First Great Western Link
1 April 2004 – 31 March 2006
Main region(s)Greater London, Southeast England
Other region(s)East Midlands, Southwest England, West Midlands
Fleet size62
Stations called at95
Parent companyFirstGroup
Reporting markFK
PredecessorThames Trains
SuccessorFirst Great Western

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.


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]


FGWL ran services along the Great Western Main Line from London Paddington to Didcot with services continuing to north to Oxford, Bicester Town, Hereford and Stratford-upon-Avon. It also operated services on the Greenford, Windsor & Eton Central, Marlow, Henley and Bedwyn lines and on the Reading to Basingstoke and North Downs lines.

The Stratford-upon-Avon service was transferred to Chiltern Railways in December 2004 with FGWL ceasing to operate beyond Banbury.

Rolling stock

FGWL inherited a fleet of Class 165s and 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][full citation needed] releasing five Class 165s for transfer to Chiltern Railways.[11] Because of the short nature of the franchise and the fact that the Class 165s and 166s had only recently been repainted, the Thames Trains livery of white, blue and green was retained with FGWL branding applied.[12]

Fleet at end of franchise
Class Image Type Top speed Number Built
mph km/h
Class 165/1 Networker Turbo diesel multiple unit 90 145 36 1990–1992
Class 166 Networker 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 Magazine. No. 460. 30 April 2003. p. 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 Magazine. No. 474. 12 November 2003. p. 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 Magazine. No. 516. 22 June 2005. p. 8.
  8. ^ "Heathrow Connect service begins". The Railway Magazine. No. 1252. August 2005. p. 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 Magazine. 2004.
  11. ^ "Thames 165s on their way to Chiltern". Rail Magazine. No. 487. 2004.[full citation needed]
  12. ^ "First reveals branding for Thames Turbos". Rail Magazine. No. 486. 28 April 2004. p. 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.

Media related to First Great Western Link at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded byThames Trains Operator of Thames franchise 2004–2006 Succeeded byFirst Great WesternGreater Western franchise