First Great Western’s extra trains and new Heathrow Link launched by Home Secretary

Published 17th July 2012

Refurbished Carriages launched into service by Theresa May for First Great Western

£500m pledge for new Rail Link

WEST OF ENGLAND - First Great Western (FGW) has welcomed the Government’s statement on western rail access to Heathrow Airport via a new curve.

Following the Government's pledge of £500m for the new rail link, FGW’s MD Mark Hopwood said: "The commitment to £500 million to fund western rail access to Heathrow is great news for local economies across the network.

In speaking to the business communities across our region, they really value the economic benefits improved rail access to Heathrow could bring to cities like Slough, Reading, Swindon and Bristol, as well as South Wales and the South West.

I'm pleased we've been able to work with them and industry partners to move the debate forward to this stage.”

Refurbished High Speed Train Carriages enter service

First Great Western launched the first of the extra 48 carriages on July 6 at Maidenhead station. These were withdrawn from service (with FGW) a few years ago and stored at Eastleigh Works as previously reported on this website.

They were taken out of store and to Kilmarnock in Scotland for internal refurbishing and exterior presentation work after the Department for Transport agreed they should not have sanctioned the withdrawal in the first place!

They were launched back into service at Maidenhead station by Theresa May and Mark Hopwood and will provide around 4,500 seats at peak times on FGW’s intercity type services between London and South Wales, Bristol, Swindon, Didcot and Oxford.

FGW also has an entertainment carriage on many services fitted out with back of the seat TV screens. Some content is free such as news and an interactive map of your location. Others, such as films and games are chargeable.

Extra Local services

Local services have also been boosted with extra carriages in the west of England using class 150 and 153 trains cascaded from other train companies. These will operate between Falmouth and Truro plus Paignton, Exmouth, Exeter and Barnstaple. These will provide an extra 924 seats in and out of Bristol during peak times, including 336 through Bath.

Further good news for FGW passengers is that more trains will also operate between Reading and Basingstoke using class 150s. The total cost of these extra trains operated under the FGW banner is around £29m.

They said:

FGW’s MD Mark Hopwood said the additional carriages would help to reduce overcrowding. And that "We've seen an ever increasing demand for travel on our services. "This investment will deliver thousands of extra seats for customers across our network."

Reading Area Upgrade gathers pace

The Reading area upgrade, including five new platforms, tracks, train depots and station concourse is moving ahead at an ever more visible pace.

The cost is now £850m which includes electrification of the route and this summer, the new 30 meter wide concourse is being built over the station from north to south. The first section was put in place in early July and the supporting pillars have now been erected on the platforms. It is expected to open in Spring next year.

Longer Southern Platforms

The three new platforms allocated for use on services to and from the Southern are scheduled to be fully opened this month. The platform canopies were being completed at the end of the first week in July on Platform 6. These platforms have also been lengthened and can take a 12 car train.

New Train Depot

The new FGW train depot and sidings have been installed and the massive sheds are shaping up well to the west of the station, soon to be fitted out. These will be required when the flyover is built through the existing Reading FGW depot a mile to the west of the station.

The trainsheds are 210metres long and will open for business in late summer 2013. It will service diesel and electric trains.


Electrification work commences in September in the Reading area making it the first location to be worked on under this project. Electric trains will run between London, Oxford and Bristol from 2016 and Cardiff the following year.

Less Crime at Reading

One by-product of all this activity at Reading is that crime has dropped significantly. This is thought to be because of the quantity of staff and contractors at the station 24 hours a day assisted by more CCTV coverage.

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