On Track: Dave Wood's column on railways
After the debacle of the West Coast franchise the Government has announced that First Great Western will continue to run rail services in Bristol and the surrounding area for the next two years.
Not bad considering First Group avoided £800 million in payments to the Government by cancelling its previous deal to run the Great Western franchise early. First Great Western is sitting pretty and must be feeling quite happy with itself. For like other train operating companies, it is on a winner. And it know it. The system allows it to make around £250 million profit per year on the basis of very little investment and hardly any risk.
In my opinion it must be laughing all the way to the bank. As usual it is the tax payers who have to cough up. A First spokesman said this will ensure continuity of services and enable First Great Western to continue to deliver improvements for passengers through-out this extended franchise. The extension will facilitate the planned delivery of major projects on the network, in particular electrification and the introduction of new rolling stock, as well as significant upgrade work to the line, stations and signalling. It would be of interest if First Great Western would let us know if when electrification is completed in around London, Reading onwards towards Oxford and Swindon, is it planning to get the modern 160s and 165s trains that served these lines to operate in the Greater Bristol area?What we do not want is old rolling stock from the Midlands and the Welsh Valley lines
As for the comment about station upgrades, does this mean run-down stations like Bedminster, Parson Street, Lawrence Hill, Stapleton Road will be vastly improved from the not fit for purpose conditions they are in? I have a appointment with First Great Western and Network Rail to visit and talk about the run-down stations at Bedminster and Parson Street.
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Tim O'Toole, the chief executive of First Group, said the extension of First Western franchise provided the continuity and consistency for their passengers and would enable them to deliver considerable improvements to services.
Are Mr O'Toole and First Great Western planning to run more trains to Bedminster and Parson Street?
At the moment I think one train stops there every hour but there are also big gaps in the train frequency timetable. With the likelihood of a new planned arena at Temple Meads, these stations could soon be playing a big part in getting spectators to the new arena.