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 over the South Cotswolds route from Cheltenham, Gloucester, via Stroud, Kemble, Swindon and through to London.
In May 2017 a new service 1642 Paddington to Cheltenham service will run, with a return 1934 Cheltenham to Paddington service extending the operation of the last through service to the capital by an hour later than currently.
New Super Express Trains, introduced as part of the government’s Intercity Express Programme, will appear on the South 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. The through journey service frequency from London to Cheltenham will be doubled off-peak, with hourly intercity services replacing almost all the local services. Journey times from London to Cheltenham will be cut by around 12 minutes, with a typical journey time of 2 hours and the fastest journey being 1 hour and 55 minutes.
The December 2018 timetable will also see extended hours of operation for intercity services, with the first train to London leaving Cheltenham two hours earlier than today (at about 0530) and the last train back to London leaving Cheltenham at about 2130.
An additional local service will be provided between Swindon and Gloucester in the morning peak and from Gloucester to Swindon in the evening peak.
FGW is working with partners with the aim of having new car park extensions in place at Kemble and Gloucester during 2016, subject to suitable agreements and consents being finalised. Further car park extension plans are also being developed for Stroud.
FGW is working on plans to improve facilities at Cheltenham station, which will include the delivery of new cycle spaces.
These changes build on timetable changes that FGW is introducing on the South Cotswolds line in May 2015 which include acceleration of Cheltenham to Paddington weekday services by an average of 7 minutes faster than today and the key 1742 Paddington to Cheltenham peak service being accelerated to arrive in Cheltenham 14 minutes quicker than at present.
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.”