Great Western Trains
was a UK
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
train company created in the mid 1990s as part of the privatisation of British Rail
The privatisation of British Rail was set in motion when the Conservative government enacted, on 19 January 1993, the British Coal and British Rail Act 1993 . This enabled the relevant Secretary of State to issue directions to the relevant Board...
. It was one of the first two passenger companies to be privatised, passing into private ownership along with South West Trains
South West Trains is a British train operating company providing, under franchise, passenger rail services, mostly out of Waterloo station, to the southwest of London in the suburbs and in the counties of Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Berkshire, and Wiltshire and on the Isle of Wight...
on 4 February 1996.
The company operated mostly high-speed, long-distance links from London Paddington to the south west of England, south Wales and the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are a range of hills in west-central England, sometimes called the Heart of England, an area across and long. The area has been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty...
via the Thames Valley. Its name was derived from that of the Great Western Railway
The Great Western Railway was a British railway company that linked London with the south-west and west of England and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament in 1835 and ran its first trains in 1838...
which served a similar, but larger, area prior to nationalisation of Britain's railways in 1948.
Franchising and ownership
As with all of the 25 original train operating companies
The term train operating company is used in the United Kingdom to describe the various businesses operating passenger trains on the railway system of Great Britain under the collective National Rail brand...
created during privatisation, Great Western was first formed as a division of British Rail
British Railways , which from 1965 traded as British Rail, was the operator of most of the rail transport in Great Britain between 1948 and 1997. It was formed from the nationalisation of the "Big Four" British railway companies and lasted until the gradual privatisation of British Rail, in stages...
before being awarded as a franchise for a fixed term. The successful bidder for the franchise was not an existing private company, but the newly-creating company Great Western Holdings
Great Western Holdings was a company created to bid for the Great Western rail franchise in the United Kingdom. The company consisted of 51 per cent management buyout 24.5 per cent Badgerline and 24.5 per cent 3i. The company won the Great Western franchise and operated it under the name Great...
, a joint venture owned 51% by a management buyout
A management buyout is a form of acquisition where a company's existing managers acquire a large part or all of the company.- Overview :Management buyouts are similar in all major legal aspects to any other acquisition of a company...
team, 24.5% by the bus company Badgerline and 24.5% by 3i
3i Group plc is a multinational private equity and venture capital company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It has offices in 13 countries across Asia, Europe and the Americas and had total assets under management of £12.7 billion as at 31 March 2011...
. The holding company was also successful in bidding to operate a second UK rail franchise, North Western Trains from 1997.
The Great Western franchise was due to run for a maximum of ten years, during which time public subsidy was scheduled to reduce from over £61 million annually to just under £27 million. In 1996, the company employed 2,750 staff and ran services over nearly 700 miles of the British railway network.
FirstGroup, the successor of Badgerline, bought Great Western outright in 1998 and rebranded it as First Great Western
First Great Western is the operating name of First Greater Western Ltd, a British train operating company owned by FirstGroup that serves Greater London, the South East, South West and West Midlands regions of England, and South Wales....
, having also secured the Great Eastern
First Great Eastern was an award-winning train operating company that operated suburban, local and medium distance train services from London Liverpool Street via Romford to Essex and Ipswich in the United Kingdom on the Great Eastern Main Line railway.First Group gained the Great Eastern...
franchise the year before.
The mainstay of Great Western's fleet was diesel-powered high speed trains
The InterCity 125 was the brand name of British Rail's High Speed Train fleet. The InterCity 125 train is made up of two power cars, one at each end of a fixed formation of Mark 3 carriages, and is capable of , making the train the fastest diesel-powered locomotive in regular service in the...
inherited from British Rail. No other new trains were purchased, but the interiors of existing carriages were refurbished and improvements such as the addition of wheelchair-accessible toilets were made.
Great Western's rolling stock was maintained at five depots: Laira (Plymouth), St Phillips Marsh (Bristol), Long Rock (Penzance), Old Oak Common (London) and Landore (Swansea).
Having taken over services formerly operated and marketed by British Rail's InterCity
InterCity was introduced by British Rail in 1966 as a brand-name for its long-haul express passenger services ....
sector, Great Western primarily provided express trains between larger towns and cities. Services offered first and standard class seating with onboard catering services including buffets and restaurants, with an overnight sleeper services also provided between London and Penzance
Penzance is a town, civil parish, and port in Cornwall, England, in the United Kingdom. It is the most westerly major town in Cornwall and is approximately 75 miles west of Plymouth and 300 miles west-southwest of London...
Soon after privatisation, Great Western pioneered the mobile phone-free 'quiet carriage' in the UK, as well as a dedicated 'family carriage' at weekends and holiday periods. Its franchise also included a commitment to investigate reintroducing a Motorail
service to carry passengers' cars between London and south west England which was eventually introduced after the sale of the company to First Group.
High Speed Train fleet
Dating from the late 1970s and early 1980s, the majority of Great Western's fleet was the High Speed Train or 'InterCity 125'. Capable of operating at up to 125 mph in everyday service, these normally operated in a fixed formation of eight passenger carriages between two Class 43
The British Rail Class 43 is the TOPS classification used for the InterCity 125 High Speed Train power cars, built by BREL from 1975 to 1982....
In 1997, the company successfully trialled new Brush VP-185 engines in four of their power cars, replacing the original Paxman Valenta engines. Numbered 43167 to 43170, the modified locomotives had previously been used for testing Mirlees engines by InterCity. After takeover by First Group, the plan to install VP-185 engines in the rest of the fleet was dropped and MTU engines were introduced instead.
Other trains operated
A small fleet of Class 47
The British Rail Class 47, is a class of British railway diesel-electric locomotive that was developed in the 1960s by Brush Traction. A total of 512 Class 47s were built at Crewe Works and Brush's Falcon Works, Loughborough between 1962 and 1968, which made them the most numerous class of British...
locomotives was used to haul sleepers, to operate a small number of daytime passenger trains and to rescue failed high speed trains. However, with such an extensive service, Great Western found it difficult to use these locomotives as both thunderbirds and on long distance services, many Class 37s were leased from Railfreight Distribution in 1996, but then from EWS after Rfd's demise. 14 Class 08
The British Rail Class 08 is a class of diesel-electric shunting locomotive. From 1953 to 1962, 996 locomotives were produced, making it the most numerous of all British locomotive classes....
shunters were also employed at depots.
Livery and branding
Great Western progressively introduced a new dark green and ivory livery across their fleet from 1996, along with the distinctive 'Merlin' logo. Publicity materials, new equipment and station decoration all made use of the same colour scheme.
At the time of Great Western's establishment, it was expected that British Rail's well-known InterCity
InterCity was introduced by British Rail in 1966 as a brand-name for its long-haul express passenger services ....
brand would continue to be used by privatised operators, possibly with the various operators co-operating in joint marketing.
Accordingly, earlier fleet repaints featured the established InterCity logotype, while publicity referred to 'Great Western, providing InterCity services'. This policy was ultimately discontinued as the various privatised train operators each abandoned the brand in favour of developing entirely new identities.
The Great Western livery was not completely removed from the fleet until early 2000, with the last powercar to wear the Merlin livery being 43142. A new livery introduced by First Group after takeover continued the use of dark green, albeit with very different styling.
Southall rail crash
The 1997 Southall rail crash
The Southall rail crash was an accident on the British railway system that occurred on 19 September 1997, on the Great Western Main Line at Southall, west London. Seven people were killed and 139 injured...
, in which seven people died and 139 were injured, occurred when a Great Western train driver became distracted and failed to stop for two consequtive red signals. It was found that the train's automatic warning system, which would have provided additional visual and audible warnings to the driver, was not working and the company was fined £1.5 million. It also emerged that the newer, more sophisticated Automatic Train Protection
Automatic Train Protection in Great Britain refers to either of two implementations of a train protection system installed in some trains in order to help prevent collisions through a driver's failure to observe a signal or speed restriction...
system fitted to the train had been disabled due to problems with its introduction and inadequate training of drivers.
- London Paddington, Reading, Newbury, Pewsey, Westbury, Castle Cary, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Torquay, Paignton
- London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Chippenham, Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, Weston Super Mare, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Totnes, Plymouth, Liskaerd, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, St Erth, Penzance
- London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Cardiff Central, Swansea, (Fishguard)
- London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Oxford
- London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Oxford, Hanborough, Combe, Finstock, Charlbury, Ascott-under-Wychwood, Shipton, Kingham, Moreton-in-Marsh, Honeybourne, Evesham, Pershore, Worcester Shrub Hill, Great Malvern, Ledbury, Hereford
- London Paddington, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Kemble, Stroud, Stonehouse, (Gloucester), Cheltenham Spa
- (Sleeper service, later to be named Night Riviera
) London Paddington, Reading (Only on outbound services
), Taunton, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Plymouth, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithieal, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, Hayle, St Erth, Penzance.
Services run with HSTs but stopping at smaller stations
- London Paddington, Slough, Reading, Newbury, Hungerford, Bedwym, Pewsey, Westbury, Frome, Bruton, Castle Cary, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Torquay, Paignton
- London Paddington, Slough, Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Chippenham, Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, Worle, Weston Super Mare, Bridgewater, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Totnes, Plymouth, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, Hayle, St Erth, Penzance