First Great Western customers will be able to get to London from South Wales in less than two hours, as part of the new package of improvements it has put together with the Department for Transport. These improvements are part of the new Great Western franchise deal announced today, which will see First Great Western operating on the route until at least April 2019.
New Super Express Trains – delivered as part of the government’s Intercity Express Programme – will be introduced on the route from 2017. A major timetable change in December 2018 will mean the fastest times between Cardiff and London will drop to 1 hour 45 minutes, compared to the current typical journey time of 2hr 7 minutes. Journey times between London and Swansea will be cut by up to 20 minutes.
FGW will provide two intercity trains an hour to and from Cardiff – three at the busiest times – with one train per hour extending to Swansea. FGW will continue to operate through intercity trains to and from Carmarthen.
Higher capacity five-carriage Turbo trains will replace older vehicles on the popular Cardiff-Portsmouth route from 2017, and we will also maintain the level of Cardiff to Taunton via Bristol services.
The changes are part of the biggest fleet upgrade in a generation on the First Great Western network, with new or modernised trains – all with free WiFi – on every area of the network by December 2018. It will see the age of First Great Western’s train fleet slashed by more than half and will help create three million additional seats a year across the franchise by December 2018.
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.
First Great Western Managing Director, Mark Hopwood said: “I am pleased and proud that we will be running the Great Western network for another three and a half years. 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.
“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.”
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 network between 2014 and 2019.”