Franchise(s)Great Eastern
5 January 1997 – 31 March 2004
Main region(s)East London
East of England
Fleet size144
Stations called at61
Parent companyFirstGroup
Reporting markGE

First Great Eastern[1] was a train operating company in England owned by FirstGroup that operated the Great Eastern franchise from January 1997 until March 2004.

Logo used from 1997 to 1999


First Great Eastern operated all stops and limited stops services on the Great Eastern Main Line from London Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria, Southminster, Braintree, Colchester Town, Clacton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze, Harwich Town and Ipswich. It also ran services on the Romford to Upminster Line and Gainsborough Line from Marks Tey to Sudbury.[2]

Rolling stock

First Great Eastern inherited a fleet of Class 312, Class 315 and Class 321s from British Rail. A Class 153 was hired from Anglia Railways for the Marks Tey to Sudbury service due to it not being electrified, a Class 150 being used on weekdays and a Class 153 on weekends. Prior to this arrangement, a Class 121 Bubble Car was hired from Silverlink.[3]

A franchise commitment was the replacement of the Class 312s. In May 2001, First Great Eastern ordered 21 Class 360 Desiros with the first entering service in August 2003.[4][full citation needed]

Fleet at end of franchise
Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
121 Bubble Car diesel multiple unit 70 112 Hired from
Marks TeySudbury 1960
150 75 120 Hired from
Anglia Railways
153 1987–1988
312 electric multiple unit 90 145 24 ColchesterWalton-on-the-Naze
Harwich TownManningtree
London Liverpool StreetClacton-on-Sea and Ipswich (peak times only)
315 75 120 43 London Liverpool StreetShenfield and Southminster
321 100 160 77 London Liverpool StreetBraintree, Southend Victoria, Ipswich, Walton-on-the-Naze, Colchester Town, Clacton-on-Sea
WickfordSouthminster (Sundays only)
360/1 Desiro 21 London Liverpool StreetClacton-on-Sea and Harwich Town
London Liverpool StreetIpswich (peak times only)


First Great Eastern's fleet was maintained at Ilford depot.


In 2002, as part of a franchise reorganisation by the Strategic Rail Authority, it was announced that the Great Eastern franchise would be merged into the Greater Anglia franchise.[5][full citation needed] In December 2003, the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the Greater Anglia franchise to National Express, and the services operated by First Great Eastern were transferred to One (later National Express East Anglia) on 1 April 2004.[6]


  1. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007936 Great Eastern Railway Limited
  2. ^ First Great Eastern route map August 2003
  3. ^ "Bubble cars revived, depot opens to solve Great Eastern branch crisis". Rail Magazine. No. 312. 27 August 1997. p. 10.
  4. ^ Rail Magazine. No. 312. 30 August 2003. p. 9. ((cite magazine)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Rail Magazine. No. 426. 9 January 2002. p. 4. ((cite magazine)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "National Express wins rail franchise". The Daily Telegraph. London. 22 December 2003. Retrieved 23 May 2023.

Media related to First Great Eastern at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded byNetwork SouthEastAs part of British Rail Operator of Great Eastern franchise 1997 – 2004 Succeeded byOneGreater Anglia franchise