First Great Western Link

First Great Western Link

First Great Western Link (FGWL) was a train operating company in England owned by FirstGroup that operated the Thames franchise from April 2004 until March 2006.

First Great Western Link History

In April 2003 the Strategic Rail Authority invited FirstGroup and Go-Ahead to bid for a two-year extension to the Thames franchise that would coincide with the end date of the First Great Western franchise, after which both would become part of the Greater Western franchise.

In November 2003 the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the new franchise to First with the services operated by Thames Trains transferring to FGWL on 1 April 2004.

On 12 June 2005 Heathrow Connect was introduced as a joint venture between FGWL and BAA. BAA supplied the Class 360 rolling stock and on-board staff. FGWL received the revenue for journeys between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington, and BAA the revenue for journeys between Hayes & Harlington and Heathrow Airport.

First Great Western Link Services

FGWL ran services along the Great Western Main Line from London Paddington to Didcot with services continuing to north to Oxford, Bicester Town, Hereford and Stratford-upon-Avon. It also operated services on the Greenford, Windsor & Eton Central, Marlow, Henley and Bedwyn lines and on the Reading to Basingstoke and North Downs lines.

The Stratford-upon-Avon service was transferred to Chiltern Railways in December 2004 with FGWL ceasing to operate beyond Banbury.

  • Great Western Main Line (Local services between London Paddington and Didcot Parkway).
  • Cherwell Valley Line (Didcot Parkway - Oxford)
  • Cotswold Line (Oxford - Hereford)
  • North Downs Line (Reading - Redhill)
  • Reading to Plymouth Line (Reading - Bedwyn)
  • Reading to Basingstoke Line (Reading - Basingstoke)
  • Slough to Windsor & Eton Line (Slough - Windsor and Eton Central)
  • Oxford to Bicester Line (Oxford - Bicester Town)
  • Marlow Branch Line (Maidenhead - Marlow)
  • Henley Branch Line (Twyford railway station - Henley-on-Thames)
  • Greenford Branch Line (London Paddington - Greenford)

First Great Western Link Rolling Stock

FGWL inherited a fleet of Class 165s and 166s from Thames Trains. A franchise commitment was to use five Class 180 Adelantes from sister company First Great Western on Cotswold Line services from December 2004, releasing five Class 165s for transfer to Chiltern Railways.

Because of the short nature of the franchise and the fact that the Class 165s and 166s had only recently been repainted, the Thames Trains livery of white, blue and green was retained with FGWL branding applied.

First Great Western Link Fleet at End of Franchise

  • Class 165/1 Networker Turbo

diesel multiple unit   1990–1992

  • Class 166 Networker Turbo


First Great Western Link Depot

FGWL's fleet was maintained at Reading TMD.

First Great Western Link Demise

On 6 November 2002 as part of a franchise reorganisation by the Strategic Rail Authority, it was announced that the Great Western, Thames Trains and Wessex Trains franchises would be combined to form the Greater Western franchise. This was part of a Strategic Rail Authority strategy to reduce the number of train operating companies providing services from a single London terminal. This was expected to improve efficiency and reliability.

In December 2005 the Department for Transport awarded the new Greater Western franchise to First with the services operated by FGWL transferring to First Great Western on 1 April 2006.

First Great Western Link Overview

First Great Western Link Franchise(s): Thames
1 April 2004 – 31 March 2006

First Great Western Link Main Region(s): Thames Valley
First Great Western Link Other Region(s): North Downs, Cotswolds
First Great Western Link Fleet Size: 62
First Great Western Link Stations Called At: 95
First Great Western Link Parent Company: FirstGroup
First Great Western Link Reporting Mark: FK
First Great Western Link Predecessor: Thames Trains
First Great Western Link Successor: First Great Western


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