FirstGroup has been awarded a replacement National Rail Contract to continue running the Great Western Railway (GWR) until 2025.
FirstGroup has been running the GWR franchise since it bought out its partners in their post-privatisation consortium in 1998, and has had its contract extended periodically ever since. The new National Rail Contract (NRC) replaces the pandemic era agreement where the government took on revenue risk, and was due to expire on 26th June.
The new contract will run until at least 21st June 2025, with the potential for a further three years at the Secretary of State’s discretion.
As part of the agreement, GWR will continue investing in digital ticketing, with smartcards for Bristol and the wider area expected to go live later this year. GWR is also working with Transport for Wales to provide a similar scheme for South Wales.
GWR will also continue with an interior refresh of its Class 16x Turbo fleet, having already completed 14 two-car sets. GWR is required to spend at least £1 million on increasing the accessibility of its services, including a series of works across the network including the installation of power-assisted doors, tactile paving and handrails at stations.
GWR will also build on the success of integrated travel schemes like the new bus service in South Devon linking towns to the national rail network at Totnes; improved bus connections at Bristol Parkway; and a new GWR train/steam train/river boat through journey to Dartmouth.
GWR will also be required to review its diesel fleet with the aim of replacing diesel-only trains with greener units such as battery-only trains – such as the Vivarail trial on the Greenford branch line.
GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said: “We look forward to working with our rail partners to develop services designed to meet changing customer needs, and putting passengers at the heart of an updated, modern railway.”