First Great Western


First Great Western

Infobox rail company
bgcolor=001e4c
image_filename=FgwNewcoloursatPAD.jpg
widthpx=300px
franchise=Great Western
1998 – 31 March 2006
Greater Western
1 April 2006 – 2013
logo_filename=GreatWesternLogo.pngnameforarea=region
regions=South West England, South Wales, Thames Valley
secregions=Cotswolds
abbr=FGW
fleet=117 Class 43 for 58 High Speed Train Sets
3 Class 180 "Adelante" sets
36 Class 165 "Network Turbo" sets
21 Class 166 "Network Express Turbo" sets
19 Class 158 "Express Sprinter" sets
12 Class 153 "Super-Sprinter" sets
22 Class 150 "Sprinter" sets
12 Class 142 "Pacer" sets
8 Class 143 "Pacer" sets
4 Class 57 diesel locomotives
stations=210 operated and over 270 called at
parent_company=First Group
website=www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk
websitename=www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk

First Great Western is the operating name of First Greater Western Ltd, [cite web| url=http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=154| title=First Great Western - Copyright| accessdate=2006-07-15] a British train operating company owned by FirstGroup, which operates services in the west and south west of England and South Wales.

On 1 April 2006, First Great Western, First Great Western Link and Wessex Trains combined into the new Greater Western Franchise. First was announced as the operator of the combined franchise in December 2005 for a 10-year period.cite news| title=FirstGroup wins rail franchises| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4523592.stm| date=2005-12-13| publisher=BBC News Online]

First Great Western operates high speed services between London Paddington, Cotswolds, South Wales and the Westcountry. They also operate commuter services in London and the Thames Valley and local services in the south west. First Great Western operates 210 stations and calls at over 270.cite web| title=First Great Western-Stations| url=http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Stations.aspx| date=2006-04-01| publisher=First Great Western]

First Great Western operates a large all diesel fleet. High Speed services are operated by Class 43 HST train sets with MK3 coaches which are supplemented by three Class 180 Adelante DMUs. For Thames Valley services Class 165 and 166 Turbo trains are used. For local services in the South West a variety of 2 and 3 car DMUs are used.

History

First Great Western (1998 – 2006)

In 1998, the bus operator First Group acquired and rebranded Great Western Trains as First Great Western.cite web| title=First Group |url=http://www.ukbusinesspark.co.uk/fip13112.htm| work=UK Business Park| year=2008| accessdate=2008-07-24| ] First Great Western consisted of the express services out of London Paddington to the West of England (Bristol, Exeter, Penzance) and South Wales (Cardiff).

Great Western Trains was formed as part of the privatisation of British Rail.cite web| title=Who Runs Our Railways?| url=http://www.foe.co.uk/pubsinfo/briefings/html/20011214174927.html| work=Friends of the Earth| accessdate=2008-07-24| ] As with all of the original franchises, Great Western was formed as a division of British Rail prior to the franchise being let. The sector consisted of the express services out of London Paddington to the West of England (Bristol, Exeter, Penzance) and South Wales (Cardiff).

First Great Western Link (2004 – 2006)

First Great Western Link was the former Go-Ahead Group operated Thames Trains franchise which had been operated since April 2004 by First Group. First Great Western Link provided train services from Paddington Station to destinations such as Slough, Reading, Didcot, Oxford, Goring and Streatley, Henley-on-Thames, Newbury, Bedwyn, Hereford, Worcester and Banbury. Train services are also provided from Reading to Gatwick Airport (via Guildford and Dorking), and from Reading to Basingstoke.cite press release| title=New Rail Franchise Begins| url=http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/NewsItem.aspx?id=283| publisher=First Great Western| date=2004-04-01| accessdate=2008-07-24| ]

The Thames Valley routes were initially privatised in the mid 1990s and sold partly to the managers who had operated the trains under the nationalised British Rail and partly to Go Ahead Group. They later passed the company under the sole control of Go Ahead Group, who operated them as Thames Trains.cite press release| title=Thames Trains Passengers to Benefit from Go-Ahead Group| url=http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/releases/sra/1998/thamestrainspassengerstobene1654| format=PDF| publisher=DfT| date=1998-03-26| accessdate=2008-07-24| ]

Wessex Trains (2001 – 2006)

Wessex Trains came into being on 14 October 2001 when the former Wales and West and Valley Lines franchises were reorganised. Wales and West Passenger Trains Ltd took on the trading name of Wessex Trains and the operation of services in southwest England. Wessex Trains ran the majority of local trains in the South West. They did not run the high-speed long distance trains.

First Greater Western (present day)

On 1 April 2006, First Great Western, First Great Western Link and Wessex Trains combined into the new Greater Western franchise. Three companies — First Group plc, National Express Group PLC, and Stagecoach Group— were short-listed to bid for this new franchise. On 13 December 2005 it was announced that First Group had won the franchise. The new franchise has kept the name First Great Western. Originally, First planned to subdivide its services into three categories based on routes. [cite web |url=http://www.firstgroup.com/corpfirst/newsarchives.php?id=213&action=view&year=2005&month=12| title=Statement Re: Award of The Greater Western & Thameslink/Great Northern Franchises| date=2005-12-13| accessdate=2007-09-25| publisher=FirstGroup plc dead link|date=July 2008] However, following feedback from staff and stakeholders, the decision was taken to re-brand and re-livery all services as just 'First Great Western'. [http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/franchise/en/AdynamicNewBrand.php - Page from the franchise site confirming the abandonment of sub brands] Dead link|date=September 2007]

Routes

Intercity routes

First Great Western operate InterCity services to and from London Paddington. These services operate to Cardiff Central via Bristol Parkway (with an hourly continuation to Swansea), Bath Spa & Bristol Temple Meads, Exeter & Plymouth (with five trains daily running beyond Plymouth to Penzance in Cornwall), Cheltenham & Gloucester and Worcester/Hereford/Great Malvern.First Great Western also provides a limited number of intercity services to Paignton, Newquay (summer Saturdays and Sundays only), Carmarthen, Pembroke Dock (summer Saturdays only), Oxford, Worcester, and Hereford. First Great Western withdrew its services to Fishguard Harbour in 2003.First Great Western operate a number of named passenger trains, including:
The Bristolian (London-Bristol), (London-Hereford),
Cheltenham Spa Express (London-Cheltenham),
Cornish Riviera Express (London-Penzance),
The Golden Hind (London-Penzance), (London-Plymouth),
Night Riviera (London-Penzance "sleeper"), (London-Swansea), (London-Penzance)and (London-Swansea).The company operated the last Motorail service, as part of the London Paddington–Penzance Night Riviera overnight sleeper service. This was withdrawn at the end of the summer season in 2005 due to low usage.

Commuter routes

First Great Western operate commuter services from London Paddington to destinations such as Swindon, Slough, Reading, Didcot, Oxford, Newbury, Bedwyn, Hereford, Worcester and Banbury. Train services are also provided from Reading to Basingstoke, and to Gatwick Airport via Guildford and Dorking Deepdene; Bristol to Newport and Cardiff; and from Oxford to Bicester Town.

Local routes

First Great Western run the majority of local trains in the South West.

Local trains run on a range of north-south routes from Cardiff, Gloucester and Worcester in the north to Taunton, Weymouth, Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton in the south. Many of these services run via Bristol, which acts as the hub of the network. The company also runs the local routes and branch lines in Devon and Cornwall, such as the Newquay and St Ives holiday lines, and the Devon network of branches to Exmouth, Paignton and Barnstaple.

Routes operated include Great Western Main Line (Cardiff-Bristol-Weston-super-Mare-Exeter-Plymouth-Penzance),
South Wales Main Line (Swindon-Bristol-Cardiff),
Wessex Main Line (Cardiff-Bristol-Bath-Salisbury-Southampton-Portsmouth or Brighton),
Atlantic Coast Line (Par-Newquay),
Avocet Line (Exeter-Exmouth),
Golden Valley Line (Swindon-Gloucester),
Heart of Wessex Line (Westbury-Weymouth),
Looe Valley Line (Liskeard-Looe),
Maritime Line (Truro-Falmouth),
Riviera Line (Exeter-Paignton),
Severn Beach Line (Bristol-Avonmouth-Severn Beach),
St Ives Bay Line (St. Erth-St. Ives),
Tamar Valley Line (Plymouth-Gunnislake),
Tarka Line (Exeter-Barnstaple) and
Trans Wilts Line (Trowbridge-Westbury).

Livery

The first version of the First Great Western livery was a modified version of the Great Western livery, with fader vinyls over the ivory, it also introduced a gold bar containing the First Group "F" and Great Western logos. Initially the "Intercity" branding was retained with the new livery. The power cars carried the First Group Logo. [cite web| url=http://daves-trains.fotopic.net/p2802881.html|title=43132 in First Great Western green, with coaches|accessdate=2006-10-09]

When the Class 180 Adelante units were delivered, they were painted in the intercity version of First Group corporate livery. This consisted of a blue base, with purple and gold bars and large pink "F"s. 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. [http://hellfire.fotopic.net/p5286343.html Original First Barbie] - [http://hellfire.fotopic.net/p5455175.html Revised First Barbie] - [http://hellfire.fotopic.net/p9102941.html Final version of First Barbie] - retrieved 8/9/2006]

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 refurblished in 2007 when they were painted into 'dynamic lines' livery with vinyls advertising that the coaches operated the 'Night Riviera Sleeper'.

The new franchise involved repainting the HST fleet into First Group’s new 'dynamic lines' livery for Intercity and Communter services in the former First Great Western and First Great Western Link areas. The livery was applied to the HST fleet as they went through refurblishment but the Class 180 units will not be repainted as they are going off lease. The commuter units are being repainted into the new livery while receiving standard maintenance as a refurbishment was not originally planned. [cite web|url=http://tony4170.fotopic.net/p34792487.html|title=The first unit to be reliveried 166220|date=2006-10-04|accessdate=2006-10-10] A second livery will be applied to the DMU fleet. This is very similar to the livery used on other services but the 'Dynamic Lines' are replaced by names of local attractions forming the shape of 'Dynamic Lines'. Two Class 150 units were painted into this livery but the repaint for the rest of the fleet was put back until they were refurbished. [cite web|url=http://www.great-western.fotopic.net/p44109513.html|title=150249 Heads North Up Dawlish Warren Passing Langstone Rock|date=2007-08-11|accessdate=2007-09-25]

Livery gallery

Management and operations

First Great Western have three major depots: Old Oak Common, two miles from Paddington; Laira in Plymouth; and St Phillips Marsh, near Bristol Temple Meads, with smaller depots at Penzance, Landore and Exeter.

The current Managing Director of First Great Western is Andrew Haines (though technically Chief Operating officer, as he is already First Group UK Rail Director), who replaced Alison Forster in September 2007 after criticisms of the way the service was run. [cite news| title=First Great Western changes boss| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7001331.stm| date=2007-09-18| work=BBC News Online| ] Other directors are James Burt (Customer Service), Andrew Mellors (Engineering), Sue Evans (Communications), Matthew Golton (Projects), Ben Caswell (Finance), Kevin Gale (Trains), Tom Stables (Commercial Services) and Sheridan Flavin (Human Resources).

The chairman is Charles Howeson who replaced Sir Chay Blyth in November 2007. Mr Howeson is formerly regional chairman of postal watchdog, Postwatch, and has a reputation as a consumer champion. [cite news| title=Consumer Champion to Chair FGW Board| url=http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/NewsItem.aspx?id=567| date=2007-11-09| publisher=First Great Western dead link| date=July 2008] Andrew Haines has appointed three route directors under Performance Director, Mark Hopwood to focus the business on the reliability and punctuality of services, they are; Malcolm Drury (West Region), Tom Joyner (High Speed Services) and Ian Smith (East Region). Previous Managing Directors have included Alison Forster (now director of safety at First Group), Chris Kinchin-Smith, Mike Carroll (who still works for the business) and Dr Mike Mitchell (now Director General of Railways at the Department for Transport). [cite web| title=First Great Western Company Details| url=http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=767| date=2007-09-18| publisher=First Great Western]

Performance

After being so for a long time, First Great Western is no longer the worst performing UK rail operator. The latest rail performance statistics show that in terms of Public Performance Measure (PPM), National Express East Coast had the worst performing figures with a PPM of 83.2% over the 3 months for the last quarter of the financial year 2007/8 compared with 85.9% for First Great Western. For the last 4 weeks up to the end of March First Great Western achieved 87.0%, better than National Express East Coast (85.0%) and Richard Branson's Virgin Trains. (85.5%). [cite web|url=http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/742.aspx| title=Performance and Financial Results| publisher=Network Rail| year=2008| accessdate=2008-07-24| ]

First Great Western were named as the worst TOC in a 2007 Passenger Focus survey. However, a Spring 2008 survey found 79% of passengers were satisfied or happy with First Great Westerncite press release| url=http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/news-and-publications/press-release.asp?dsid=1761| title=National Passenger Survey - Spring 2008| publisher=Passenger Focus| date=2008-07-08| accessdate=2008-07-24| ] which is the same score achieved by 5 other TOCs.

First Great western recently admitted to miscalculating the number of cancellations in the period from August to December 2007, with revised figures showing the company to have breached the cancellation threshold in the franchise contract. [cite news| url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/feb/26/firstgroupbusiness.travelleisure| title=First Great Western close to losing its franchise| date=2008-02-26| work=Guardian.co.uk| accessdate=2008-07-24| author=Milmo, Dan| ]

Not all delays are attributable to First Great Western. In September 2007 the ORR defended its position to allow Network Rail an additional 2 months to fix infrastructure problems before imposing enforcement action and fines due to their performance. [cite news| url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/09/10/cngwr110.xml| title=Network Rail on probation over First Great Western delays| date=2007-01-12| author=Osborne, Alistair| work=Telegraph.co.uk| accessdate=2008-07-24| ] The ORR also stated that the First Great Western train service "continues to suffer from very high levels of delays attributed to Network Rail" and had described Network Rail's performance as being "exceptionally disappointing".

Poor performance is nothing new to First Great Western as in 1999 former subsidiary First North Western had performance figures dropping as low as 45% punctuality (90% target) partly due to insufficient rolling stock. [cite web| url=http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/rus%20documents/route%20utilisation%20strategies/north%20west/consultation%20responses/m/mid%20cheshire%20rail%20users%20association.pdf| title=Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association - Response to Draft North West Rail Utilisation Strategy| publisher=Network Rail| format=PDF| accessdate=2008-07-24| ] That was then followed by lengthy industrial action by First North Western staff in 2000 with very few replacement buses.

Controversy

First Great Western is famous for its poor service levels and has been polled as being the worst rail franchise in the UK, coming bottom of a passenger satisfaction league table. [cite news| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7206153.stm| title=Troubled train firm comes in last| date=2008-01-24| accessdate=2008-02-26| work=BBC News Online]

The company consulted on a new timetable due to be introduced in December 2006. Campaigners accused the company of cutting evening commuter services, but First Great Western denied this.

In December 2006/January 2007 First Great Western were responsible for a great number of cancellations and delays each day, mainly attributed to shortages in train crew or a lack of serviceable trains, leaving some branch lines with just bus services, and some areas with little service at all.

From 1 January-10 January 2007 First Great Western removed all trains from the St Ives and Looe branch lines in Cornwall (which normally have a class 153 each in winter), so that they could use them for extending services around Bristol.
*From 2-5 January, First Great Western decided to shorten some of the local DMU fleet to try and cut down on the amount of cancellations and lack of serviceable trains.
*On 9 January 2007 First Great Western announced some timetable changes, in response to customer complaints about overcrowding on local trains [cite web| url=http://firstgreatwestern.co.uk/NewsItem.aspx?id=426| title=First Great Western announces timetable changes| date=2007-01-09| publisher=First Great Western]
*On 22 January commuters on the Bath-Bristol service staged a protest about overcrowding, issuing participants with imitation tickets printed with "Ticket type: standing only", "Class: cattle truck", "Destination: to 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. [cite news| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/6285629.stm| title=Passengers in rush-hour protest| date=2007-01-22| accessdate=2007-09-25| work=BBC News Online]
*On 24 January, Alison Forster, First Great Western's Managing Director, apologised to its customers about its recent problems. [cite web| url=http://firstgreatwestern.co.uk/NewsItem.aspx?id=427| title=Statement from Alison Forster, Managing Director of First Great Western| date=2007-01-24| accessdate=2007-09-25| publisher=First Great Western] She has also prompted a debate in the House of Commons following the timetable changes. [cite web| url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070124/halltext/70124h0001.htm| title=House of Commons Hansard Debates for 24 January 2007| date=2007-01-24| publihser=House of Commons] First Group announced on 6 September 2007, changes to their 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." [cite news| first=Dan| last=Milmo| title=All change on the Great Western line| url=http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2164053,00.html| date=2007-09-07| accessdate=2007-09-25| work=The Guardian]

In 2004-2005, 79.6% of trains arrived on time (defined as within 10 minutes of their scheduled arrival time). [Posters displayed at stations as required by Passenger Charter] On 22 December 2006, 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. [cite web| url=http://www.rmtbristol.org.uk/2006/12/first_great_westerns_intercity.html| title=First Great Western's InterCity service the worst in UK with more than one in four trains late| first=Rhodri| last=Clark| date=2006-12-22| publisher=National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers] First was also the only train company actually to achieve a year-on-year fall in performance results.

At the same time, Network Rail, the Infrastructure provider, has been heavily criticised by the rail regulator (the ORR) for their performance on Great Western Routes, being described as "exceptionally disappointing". [cite web| url=http://peacebunnyperspective.blogspot.com/2008/01/good-point-thank-you-i-raised-it-myself.html| date=2008-01-12| title="Good Point!" "Thank you, I Raised it Myself"| work=Peace Bunny Perspective| accessdate=2008-07-24| ] In September 2007 they were given a further 2 months to improve performance before enforcement action and fines would be imposed.

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.

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 must achieve improvement milestones and specifically lease five more Class 150 units to allow three car trains to be used on Portsmouth-Cardiff services, undertake a much more extensive refurbishment of the Thames Turbo fleet, offer 50% higher compensation for the duration of the franchise, offer 500,000 more cheap tickets on off-peak services and improve station customer information systems. Failure to do this will result in FGW losing their franchise. First Group’s railway operating profit, meanwhile, was reported to have risen 10% in the six months to September 2007 [cite web| url=http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/passenger/franchises/improveperffgw| title=Improving Performance on First Great Western| date=2008-02-26| accessdate=2008-03-26| publisher=Department for Transport Official release on contents of First Great Western's Remedial Plan Notice. See also "The Scotsman", 27 February 2008, p 38] [cite web| url=http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/speechesstatements/statements/wmsfgwfranchise| title=First Great Wetsern Franchise| date=2008-02-26| accessdate=2008-03-26| publisher=Ruth Kelly Reasons as to issue of First Great Western's Remedial Plan Notice]

Rolling stock

High Speed Services

Class 43 High Speed Train

First Great Western use their large fleet of 43 HST sets [cite web|url=http://firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=56|title=First Great Western - High Speed Trains|accessdate=2006-07-18|publisher=First Great Western] to operate most long-distance services from Paddington to destinations such as Swindon, Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, Cheltenham, Oxford, Worcester, Hereford, Plymouth and Penzance. Not all of the fleet is leased, with some sets having been bought outright by First.

Thames Valley

Class 165 Thames Turbo

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 Paddington to Greenford, Reading and Oxford (stopping services). They are also used on the Henley and Windsor branches and services between Reading and Greenford or Gatwick Airport, Newbury to Reading services and the North Downs Line. Class 165 units are often brought in to operate Cotswold Line services when a HST or Adelante has failed fact|date=April 2008. They are based at Reading Traction Maintenance Depot. All Class 165 units have received First Great Western Neon Dynamic Lines livery.

Class 166 Thames Express Turbo

The Class 166 "Thames Express Turbo" is a three coach DMU, which is similar to the Class 165 units but with an internal layout more suited to use on longer distance services. The main way to distinguish a Class 166 unit from a Class 165 unit is that Class 166 units have a First Class section at each end of the train and are usually formed of three coaches. They are used on services from Paddington to Bedwyn and Oxford. The Class 166s can also be found on Reading to Basingstoke, North Downs Line and other routes. They operate services on the Cotswold Line but these are operated by HST trains mostly, Class 166s can operate these services if a HST fails. They are based at Reading Traction Maintenance Depot. All Class 166 units have received First Great Western Neon Dynamic Lines livery.

West of England

Class 142 Pacer

First Great Western operate 12 Class 142 units on Devon branchlines. They started operation in December 2007 as 10 Class 158s from were returned to leasing company Angel Trains and have since been leased to First ScotRail and East Midlands Trains. (Four former Central Trains 158s that had been subleased from Northern Rail have also been returned.)

Class 143 Pacer

First Great Western inherited the small fleet of 7 two-coach Class 143 Pacer railbuses from Wessex Trains following the franchise merger in April 2006. They are currently used on suburban services around Bristol, particularly on the Severn Beach Line. The current livery is an advertising livery for Bristol, except for one unit which suffered a graffiti attack and was repainted in First Great Western blue with a First Group pink logo.

Class 150/1 Sprinter

First Great Western are to receive up to 10 Class 150/1 units from 2009 to replace Class 142 units temporarily brought in to cover for Class 158 units being lost. They will arrive gradually as they are released by London Midland, when they are replaced by Class 172 units. In addition to this First Great Western have received two units from Silverlink, these units that have already arrived are two extra units to help with the poor reliability of Class 143 units.

Class 150/2 Sprinter

The fleet of 17 Two coach Class 150 Sprinter units were inherited from Wessex Trains as part of the Greater Western franchise shuffle. The fleet was 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 carries a unique livery. Several are also named. Two units were repainted into the new First 'Local' livery but all others are receiving the new livery when they are refeshed, the new livery consists of a blue body, with pink doors and 3 lines of place names in First Group corporate colours. About half the fleet is now refrubished and in the new livery. As part of a national fleet shuffle eight units went to Arriva Trains Wales on the 10 December 2006, and were replaced with 8 Class 158 units. The fleet will receive an internal 'refresh' during 2007 or 2008 with a fully refreshed fleet likely to be in operation by December 2008, about half the fleet is so now.

First Great Western received five extra Class 150/2 units in May 2007 as part of their Remedial Plan Notice, to enable three carriage Class 158 trains to operate on the Portsmouth-Cardiff services. [cite web| url=http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=95| title=Chief Operating Officer Statement| date=2008-02-26| accessdate=2008-03-26| publisher=First Great Western Report on First Great Western's Remedial Plan Notice] As of May 2008 five Class 150 sets have arrived from Arriva Trains Wales to allow the formation of the hybrid three car Class 158 units. [cite web| url=http://jimsphotoallery.fotopic.net/p48994585.html| title=Arriva 150229 on Hire to FGW| date=2008-03-14| accessdate=2008-03-22| work=Jim's Photo Gallery An image of Arriva Trains Wales 150229 on hire to First Great Western]

Class 153 Sprinter

The Class 153 is a diesel railcar converted from a Class 155 two coach unit in the early 1990s. First Great Western have 12 which are 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 completed in early June 2008 and they all now carry the First Local Lines livery.

Class 158 Express Sprinter

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 their Remedial Plan Notice, First Great Western have announced they will form some hybrid 3-car Class 158 units in May 2008, made possible by the transfer of five Class 150/2 units from Arriva Trains Wales.cite web| url=http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=95| title=Chief Operating Officer Statement| date=2008-02-26| accessdate=2008-03-26| publisher=First Great Western Report on First Great Western's Remedial Plan Notice] There are now nine hybrid units in operation and combined with the non hyrbid three car unit this provides ten three car units to operate services between Portsmouth and Cardiff, Great Malvern and Brighton and Great Malvern and Weymouth.

Fleet refurbishment

High Speed Train fleet

In 2005 First Great Western announced that the High Speed Train fleet was to be re-engined and refurbished. Upgrades included leather seats in First Class, redesigned toilets, a redesigned buffet and at-seat power points. After extensive research, FGW decided to opt for mainly airline seats (passengers liked the privacy, and did not like sitting next to three strangers). This also increased the number of seats per train. The refurbishment began in 2006 with the first set being released in January 2007, the program was completed in February 2008, two months late. The refurbishment was carried out by Bombardier of Derby.

A trial took place which involved removing buffet cars from three HST sets that were only used on London–Bristol/Cardiff/Exeter journeys to see if an improved performance was possible. several sets without buffets ended up on long distance services. Furthermore, no performance improvements were made. One of Andrew Haines' first decisions when he joined First Great Western was to scrap this plan.

The December 2007 timetable saw High Speed Trains introduced on shorter routes where they had never previously been used, to help boost the capacity. This introduced buffet cars to parts of the network that had never previously had them. The business looked at different ways it could provide buffet services on these services, and looked at whether a buffet car or more seats would be more appropriate.

In June 2008 it decided that all its High Speed Trains would have a buffet car, but that they would redesign some so they were smaller, allowing for extra seating if required in the future. However, while the remaining buffet cars are being refreshed, a static trolley service is being provided Coach A or E - not at seat. After a trial in 2004, the powercars received new MTU engines, fitted by Brush Traction of Loughborough. The programme is now complete as the last power cars to be re-engined were released in April 2008. [cite web| url=http://www.wnxx.com/focus/mtu.htm| title=MTU / HST Power Car Re-engineering Program| work=wnxx| accessdate=2008-07-24| ]

Thames Valley fleet

As part of their Remedial Plan Notice, First Great Western have announced a much more thorough refurbishment of the Thames Turbo fleet than originally planned. The trains will have improved lighting, carpets and toilets, and a revised seating layout. [cite web| url=http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=1984| title=London & Thames Valley Refresh| publisher=First Great Western| year=2008| accessdate=2008-07-24| ] The trains have already been repainted into the dynamic line livery.

West of England fleet

First Great Western announced that it planned to "refresh" the part of its fleet that operates services between Portsmouth and Cardiff, and also services in the West Country, in an £11m investment programme. [cite web| url=http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=1692| title=West Fleet Refresh| publisher=First Great Western| accessdate=2008-07-24| ]

The programme, which is due for completion in Autumn 2008, includes fitting of reupholstered seats, new lighting and floor coverings, CCTV within the passenger saloons and facelifted toilets. At the same time, the exterior of the vehicles are being repainted in the current FGW livery, including artwork depicting various local places of interest.

The refurbishment work is being carried out at a number of locations. Class 158 vehicles were refurbished at Wabtec in Doncaster, Class 153 vehicles at Wabtec in Eastleigh and Class 150 vehicles are being refurbished at Pullman Rail's Cardiff Canton facility. The Class 143 vehicles were originally going to be refurbished at Pullman Rail but the contract was terminated and they are now going to be refurbished by Wabtec in Eastleigh. [cite web| url=http://www.therailwaycentre.com/UK%20News%20Sept%202007/260907_FGW.html| title=Preview of the first refurbished Class 158| date=2007-09-26| accessdate=2007-10-06| publisher=TheRailwayCentre.com]

ee also

*Great Western Main Line
*Night Riviera
*First Great Western Link
*Wessex Trains
*Great Western Trains
*Great Western Railway

References

* [http://hellfire.fotopic.net/p34912115.html 43004 in original dynamic lines livery]

External links

* [http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/ First Great Western]
* [http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Content.aspx?id=96 Edited version of First Great Western's Passenger's Charter]
* [http://www.railwaysonline.co.uk/greaterwestern.asp Railways Online Article on the Franchise]
* [http://www.sra.gov.uk/news/2005/4/GW_TL_GN SRA announcement of the parties qualified to bid]
* [http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/NewsItem.aspx?id=414 First Great Western press release on the 2007 HST refurbishment]
* [http://www.rmtbristol.org.uk/2006/12/first_great_westerns_intercity.html#more Story reporting First Great Western poor performance]
* [http://www.londontravelwatch.org.uk/news.php?id=414 Second story reporting First Great Western poor performance]
* [http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/ First Great Western passenger forum]

s-ttl|rows=3|title=Operator of Greater Western franchise
years=2006 – present

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