New and more frequent trains for Thames Valley customers
Monday 23rd March 2015
First Great Western has announced proposals to deliver the largest train fleet upgrade in a generation on the Great Western network as part of its plans for the new franchise that starts in September, with new or updated trains for customers on every part of its network by 2018. The new franchise will run until at least April 2019.
The agreement, pulled together by the train operator with the Department for Transport, would see the age of First Great Western’s train fleet slashed by more than half, and would create for our customers 9,000 additional seats every day by the end of the franchise. This unlocks quicker and more reliable journey times and additional services on both long distance and commuter services across the region.
In the Thames Valley, First Great Western will replace most of its Turbo commuter fleet with a mix of 58 electric trains comprised of 37 new and as-new four-carriage Class 387 trains and 21 four-carriage Class 365 trains from spring 2016. This will increase the number of seats for commuters travelling in the high peak by 25% from 2017. These new trains can run with up to 12 coaches.
In addition to the service and train enhancements, a number of stations in the Thames Valley will benefit from improvements including car park extensions, customer information, and ticketing and retail system improvements. A new multi-story car park is planned at Didcot for delivery in 2016/17 and FGW is working with partners on further improvements to the station. Goring and Streatley will also benefit from improvements to its car park from 2016.
Stations on the Marlow line will see a package of improvements that FGW plans to deliver in partnership with Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership and will also see new Ticket Vending Machines installed at Cookham and Marlow stations.
New Super Express Trains, introduced as part of the government’s Intercity Express Programme, will start taking over long distance services between London, Reading and destinations through to Bristol, South Wales and the North and South Cotswolds from 2017, combining with other improvements announced by First Great Western to bring some three million additional seats for customers across the network by December 2018.
Services from London and Reading to Devon and Cornwall could see a new state-of-the-art fleet of intercity trains in less than three years. FGW today announced Hitachi Rail Europe as the preferred supplier for 29 new AT300 trains, subject to contract and approval by the Department for Transport, which would increase the number of seats for customers by 24%, increase train frequencies at key stations, and help speed up typical journey times from London by 5 minutes (Exeter), 6 minutes (Plymouth) and 14 minutes (Penzance). First is in the final stages of securing private financing for the deal.
First Great Western also confirmed it will extend its rollout of free WiFi – already available across its long distance services – to all Thames Valley services by the end of this summer.
The new deal will also include a further range of benefits for customers in the Thames Valley by the end of the franchise period, including:
Working in partnership with Reading Borough Council, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP and Network Rail on plans for the new station at Reading Green Park, to be opened by December 2018
New electric services between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington from May 2016, delivering extra peak and off-peak seating in and out of Paddington
Improvements to North Downs services between Reading and Guildford from May 2017: increasing the number of trains from two to three trains per hour, adding 20 extra services on the line overall (Monday to Friday)
Faster services from Newbury and Oxford to London
Electric train services to Windsor and Henley from December 2017
Electric train services between Reading and Basingstoke from December 2018
Additional Oxford to London trains from December 2018
Additional peak hour fast trains to and from Didcot Parkway from December 2018
The company will also expand the use of its GWR brand, currently used in its long distance First Class carriages and will begin its rebrand before the start of the new franchise in September.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I am determined that passengers in the West Thames Valley and South Wales get a railway that is fit for the 21st century. This is a fantastic deal, which will give them more seats, more services and brand new fleets of modern trains.
“This government knows the importance of our railways. That is why they are a vital part of our long term economic plan, with over £38 billion being spent on the network between 2014 and 2019.”
First Great Western Managing Director, Mark Hopwood said: “For us, this franchise deal is about changing the way people think about rail. The Great Western network is already seeing the biggest investment since Brunel, and this deal has been designed to match that investment and ambition. It gives passengers newer trains, faster, more frequent services and importantly, given the growth this franchise has seen in recent years, more seats – three million extra seats a year by December 2018.
“We’ve worked with the Department for Transport to make sure passengers get every bit of benefit from the mainline electrification programme, while making sure no area misses out. I believe that the team at First Great Western will deliver for customers and the thriving communities and economies they serve, as well as the taxpayer.”