13 October 1996 – 31 March 2004
|Main region(s)||Thames Valley|
|Other region(s)||West Midlands, Cotswolds and North Downs|
|Fleet size||57 (March 2004)|
|Stations called at||95|
|Parent company||Go-Ahead Group|
|Successor||First Great Western Link|
Thames Trains was a train operating company in the United Kingdom owned by Go-Ahead that operated the Thames Trains franchise from October 1996 until March 2004.
The Thames Trains franchise was awarded by the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising to Victory Rail Holdings, a company owned by Go-Ahead (65%) and some ex-British Rail managers (35%), with operations commencing on 13 October 1996. Go-Ahead bought the remaining shares it did not own in June 1998.
The Ladbroke Grove rail crash of 5 October 1999 involved a Thames Trains Class 165, which had failed to stop at a red signal. Thames Trains was fined £2 million for violations of health and safety law in connection with the incident, and was also ordered to pay £75,000 in costs.
Thames Trains ran services along the Great Western Main Line from London Paddington to Didcot with services continuing 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.
In 1998 a service from Oxford to Bristol was introduced in partnership with First Great Western. This was withdrawn in 2003 at the request of the Strategic Rail Authority to relieve congestion.
Thames Trains inherited a fleet of near-new Class 165 and Class 166 diesel multiple units from British Rail. Because the paintwork was still under warranty, the existing Network SouthEast livery was retained with only a Thames Trains logo added. Upon the warranty expiring, a new livery of white, blue and green was introduced in 2000.
|Class 165/1 Network Turbo||DMU||90||145||36||1990–1992|
|Class 166 Network Express Turbo||21||1992–1993|
Thames Trains' fleet was maintained at Reading TMD.
In April 2003 the Strategic Rail Authority invited FirstGroup and Go-Ahead to bid for a two-year 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. In November 2003 the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the new franchise to First with the services operated by Thames Trains transferring to First Great Western Link on 1 April 2004.