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First Great Western

An account of the lecture  by Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First Great Western on Tuesday 2nd November 2010.

Written by Stuart Smith

November arrived and for the second time this season we were faced with 'strike action' on a Tuesday evening.  However, the Council decided we would not be deterred, and so the presentation went ahead anyway!  Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First Great Western (FGW) was welcomed and gave a very informative talk on the companies activities to the 27 members who had made it to St. James's Park.

Some of the operational statistics of FGW make impressive figures - a total of 1323 route miles covered by FGW services.  210 stations served daily by 1577 different services, broken down as follows:

 Across the three 'sectors', the company operates a varied and extensive fleet of vehicles. This consists of 151 Class 165/166 Turbo's, 141 DMU's (Class 142, 143, 150, 153 & 158), 119 High Speed Power Cars (Class 43's) and 428 coaches.  Additionally the company operates 4 Class 57/6's and 19 Mk3 vehicles on the Night Riviera service between London Paddington and Penzance.

Over the last 18-months or so, the company has also hired two sets of loco hauled coaches.  These were powered by locomotives from DB Schenker (67's) and Virgin Trains (Class 57/3's).  These were used for additional services around Bristol prior to replacement units  being delivered.

With the 30 Class 150 vehicles from London Overground now in service, these loco-hauled trains have ended.  This coupled with significant improvements at Exeter St. David's Depot (including a shed extension, lifting jacks and additional fuelling roads) will allow significant improvements to be made to the many services in the West Country areas.

A total of 5000 staff are employed across the regions, with its Head Office located in Swindon.

 A wide variety of routes and passenger routes are served - Long distance intercity trains, local and regional commuter routes & rural branch lines too. Seasonal holiday traffic to many destinations is also catered for.

 The Greater Western franchise started in 2006, although by early 2007 the cancellations and delays were at an alarmingly high level. The company was forced to draw up and action remedial plans in order to attempt to rectify the operating problems.  The company successfully turned things around and in 2010 they won the Train Operator of the Year Award.  

Moving forward, 8m is currently being invested in the LTV fleet, which sees the 165/166 fleets going through an extensive modernisation programme.  An 83% passenger satisfaction rating has recently been received (Spring 2010) and the Most Improved Train Operator Accolade was also won. (Awarded by the London Transport Association).

 The entire HST fleet has now been refurbished, with the Valenta and Mirrlees engines being replaced by an MTU engine (from Germany). The Standard Class trailer vehicles have been refreshed throughout and are now fitted with 86 seats per coach (previously 72).  The First Class coaches have been fitted with a leather interior and the buffet cars have received enhancements too.  The refurbishment programme has doubled the reliability of the fleet, and the new engines have cut emissions by 64% and smoke emissions by 42%.

 Future improvements for passengers and stations include, enhanced CCTV systems, better security, new PA systems, and more CIS & help points.

 In the immediate future, FGW are working closely with Network Rail on the Reading Station Re-modelling scheme, which is due for completion by 2015, and additionally the re-doubling of the North Cotswold route (Charlbury to Evesham) will enable more reliable and more frequent services on this important line.

Looking at the long-term future, the following elements will all shape and potentially enhance the franchise: