Government gives First Great Western’s £360 million fleet the green light
(written BY : Rail Professional
First Great Western’s £360 million fleet of long-distance trains have been officially approved, following the government giving them the go-ahead today.
Entering operation in 2018, the 29-train fleet will run between London and Cornwall and will have up to 24 per cent more seats than the majority of trains already serving the line.
The Hitachi AT300 Inter City trains will also create more than 1,000 additional peak-time seats into and out of Paddington every day.
The news comes in the same month that First Great Western workers went on a 48-hour strike over concerns that guards and buffet cars would be disposed of when the new trains are brought into service.
ail minister Claire Perry said that the trains would make a difference to the ‘millions of commuters, business travellers and tourists’ who use the route every year.
Eversholt Rail, which is procuring and financing the AT300 trains on behalf of First Great Western, said it ‘looked forward to working in partnership with both First Great Western and Hitachi to successfully deliver these trains’.
Rail signal problems on Oxford to London line ‘every day’
he Oxford to London Paddington line suffered the equivalent of more than one signal problem every day last year.
New figures obtained by BBC Radio Oxford through a Freedom of Information request reveal 411 signalling problems during the 2014/15 financial year.
They also show a 22% increase in faults from 2012/13, which has drawn criticism from commuters faced with rising prices.
Network Rail blamed a lack of railway investment for the increase.
Signalling systems can fail for a number of reasons, such as power cuts or blown fuses, which cause signals to turn black and drivers to stop their trains.
A spokeswoman said the age of the equipment was the cause of the problems.
“We are replacing all of the signalling equipment along the Western route as part of our £7.5bn modernisation programme,” she said.
During the 2013/14 financial year there was 379 signal problems and in 2012/13 the number was 337.
Sim Harris, the managing editor of Railnews magazine, said the signalling problems were causing “major disruption to thousands of people”.
He said: “The problem with the signalling between Oxford and Reading, which is where these problems do occur, is that it’s getting on [in age].”
‘Taken for a ride’
Simon Stevenson, 42, from North Oxford, is a company director and commutes into London two or three times a week.
He said: “There seems to be a disconnect. We have constant increases in fares, but that doesn’t translate into improvements in service.”
A similar view was shared by Damian Fantato, 26 – a journalist who commuted into London from Oxford every day until earlier this year.
“Commuting to London costs an arm and a leg, so when you are delayed most mornings because you are sat somewhere just outside Reading it feels like you are being taken for a ride,” he said.