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. The new franchise will run until at least April 2019.
The new franchise will deliver a range of benefits for customers along the North Cotswolds route from Hereford, Worcester, via Evesham, Charlbury, Oxford and through to London, including:
In May 2017, new services will be added to and from Great Malvern, with the number of through services between London and Worcester also increasing.
New Super Express Trains, introduced as part of the Government’s Intercity Express Programme, will appear on the North Cotswolds route from summer 2017 onwards. These new trains will provide a significant improvement in rolling stock quality and passenger comfort. Ten carriage trains on peak services will have 15% more standard class seats than on the High Speed Trains on the route today.
In December 2018 a major timetable change will take full advantage of the Super Express Trains, with hourly intercity services over the route to/from Worcester (and extensions to/from Hereford in certain hours). There will be journey time reductions with times from Worcester to London typically 7 minutes quicker and the fastest journey to the capital taking only 2 hours.
By the beginning of the new franchise FGW aims to have a new car park extension in place at Kingham offering over 100 additional spaces. Further car park extension plans are being developed for Charlbury and Hanborough. New ticket vending machines will be installed at Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh.
FGW is working in close partnership with Worcestershire County Council on its plans to see the realisation of the new Worcestershire Parkway station in May 2017.
These changes build on timetable changes that FGW is introducing on the North Cotswolds line in May 2015, which include an earlier and faster morning peak service arrival for customers from Hereford and Worcester areas into Paddington, a new morning service from Moreton-in-Marsh to London, two additional direct services from Worcester to Paddington and another direct Paddington to Worcester service (with a two hour journey time).
FGW will continue to work with the Department for Transport, Network Rail and other key stakeholders on the case for redoubling further sections of the North Cotswolds line and raising line speeds.
As part of its wider franchise plans, the company will expand the use of the 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 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.”