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First Great Western Link (FGWL)[1] 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
166217 at Reading.JPG
1 April 2004 – 31 March 2006
Main region(s)Thames Valley
Other region(s)North Downs, Cotswolds
Fleet size62
Stations called at95
National Rail abbreviationFK
Parent companyFirstGroup



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.[2][3] 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.[4][5]

On 12 June 2005 Heathrow Connect was introduced as a joint venture between FGWL and BAA.[6][7][8] 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.[9]


Rolling stockEdit

FGWL inherited a fleet of Class 165 and Class 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[10] releasing five Class 165 for transfer to Chiltern Railways.[11] Because the former Thames Trains rolling stock had only been recently repainted and the short nature of the franchise, the existing livery was retained with FGWL branding applied.[12]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Built
mph km/h
Class 165/1 Network Turbo   diesel multiple unit 90 145 36 1990-1992
Class 166 Network Express Turbo   21 1992-1993


FGWL's fleet was maintained at Reading TMD.


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.[13][14]

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.[15]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company 4804687 First Great Western Link Limited
  2. ^ Go-Ahead facing Thames tussle Evening Standard 10 April 2003
  3. ^ SRA invites First Group to bid for Thames extension Rail issue 460 30 April 2003 page 11
  4. ^ "Preferred Bidder Announced for New Thames Trains Franchise". 2 December 2003. Archived from the original on 2 December 2003. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  5. ^ Go-Ahead loses Thames Trains as SRA hands franchise to First Rail issue 474 12 November 2003 page 26
  6. ^ "Heathrow Connect". Always Touch Out. 12 June 2005. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007.
  7. ^ Take off! New Heathrow Connect targets airport staff Rail issue 516 22 June 2005 page 8
  8. ^ Heathrow Connect service begins The Railway Magazine issue 1252 August 2005 page 76
  9. ^ Heathrow Connect close to takeoff Railway Gazette International 1 June 2004
  10. ^ Thames to see 125mph trains from First by next December Rail issue 478 7 January 2004 page 13
  11. ^ Thames 165s on their way to Chiltern Rail issue 487 24 November 2004 page 25
  12. ^ First reveals branding for Thames Turbos Rail issue 486 28 April 2004 page 14
  13. ^ SRA Announces New Franchise for the West Strategic Rail Authority Press Release 6 November 2002
  14. ^ FGW, Thames & Wessex to become one Rail issue 448 13 November 2002 page 5
  15. ^ "Greater Western Franchise" (Invitation to tender). Department for Transport. 2 February 2006.

External linksEdit

  Media related to First Great Western Link at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Thames Trains
Operator of Thames franchise
2004 - 2006
Succeeded by
First Great Western
Greater Western franchise