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UK Rail

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One of the largest rail operators in the UK and the only one to run every sort of railway - long distance, regional, commuter and sleeper operations - we carried 330m passengers in 2013/14.

We operate two UK rail franchises (First Great Western and First TransPennine Express) and one open access passenger rail service (First Hull Trains). We also operate the Tramlink service on behalf of Transport for London and the Heathrow Connect service with Heathrow Airport.

As one of the most experienced operators in the UK, we are uniquely positioned to work with our partners to add value and improve services. Since 2005 our franchises have received more than 250 awards, including First Great Western, the current Rail Business of the Year, highlighting work done in partnership with Network Rail to keep the west moving after unprecedented flood damage in 2014; and for the ‘Building a Greater West’ marketing campaign. First TransPennine Express has recently been awarded Investors in People Gold status and in 2014 became the first rail company to win the British Quality Foundation UK Excellence Award.

We have proposed and delivered over £650m capital investment into our franchises since 2006. Since we began running rail operations, we have introduced more than 740 additional vehicles across our various franchises, which has also led to the creation of new depot facilities and jobs.

Even through the recession our rail services have delivered growth. For example, at First TransPennine Express passenger levels have doubled since 2004 – cutting taxpayer subsidy as a proportion of passenger revenue as a result. We are embracing new technology to enhance the customer experience. The customer app for our operating companies has been downloaded more than one million times; we are working with councils to introduce smart ticketing and we have led one of the largest roll outs of free Wi-Fi on the UK rail network. In 2014 FirstGroup gave train passengers the first ever opportunity to earn Nectar points when booking their journeys online with a UK rail operator.

Across all our operations, we are working in partnership with industry partners and local stakeholders to provide better rail services, keep people moving and communities prospering across the country.

We have a great track record in rail that has proven successful through different generations of rail franchising and across a range of passenger rail operations. We remain committed to retaining a leading position in the thriving UK rail market which has seen spectacular growth thanks to privatisation, far outstripping economic growth. The UK rail network’s performance is unmatched in other sectors and is the envy of Europe, with higher passenger kilometres travelled and passenger satisfaction scores than Germany, Holland or France.

Key facts

  • 330 million passengers in 2013/14
  • 1,900 rolling stock vehicles
  • 585 stations operated by FirstGroup
  • 27,000 services a week run by our train companies

First Great Western
First Great Western provides high speed, commuter, regional and branch line train services, carrying more than 99 million passengers every year across the Great Western rail franchise area, which includes South Wales, the Westcountry, the Cotswolds, and large parts of Southern England.

We will run the franchise until at least April 2019, bringing our experience of managing the route over many years to ensure the successful delivery of the major programme of infrastructure upgrades on the network. The £7.5bn Great Western Mainline modernisation programme is the biggest investment on the route since Brunel. During this time we are introducing new or refurbished trains on every part of the network meaning additional and more frequent services, reduced journey times and more seats, particularly on key commuter routes.

Click here for more information about First Great Western

First TransPennine Express
First TransPennine Express provides vital connections between key cities in the North of England and Scotland, helping to create the Northern Powerhouse, as part of a national investment of more than £1bn in the North’s railways.
First TransPennine Express operates inter-city services on three main routes:

• North TransPennine - including Newcastle to Manchester Airport, Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport, Scarborough to Liverpool and Hull to Manchester Piccadilly
• South TransPennine from Cleethorpes via Doncaster and Sheffield to Manchester Airport
• North West and Scotland – from Windermere, Barrow in Furness and Blackpool North via Preston and Bolton to Manchester Airport; Edinburgh, Glasgow, Carlisle, Penrith and Oxenholme to Manchester Airport

We will run the franchise until April 2016 and during this time we are bringing in new trains which will provide 700 additional seats between York and Liverpool every day. We are pleased to have been shortlisted to bid for the new TransPennine Express franchise, and will submit a proposal to deliver significant improvements for customers and value for money for the taxpayer.

Click here for more information about First TransPennine Express

First Hull Trains
Our open access operation, First Hull Trains, is consistently one of the UK’s most popular train companies, according to independent surveys. Since we started services in 2000 First Hull Trains has filled a vital gap in the market, making 90 journeys a week between London, Hull and intermediate stations, and transporting more than 800,000 people annually – a ten-fold increase since inception. We are proud to support Hull’s status as the UK’s City of Culture 2017.

Click here for more information about First Hull Trains

We operate the Tramlink network on behalf of Transport for London, which continues to see strong patronage. In 2013/14 more than 31m passengers used the network, an increase of 13m since the start of operations.

Click here for more information about Tramlink