First Great Western Link

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First Great Western Link
166217 at Reading.JPG
Franchise(s) Thames
1 April 2004 – 31 March 2006
Main region(s) Thames Valley
Other region(s) North Downs, Cotswolds
Fleet size 62
Stations called at 95
National Rail abbreviation FK
Parent company FirstGroup

First Great Western Link[1] was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by FirstGroup that operated the Thames Trains franchise from April 2004 until March 2006.


In April 2003 the Strategic Rail Authority invited First and Go-Ahead to bid for a two-year extension to the Thames Trains franchise. On 4 November 2003 the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the franchise to First and the services operated by Thames Trains transferred to First Great Western Link on 1 April 2004.[2][3]

On 12 June 2005 Heathrow Connect was introduced as a joint venture between First Great Western Link and BAA.[4]


First Great Western Link ran passenger services from along the Great Western Main Line from London Paddington to Greenford, Windsor & Eton Central, Marlow, Henley, Reading, Bedwyn, Oxford, Bicester Town, Worcester, Hereford and Stratford-upon-Avon and the Reading to Basingstoke and Gatwick Airport services.

The Stratford-upon-Avon service was transferred to Chiltern Railways in December 2004 with First Great Western Link ceasing to operate beyond Banbury.

Rolling stock[edit]

First Great Western Link inherited a fleet of Class 165 and Class 166s from Thames Trains. A franchise commitment was to use five Class 180 Adelantes from sister company First Great Western on Cotswold Line services from December 2004[5] releasing five Class 165 for transfer to Chiltern Railways.

Class Image Type Top speed Number Built
mph km/h
Class 165/1 Network Turbo 165137 at Reading.JPG diesel multiple unit 90 145 36 1990-1992
Class 166 Network Express Turbo 166202 at Evesham.JPG diesel multiple unit 90 145 21 1992-1993


First Great Western Link's fleet was maintained at Reading depot.


On 6 November 2002 as part of a franchise reorganisation by the Strategic Rail Authority, it was announced that the Great Western, Thames Trains and Wessex Trains franchises would be combined to form the Greater Western franchise. This was part of a Strategic Rail Authority strategy to reduce the number of train operating companies providing services from a single London terminal. This was expected to improve efficiency and reliability.[6]

On 13 December 2005 the Department for Transport awarded the new Greater Western franchise to First with the services operated by First Great Western Link transferring to First Great Western on 1 April 2006.[7]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company 4804687 First Great Western Link Limited
  2. ^ Strategic Rail Authority (4 November 2003). "Preferred Bidder Announced for New Thames Trains Franchise" (Press release). Archived from the original on 2 December 2003. 
  3. ^ Rail Magazine. No. 474. 12 November 2003.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "Heathrow Connect". Always Touch Out. 12 June 2005. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007. 
  5. ^ Rail Magazine. No. 478. 7 January 2004. p. 13.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ SRA Announces New Franchise for the West Strategic Rail Authority Press Release 6 November 2002
  7. ^ "Greater Western Franchise" (Invitation to tender). Department for Transport. 2 February 2006. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Thames Trains
Operator of Thames franchise
2004 - 2006
Succeeded by
First Great Western
Greater Western franchise