33] On 22 December 2006, the First Great Western InterCity service was declared the worst in Britain for delays, according to figures from the Office of Rail Regulation, with more than one in four trains running late.[34] First was also the only train company to achieve a year-on-year fall in performance results.

First Great Western admitted to misreporting the number of cancellations in the period from August to December 2007, revised figures showing the company to have breached the cancellation threshold in the franchise contract. Specifically the company was alleged to have deliberately cancelled trains on the day prior to service without the prior approval of the Department for Transport, and without recording these cancellations on their performance figures. The company was also accused of falsifying records in order to claim dispensation for large numbers of cancellations.[35] First Great Western was named in a Passenger Focus survey as the worst train operating company for 2007.[36]

On 6 September 2007 FirstGroup announced changes to its management structure, apparently designed to strengthen the First Great Western commuter services. Anthony Smith, head of the rail users council Passenger Focus commented, "A fresh management approach is welcome. Clearly, looking at the passenger satisfaction scores for First Great Western, the train company and Network Rail have a lot to do. However, passengers will believe it when they see improvements."[37]

GWR has some of the most overcrowded services on the network. Here, passengers at Bristol Temple Meads crowd on to a service for Cardiff Central.

Some delays are attributable to Network Rail rather than the operator, as the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) found in September 2007,[38] when it remarked that the First Great Western service continued "to suffer from very high levels of delays attributed to Network Rail" and described Network Rail's performance as "exceptionally disappointing".

By 2009, passenger satisfaction with First Great Western was described by Passenger Focus as having "significantly improved".[39]

The company is no longer the worst-performing UK rail operator, a title which it held for a long period. However, the Which? survey of rail passengers published in February 2013 showed the company scoring lowest of the larger operators with less than 40% satisfaction (Virgin, which topped the poll, managed 67%).[40]

The latest punctuality statistics to be released by Network Rail for period 7 of 2013/2014 were 89.3% PPM (Public Performance Measure) and a MAA (Moving Annual Average) of 88.8% for the 12 months up to 12 October 2013.[41]

Remedial Plan[edit]

In February 2008 the Secretary of State for Transport stated that FGW had "fallen persistently short of customers' expectations and been unacceptable to both passengers and government". She issued First Great Western with a Breach Notice for misreporting cancellations and a Remedial Plan Notice as a result of exceptionally high levels of cancellations and low passenger satisfaction. As part of the Remedial Plan Notice, First Great Western was required to achieve improvement milestones, to lease five more Class 150 units to allow three-car trains to be used on Portsmouth-Cardiff services, to undertake a much more extensive refurbishment of the Thames Turbo fleet, to offer 50% higher compensation for the duration of the franchise, to offer 500,000 more cheap tickets on off-peak services, and to improve station customer information systems. Failure to do this would result in FGW losing its franchise. FirstGroup's railway operating profit, meanwhile, was reported to have risen 10% in the six months to September 2007.[42][43]

By June 2009, FGW had transformed its performance to become one of the UK rail network's more punctual operators, recording 94.6% of trains arriving on time.[44] In February 2010 FGW was named Train Operator of the Year at the national Rail Business awards. Presenting the award, judges said, "First Great Western provides an extensive network of commuter, regional, local and intercity trains. The systems they have put into place over the last two years have made a significant improvement to the service they now provide."[45]

However, in February 2015 First Great Western came 17th (out of 21) in Which? magazine's Best and worst UK train companies survey. Customers gave First Great Western a score of 47% (compared to the worst performing operator, Thameslink and Great Northern, with a score of 43%, and the best performing operator, Grand Central Railway, with a score of 76%). First Great Western also scored 3/5 stars across five of six specific categories, apart from Value for money in which First Great Western scored 2/5 stars.[46]

Overcrowding[edit]

Fake tickets distributed by protestors on 22 January 2007
Passenger numbers on Great Western Railway from 2011/2012 Q4 - 2015/16 Q4 (rolling 12-month figure)[47]

First Great Western has been criticised for overcrowded trains, and in January 2007 commuters on the Bath-Bristol service staged a protest against overcrowding. Participants were issued with imitation tickets printed with "Ticket type: standing only", "Class: cattle truck", "Route: hell and back", "Price: up 12%". The company threatened protestors with criminal prosecution and fines of £5,000, but staff failed to enforce ticket requirements.[48] Alison Forster, First Great Western's Managing Director at that time, apologised to customers.[49]

In January 2008 another fare strike was held as a passenger group said that not enough improvements have been made, despite First Great Western announcing that 2008 season tickets and car parking charges would be frozen until the end of the year.[50][51]

In August 2010 First Great Western was shown to have operated all of the top ten most overcrowded trains in England and Wales, mostly between Reading and London Paddington.[52] By December 2011, this had reduced to two.[53]

In 2011 First Great Western was revealed to be the train company with the highest levels of overcrowding: an average of 16.6% of passengers were shown to standing during the morning and evening peak times.[54] In 2012 it held the record for the most overcrowded train, carrying nearly twice its capacity, the 07:44 Henley-on-Thames to London Paddington.[53] Paddington, the London terminus for many FGW services, was identified as the most overcrowded station.[52] The company was also listed as the operator with the most passengers in excess of capacity in the south east region in 2012.[55]

Rolling stock[edit]

Great Western Railway inherited a fleet of InterCity 125 sets (Class 43 power cars and Mark 3 Coaches) and Class 57 locomotives and Mark 3 sleeper coaches from BR. In 2006, it inherited a fleet of Class 165 and Class 166 units from First Great Western Link, and a fleet of Class 143, Class 150, Class 153 and Class 158 units from Wessex Trains. The majority of GWR services are operated using diesel trains, although electric trains began limited operations in September 2016, and a large part of the GWR network is due to be electrified by Network Rail.

High-speed services[edit]

Class 43 High Speed Train[edit]

A Great Western Railway Class 43 powercar passing Sprey Point

GWR operate most long-distance services between London and destinations such as Swindon, Chippenham, Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, Cardiff Central, Swansea, Carmarthen, Pembroke Dock (summer), Paignton, Newquay (summer), Cheltenham Spa, Oxford, Worcester Shrub Hill, Hereford, Plymouth and Penzance, using its large fleet of 58 HST "InterCity 125" sets.[56] These sets consist of seven or eight Mark 3 coaches between two Class 43 locomotives); GWR operate the largest InterCity 125 fleet and own five sets outright, the rest are leased. From 2009 to 2012 all the company's intercity services were worked by HSTs except the Night Riviera sleeper service between London Paddington and Penzance, until Class 180s were reintroduced on the Cotswold line.[57]

Interior of a refurbished First Class carriage in the new colour scheme

GWR's High Speed Train fleet were refurbished by Bombardier in Derby and Ilford between 2006 and 2008,[58] with leather seats introduced in First Class, redesigned toilets, a redesigned buffet, and at-seat power points. The company opted for mainly airline seats, giving more seats per train.

After a successful trial by Angel Trains and FGW in 2004, two power cars received new MTU engines while two received new Paxman/MAN VP185s, fitted by Brush Traction of Loughborough. The MTU engine proved the better option, both for reliability and for emissions, resulting in FGW, Brush and Angel Trains starting the HST Modernisation programme. The last power cars to be re-engineered were released in April 2008, while several other companies' HSTs have now all undergone a similar programme.[59]

The youngest Class 43 locomotive is now over 29 years old, and the class is due to be replaced on some routes as part of the Intercity Express Programme by the Class 800 and Class 802 from 2017. These will be electric and electric/diesel hybrids, introduced following the completion of electrification of the Great Western Main Line from Hayes & Harlington to the west of England in 2016 and Wales in 2017.[60]

Following the Southall and Ladbroke Grove rail crashes, GWR requires its HSTs to have Automatic Train Protection and Automatic Warning System safety systems switched on. If either is faulty, the train is not used.

Class 57/6[edit]

Class 57 locomotive at St Philip's Marsh depot

Four Class 57/6 locomotives are used to operate the Night Riviera Sleeper services and to provide emergency haulage for failed HST sets.[citation needed] Occasionally, GWR hires 57/3 Direct Rail Services or Virgin Trains locomotives to operate the Night Riviera, if their own are stopped for maintenance and unavailable for traffic.[citation needed]

Class 180 Adelante[edit]

Class 180 Adelante in First Great Western's "Dynamic" livery

First Great Western previously leased 14 Class 180 Adelante units, operating on the Great Western Main Line, but following technical issues they were transferred elsewhere.[61][62] In 2012, five units were returned to First Great Western to operate weekday services on the Cotswold Line, allowing class 165 and 166 units to be reallocated to increase capacity on Thames Valley services.[57]

Thames Valley[edit]

Class 150/0 Sprinter[edit]

In late 2011 the two original three-car prototype Class 150 Sprinter units (Nos. 150001 and 150002) were transferred from London Midland to work services on the Reading to Basingstoke Line, allowing the release of Class 165 and 166 units to reinforce other Thames Valley services.[63]

Class 165/1 Thames Turbo[edit]

The Class 165 "Thames Turbo" is a two- or three-coach DMU used on shorter-distance services in the Thames Valley area, such as those from London to Greenford, and stopping services to Reading and Oxford. They are also used on the Henley and Windsor branches, and on services between Reading and Redhill or Gatwick Airport, and between Newbury and Reading. They are based at Reading Traction Maintenance Depot.[citation needed]

As part of its Remedial Plan Notice, First Great Western were undertaking a much more thorough refurbishment of the Thames Turbo fleet than originally planned.[64] The trains were being fitted with improved lighting, carpets, toilets, and a revised seating layout.[65]

In September 2016 work had started to refurbish these units.

Class 166 Thames Express Turbo[edit]

The Class 166 "Thames Express Turbo" is a three-coach DMU, similar to the Class 165 units but with an internal layout more suitable for longer-distance services. They are used on services from London to Bedwyn and Oxford, Reading to Basingstoke, the North Downs Line, and other routes. They operate on the Cotswold Line at weekends, and on weekdays if an HST or Class 180 is unavailable. Like the 165s, they are also based at Reading Traction Maintenance Depot.

Class 387/1 Electrostar[edit]

The Class 387 "Electrostar" is a four-coach EMU built by Bombardier, with a 2+2 seating layout, tables, plug-sockets and free WiFi. The class began to enter service in September 2016 on weekday peak services between London Paddington and Hayes & Harlington using the existing overhead electrical equipment used by Heathrow Express, and can operate in four, eight and twelve-coach formations. GWR will operate the class across the Thames Valley route once electrification work is complete.[66]

West of England[edit]

Class 143 Pacer[edit]

FGW-liveried Class 143 at Paignton

First Great Western inherited the small fleet of seven two-coach Class 143 Pacer railbuses from Wessex Trains following the franchise merger in April 2006.[67][68] They are currently used on suburban services in and around Exeter. The Class 143 fleet was fully refurbished during 2008 and 2009, and painted in the same livery as the rest of the West of England fleet.[69] Since they are unable to meet an accessibility requirement, they will be withdrawn at the end of 2019 unless they receive an extensive refurbishment proposed by Porterbrook (who own the class 143s and class 144s).[70]

Class 150/1 Sprinter[edit]

In 2010/11, First Great Western received a cascade of 15 Class 150/1 DMUs from London Midland and London Overground, following the delivery of Class 172 Turbostar units to those franchises. These allowed the Class 142 units to be returned to the Northern Rail franchise, and for the Class 143 units to move south to work the Devon and Cornwall branch lines rather than Bristol area commuter services.[71]

Class 150/2 Sprinter[edit]

Refurbished GWR-liveried Class 150/2 150247 calls at St Philip's Marsh depot in Bristol.

The fleet of 17 two-coach Class 150 Sprinter units was inherited from Wessex Trains as part of the Greater Western franchise shuffle. The fleet had been refurbished by Wessex Trains in 2003, with 2+2 seating arranged in a mixture of 'airline' (face to back) and table seating. The fleet is widespread throughout the former Wessex area, and carried a maroon livery with advertising vinyls for South West Tourism. Each unit was sponsored by a district, town or attraction and carried a unique livery. Most received names of attractions, places and branch lines. Two units were repainted into the new First 'Local' livery, but all units are now due to receive the new green GWR livery. As part of a national fleet shuffle, eight units went to Arriva Trains Wales on 10 December 2006, and were replaced with 8 Class 158 units.

First Great Western received five extra Class 150/2 units in May 2007 as part of its Remedial Plan Notice, to enable three-car Class 158 trains to operate on the Portsmouth-Cardiff services.[64] Five Class 150 sets were hired from Arriva Trains Wales from March 2008 until they were returned in November 2010.

Class 153 Super Sprinter[edit]

Refurbished FGW-liveried Class 153 at Westbury

The Class 153 is a diesel railcar converted from a Class 155 two-coach unit in the early 1990s. GWR has 12, used to strengthen services and on some of the quieter branch lines, although stock shortages often see them operate on their own on busier routes. The refurbishment of class 153s was carried out by Wabtec in Eastleigh,[72] and was completed in early June 2008.[73]

Class 158 Express Sprinter[edit]

Refurbished GWR-liveried Class 158 at Keynsham

The Class 158 is a two- or three-coach DMU used on regional express services in the former Wessex Trains area. In February 2008, as part of its Remedial Plan Notice, First Great Western announced that it would form some hybrid 3-car Class 158 units in March 2008, made possible by the transfer of five Class 150/2 units from Arriva Trains Wales.[64] There are now ten hybrid units in operation and, combined with the non-hybrid 3-car unit, this provides eleven 3-car units to operate services between Portsmouth and Cardiff, Great Malvern and Brighton, and Great Malvern and Weymouth. After the introduction of Class 150/1 trains from London Overground and London Midland, three of the remaining five 2-coach Class 158s will be reformed to provide two further 3-coach Class 158s.[74]

The fleet was refurbished in a programme begun in 2007,[75] which included fitting of reupholstered seats, new lighting and floor coverings, CCTV within the passenger saloons, and facelifted toilets. At the same time, the exteriors of the vehicles were repainted in the updated FGW livery, including artwork depicting various local places of interest. GWR's Class 158 vehicles were refurbished at Wabtec in Doncaster.[72]

Fleet table[edit]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Cars per set Routes
mph km/h
Class 43

High Speed Train

Bristol Temple Meads - GWR 43187 in platform 13.JPG diesel locomotive 125+ 200 119 Two Class 43 locomotives with (normally) 8 Mark 3 Coaches between them Daytime intercity services to Cardiff, Swansea, Carmarthen, Pembroke (summer only), Cheltenham Spa, Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Taunton, Exeter, Paignton, Plymouth, Penzance, Worcester and Hereford.
Mark 3 Coach Bristol Temple Meads - GWR Mk3 41146.JPG Passenger Coach 125+ 200 464 Normally attached to a Class 43 High Speed Train or a Class 57/6 Used on all daytime intercity services except some services to Oxford, Great Malvern and Hereford - operate as part of InterCity 125. Also used with the Night Riviera sleeper train.
Mark 3 Coach in "Dynamic Lines" livery, used on majority of services
Class 57/6 57605 (1C99) by Worcestershed.jpg diesel locomotive 95 152 4 N/A Night Riviera (London - Penzance)
Mark 3 Sleeper Coach Paddington to Penzance on Night Riviera sleeper train - 23 June 2016 by Jodiepedia.jpg Passenger Coach 125 200 50 Night Riviera (London - Penzance)
Class 143 Pacer Hugh llewelyn 143 611 (6636668523).jpg DMU 75 120 8 2 West of England Services around Exeter
Class 150/0 Sprinter Reading - FGW 150001 in platform 1.jpg DMU 75 120 2 3 Reading - Basingstoke[76]
Class 150/1 Sprinter 150104 FGW Swindon.JPG DMU 75 120 15 2 West of England Services
Class 150/2 Sprinter 150233 - Newton Abbot Station.jpg DMU 75 120 19 2 West of England Services
Class 150/9 Sprinter Taunton - FGW 150925 up train.JPG DMU 75 120 3 3[a] West of England Services
Class 153 Super Sprinter Nailsea and Backwell railway station MMB 40 150239 153380.jpg DMU 75 120 14 1 West of England Services
Class 158 Express Sprinter Keynsham station 30.jpg DMU 90 145 2 2 West of England Services
13 3
Class 165/1 Network Turbo Twyford - FGW 165113.JPG DMU 90 145 20 2 Thames Valley & West London services
16 3
Class 165 in "Dynamic Lines" livery, used on majority of services
Class 166 Network Express Turbo 166208 in GWR by Chris Warman.jpg DMU 90 145 21 3 Thames Valley, West London and North Downs services
Class 180 Adelante Class 180 at London Paddington by Jeremy Segrott.jpg DMU 125 200 5 5 London Paddington - Worcester/Great Malvern/Hereford/Oxford (weekdays only)[77]
Class 387/1 Electrostar 2016-09-02 GWR Electrostar 387132, 387131 - London Paddington by Luke Deaves.JPG EMU 110 177 6 4[78] Peak services between London Paddington and Hayes & Harlington
  1. ^ Hybrid units, where centre car is a driving car from another unit

Future fleet[edit]

In March 2015 it was confirmed that the following future arrivals at Great Western Railway would be:[79]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Cars per set Routes
mph km/h
Class 800 Intercity Express GWR Class 800 (800 004) at London Paddington.jpg Bi-Mode Multiple Unit 140 225 36 5[80][81] Intercity services to Bristol and South Wales[82]
GWR Super Express Train.jpg Bi-Mode Multiple Unit[83][84] 140 225 21 9 Intercity services to Bristol and South Wales[85]
Class 802 AT300 Hitachi AT300 for WoE Paddington 20150320 HIRES.jpg Bi-Mode Multiple Unit 140 225 22 5 Intercity services to Devon and Cornwall[86][87]
14 9[88]

The introduction of the Class 800 and 802 will allow 27 refurbished sets (in 2+4 and 2+5 formation) of the HSTs to be cascaded to ScotRail.[89]

Additionally, the 150/1s in the GWR fleet will all join Northern, with the first batch moving when their current lease expires in August 2017 and the last by December 2018.[90] The 2 x 3 car 150/0s will also transfer to Northern along with the last of the 150/1s when the lease expires in April 2019. [91] Most Class 165 and 166s operating on Thames Valley services will be replaced by the Class 387s that began to enter service in September 2016, and will be cascaded west.[92]

Past fleet[edit]

Locomotive-hauled trains were in use on services between Cardiff, Bristol, Taunton and Paignton from December 2008 until November 2010. These were Class 67 and Class 57 locomotives with Mark 2 coaching stock. They had one set of carriages initially, but a further set of carriages between December 2009 and October 2010. These services ran in the short term to cover for the unavailability of DMU trains. When sufficient DMUs were available following the transfer of 6 Class 150/1 sets from London Overground, the locomotives and coaching stock were withdrawn.[93] First Great Western issued a tender in May 2013 so that locomotive-hauled trains, or other train formations, can be operated on the Taunton-Cardiff route again, starting in December 2013. This would cover for its DMUs while they are off for refurbishment on Monday-Friday diagrams. If locomotive-hauled trains were to be used again, they would start four years after the final trains from the previous diagrams ran.[94]

Twelve Class 142 Pacer DMUs were received by First Great Western in 2007, starting operations that December. These were loaned from Northern (where they had been stored), in part to cover for refurbishment of FGW's Sprinter fleets but also to allow the Class 158s to be reformed as three coach sets. They were based at Exeter TMD, working alongside the similar Class 143s on services in Devon and Cornwall, including the Avocet Line, Riviera Line and Tarka Line. Five 142s were returned to Northern Rail in the Autumn of 2008, following the completion of the refresh of Class 150 Sprinter units. The remaining seven units were returned to Northern Rail by November 2011 as they have been replaced by Class 150 units cascaded from London Overground and London Midland due to the arrival of new Class 172 Turbostar units.

Livery[edit]

HST in original Great Western Trains livery with First Group logo at Reading
A First Great Western Class 150 in the 'Local Lines' livery, worn by former Wessex Trains services

Great Western Trains adopted an ivory and green livery. Following the rebranding as First Great Western, fader vinyls were added to the ivory and a gold bar containing the stylised FirstGroup F and Great Western logos.[95]

The rolling stock used on the Night Riviera sleeper service retained the original green and gold First Great Western livery until the stock forming these services was refurbished in 2007, when they were painted into 'dynamic lines' livery with vinyls advertising that the coaches operated the 'Night Riviera Sleeper'.

When the Class 180 Adelante units were delivered, they were painted in the intercity version of FirstGroup's corporate livery. This consisted of a blue base, with purple and gold bars and large pink Fs. The doors were painted white to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The HST fleet was repainted to match as they went through overhaul; however, the livery on the power cars has been altered, following problems with dirt build-up on the large white areas.[citation needed]

The new Greater Western franchise involved repainting the HST fleet into FirstGroup's 'Dynamic Lines' livery for intercity and commuter services in the former First Great Western and First Great Western Link areas. The livery was initially applied to the HST fleet as they went through refurbishment, although the Class 180 units did not receive the new livery due to the termination of their lease. The commuter units also received the new livery while receiving standard maintenance, as a refurbishment was not originally planned.[96] A second livery known as 'Local Lines' was applied to the DMU fleet, replacing the 'Dynamic Lines' with the names of local attractions forming a similar outline.[97]

The rebranding of the company as Great Western Railway introduced a new, dark green livery in September 2015, and will be rolled out across the fleet by 2018.[4]

Depots[edit]

HST at the Laira Traction Maintenance Depot

Great Western Railway has four major depots for its Intercity fleet:

There are three additional depots for its commuter services in West London, West of England & Night Riviera fleets.

  • Exeter Traction Maintenance Depot Maintains the West of England fleet (Class 143, 150, 153 & some 158s)
  • Penzance TMD Maintains the Night Riviera fleet as well as some of the HST fleet which stay there overnight.
  • Reading TMD Maintains the West London & Thames Valley fleet (Class 165 & 166s)

Electrification[edit]

Great Western Railway has a wide network, but it is mostly not electrified. Diesel trains are operated along the third rail electrified West Coastway Line between Redbridge, Southampton, Portsmouth Harbour and Brighton, and along the partly third-rail electrified North Downs Line (electrified between Reading and Wokingham, and between Ash and Guildford and the section from Reigate to Redhill). They also operate a short stretch of the third rail electrified Brighton Main Line from Redhill to Gatwick Airport. The only overhead line electrified section on GWR territory is the Great Western Main Line between Paddington and Airport Junction (used by Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect).[98]

As part of the 21st-century modernisation of the Great Western Main Line, large parts of the GWR network are to be electrified using overhead lines, including the GWML from Airport Junction to Bristol Temple Meads via Bath Spa; the South Wales Main Line from the junction with the Great Western at Wootton Bassett to Swansea; the Cherwell Valley Line from Didcot Parkway to Oxford; a very short stretch of the Cross Country Route between Bristol Parkway and Temple Meads; and the Reading to Taunton Line from Reading as far as Newbury.[99][100][101] The branches to Marlow, Henley, and Windsor, and the Reading to Basingstoke Line will also be electrified.[102]

While the project covers the major intercity routes to Bristol and Wales, many long-distance services run beyond the planned electrification zone to stations such as Cheltenham Spa, Worcester, Hereford, Pembroke Dock, Weston-super-Mare, Taunton and Penzance. These services would have to either retain diesel traction, or employ "bi-mode" trains capable of taking power either from overhead lines or from onboard diesel generators. Some transport groups in the Bristol area are worried that this would mean the end of direct services from London to Weston-super-Mare,[103] forcing commuters on to already crowded local services, currently worked by diesel multiple units approaching the end of their useful lives. These groups and local politicians are campaigning for the extension of electrification to Weston-super-Mare, as well as the complete electrification of the Severn Beach Line.[104][105] A similar situation developed in Wales, as the electrification was not due to extend to Swansea, but it was announced in July 2012 that the line to Swansea from Cardiff would in fact be electrified.[106][107][100][101]

TV Documentary[edit]

Channel 5 broadcast two television series looking into day-to-day challenges of the Great Western mainline, including events at Dawlish (as well as the sea wall destruction), Cheltenham race day and rugby at Cardiff. It was broadcast as "The Railway: First Great Western" and the last series aired in 2015.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Media related to Great Western Railway (First Group) at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
InterCity
As part of British Rail
Operator of Great Western franchise
1996–2006
Succeeded by
First Great Western
Greater Western franchise
Preceded by
First Great Western
Great Western franchise
Operator of Greater Western franchise
2006 – present
Incumbent
Preceded by
First Great Western Link
Thames franchise
Preceded by
Wessex Trains
Wessex franchise