One of the worst service ever especially if you are the unlucky ones travelling to and from paddington .. The trains during the rush hour are late in most circumstances or cancelled.I'm planning to quit my job or move home somewhere near office as a result of their poor service.
I often use FGW to visit home from London to Oxford, if you prebook then you get pretty decent return deals, I've got a return to Oxford for £10 before without any rail card discounts or anything. Buying tickets on the day however can be expensive. Also pre booked fares mean you have to get a certain train, and if you happen to get a slightly earlier one, even if its empty, you will get charged a new fare on board.
My first problem with FGW is that you are paying a lot of money for public transport, but you don't get the service. Sometimes I think the staff fail to realise that you are a paying customer, in particular the on board ticket inspectors, where you can get some with bad attitudes where you are almost treated like a criminal if you have the wrong ticket or time. I think some of them must of tried and failed to get into the police or something!?
A recent personal complaint I had towards FGW was that I booked a return to Oxford for the Sat/Sun and due to an emergency I went home on the Friday. I went to the ticket office to try and move my ticket but they said I would have to buy a new one, my fault for changing my mind but how hard would it of been to just move my journey? The train was half empty anyway!?
A noticeable drawback of FGW is the state of the trains, compared to other networks such as Virgin, the trains are dated and dirty, often with rubbish over the seats even when the train is about to begin a new journey from a departing station.
However, I could be one of the lucky ones here, I have rarely seen delays on any of my journeys going out of London or within London, so I guess this is the most important factor when using such transport.
Anyone who lives in the franchise area that is controlled by First Great Western will know what I mean when I say the service is poor. Having used other services, I know that most of the train network is poor, but I also know that for some time First Great Western had the worst punctuality of all the train networks in the country. Beat that.
There are two general areas.
First of all, there is the HST mainline service out of Paddington. The main problem with this service is overcrowding, and a lack on investment on behalf of Network Rail that means that trains often become delayed. I always find that the trains are dirty, and that you can never find any staff to talk to. If you reserve a seat, you'll either find someone has taken it, meaning you need to find the guard (something that is hard), or worse you'll find that the train is late and that all reservations have been cancelled. If your journey is not important, and you can travel at an off peak time, then do just that. Unless you get on the train at a very early point on the journey, during peak times you'll never find a seat, and the trains do become hot after a while.
The second part are the connecting branchline services, which are even worse. First Great Western simply don't have enough rolling stock, meaning trains are always overcrowded, dirty and you can never find the guard. Toilets are often out of order, and even if they're not the train is so crowded you can never get to them, or to the small snacks trolley service. Some services to certain hesitations are few and far between.
Staff wise, I always find that the staff on and off the trains are helpful, and do try very hard to make the journey better. Indeed, some of First's own staff have often criticized their own employers for not having the rolling stock.
Don't even get me started on the fares. The fares in this country have become something of a joke. We were promised cheaper and better service when privatization happened. No such luck. We have the most expensive trains by a big amount in Europe.
Overall, a poor service for a lot of money. That said, they go get you from A to B most of the time.
First Great Western: First for being worst!
I have always enjoyed travelling on the train network, despite the fact that with the locations I often consult at, having to take a hire car. It always feels so unproductive sitting at the wheel when I could be working, or even better catching up on sleep.
First Great Western, however, have resulted in a numbness towards the greed and quality of the service they provide. I have often made journeys towards Bristol and Bath from my home town, a route which First Great Western service. The first and most notable thing, is their complete lack to cleanliness for their passengers, their trains are filthy. The seats are covered in goodness knows what, and look like they have not been cleaned for over a year! The floors are even worse! Goodness knows what treasure lurks within the filth!
Punctuality is also not a specialism, despite their name. In a race they would come last, not first! They always tend to be 10 minutes late, sometimes 20 on the trips I have incurred on their pathetic service. Combined with the Air Con failing regularly in the summer, you are handed a customer complaint slip, if you dare to mention dissatisfaction to the guard. You are not greeted well that is for sure, it makes one wonder if the guards receive penalties! Who knows?
My biggest gripe however, is the total lack of capacity. There are never enough seats on the services during the off peak period, let alone the cramped conditions in the on peak period. The only plus is, their seats are positioned higher than other train companies, meaning if you do get a seat, you get the feeling of having more leg room.
Send in a complaint and they fob you off with "We're Sorry", never a refund!
The Summary - First for being worst, and certainly not great!
I have been using First Great Western for around one trip a fortnight for the past 6 months, traveling between Wales and London. Usually traveling on the cheaper Super Saver trains. The cost is usually a decent amount, around £15-£20 return pre-booked or £40 on the day return. I should make clear that I use a Young persons railcard which I highly recommend.
Having spent many a long trip traveling on East Coast, GNER, Virgin, Cross Country, Transpennine and National Express I have a decent comparison for First Great Western.
Overall the trains are of decent quality and seats are quite comfortable, with and without a table. Most of the trains carry on-board buffet which is priced at what you'd expect from the train companies.
My main flaw with the trains is the lack of decent WiFi on board. This has been standard for other train companies for a few years and is something that is really lacking for a busy business route. Whether this is the fault of the train company or the coverage as I find my phone signal is pretty thin along the route.
At peak times and at certain dates the trains between Wales and London will become very busy with some people unable to board the train at all. However, with the right timing the train journeys are pleasant and fast.
One final point is that as winter closed in I have experienced many more delays. One particular journey taking 8 hours instead of 2. From my experiences First Great Western are fine for normal travel but any issues are dealt with poorly and very little help is offered.
I have travelled on First Great Western Trains many, many times over the last six years, and now use them once a month to get from Bristol to London Paddington. I generally travel on weekends, usually leaving Bristol on a Friday afternoon and returning on Sunday evening. The First Great Western train network is ever-growing and now traverses the entire south-west, and far beyond.
Overall, I find that First Great Western trains are punctual, reliable and arrive at their destination on time. However, this mostly only applies to their major route services. Those which pass through small stations tend to be out of date trains that don't have enough carriages and always seem to be late, or not turn up at all! I often find that some peak journeys can be over-filled with passengers, leaving people standing in the aisles. Even with a pre-booked seat this can be uncomfortable as there are people standing too close or the carriages get overheated.
I have two main issues with the service that First Great Western offers. Firstly, when booking on their website it's really hit or miss as to whether the booking will go through or it will accept the card I am using. I usually just phone up now to save the hassle of the website rejecting my card multiple times despite me checking all of the information. Secondly, I often find that there's four or five almost empty first class carriages on EVERY service, and yet there'll be overcrowding in the standard class carriages. Why not replace some of the redundant first class carriages with standard class so that more people can sit down?
Overall, however, when booking in advance, one cannot complain. FGW do say that they can't guarantee you'll get the exact seat that you desire (i.e. a table seat), however your reserved seat will always be waiting for you. The carriages are always clean. The staff are always friendly and the trains are usually on time. You can get some great value tickets, with a Bristol to London trip costing around £15 return when booking in advance. Furthermore, major routes don't have huge numbers of stops which means that destinations are reached quickly with minimum disruption. FGW are good at ensuring notice of engineering works and usually have replacement buses which although are slower, are generally reliable and hassle free. Overall, First Great Western are one of the better train services that I have used and I will continue to use them in the future.
I am a commuter who does the Reading to Paddington route Monday - Thursday before 8am and after 6pm and am sadly tied to using the ever infuriating First Great Western service.
Although they claim to be on time for 95% of their journeys, sadly not one of these includes my trains. I am very rarely at Paddington for 8:08, nor does my train reach Reading on time either. This wouldn't ordinarily matter, I like most people can handle a 2-10 minute delay, however it's the lack of customer service response when their constant delays are pointed out to them which is infuriating. They do not admit they are unable to run a commuter route - if you complain you will receive a standard reply... 'we are on time for 95% of journeys'.
Assuming you can stand being late and don't mind the bad customer service when you write in complaint, the onboard service also leaves a lot to be desired. Certainly on commuter routes I have experienced hundreds of occasions where the buffet cart is not open, not ready or has ran out of certain foods- not really good enough when I get on at the first stop on the way home!
One redeeming feature is the cleanliness of the carriages- I am yet to find a dirty or old train which is brilliant considering you're on it for longer than is necessary!
Overall they are 'ok' but if I had a choice I would avoid this poorly run and over priced service.
First Great Western is a company I seem to be travelling with quite a lot these days, and I must say the travel experience with them seems to be improving.
The long distance inter city routes seem to be pretty good - they are not too expensive, the trains are fairly comfortable and the service seems to be quite punctual. The only real problem is that during peak times the trains are over capacity and quite a few people have to stand - the only way around this is to book in advance, which I tend to do for cost reasons when going long distances.
The shorter distance routes are a slightly different story, however. I'm not sure where they got the trains they use in for the local Devon routes but they were probably out of date 30 years ago! They really are an experience! I also experienced problems when travelling from Oxford to London where they replaced full sized trains with ones with only one or two carriages - I couldn't physically get on the first two that went through (this was several months ago now though)
I am due to travel with them again this weekend so I will update this with any new info from that trip..
So, First Great Western are not too bad when compared to some other UK train companies but there is a lot of room for improvement.
I have used First Great Western only a couple of times and have never had a bad experince, in fact its been pretty good. With that train company I have managed to find a service I no longer expected to find in this country - an overnight sleeper. In the summer I caught the Night Riveria service from Paddington to St Ives and it was great. It departed Paddington at 23.45 and I arrived in St Ives for 8.15 the next morning. I've been travelling down to St Ives for a number of years (from the North) and am used to taking a full day of my holiday travelling, but it was fabulous to travel overnight and arrive at my destination on the morning of the 1st day of my holiday. There were sleeping berths available, but being a cheap skate (and to be honest not expecting much from a bed on a train in this country) I opted for a seat. The coach I was in was an old First class Inter City carriage and was extremely comfortable. I managed to doze off a number of times and was comfortable all the way. There was little buffet car on which I believe was open for the duration of the journey. My only critisism was the absence of electric sockets as you would get on a Virgin train. I was unable to charge my phone, and I wanted to watch some DVDs on my laptop but was unable to. All in all though it was an enjoyable experience that I shall be repeating next time I travel down, next time I may even treat myself to a berth!!
First Great Western Trains are operated by the First Group an Aberdeen trasport giant which not only operates a significant part of the rail network, but much of the bus one as well. As a company it has been in existence for 20 years.
My experience of First Western Trains however is along what used to be one of Great Western's main routes between the South West/West and London Paddington.
I've travelled many times from Taunton to Bristol and from Taunton to the capital over 8 years, and last week I had the opportunity to compare experiences.
My partner (Sue) and I travelled from Plymouth to Paddington on 3rd August and returned on the 6th. Our tickets had been booked using the trainline and cost us £13 each for both journeys which was pretty good value, and had been booked with the expectation of having 2 table seats both facing the direction of travel. We were a little apprehensive as our outward leg was split in 2 with a 5 minute change at Newton Abbot which we were panicing excessively over. We shouldn't have worried as the guard from our train was to be the one on the connection. (A few days after booking online prices continually rose to more than £70 single each by the day of travel).
As for the forward facing tickets, well the first train was a sprinter service and not only did we not get a facing seat, but no table either and we felt a little uncomfortable with only a small piece of the outside world visible to us from our seats.
Our main journey however was fine, despite yet again not having 2 forward facing table seats we did spend about a third of it sitting together until we reached Taunton where Sue had to swap seats and sit opposite.
It was quite clear with this and our return journey that there appeared to be no non-reserved seats. Our train from Newton Abbot was about 5-10 minutes late and made only 6 stops at Dawlish, Teignmouth, Exeter St Davids, Tiverton Parway, Taunton and Reading before arriving at Paddington around 5.45pm (early). The way back was similar with only 5 stops at Reading, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Totnes and Exeter St Davids before our arrival at Plymouth, which again was ahead of schedule.
Our departure from London was exactly on time and we boarded about 15 minutes before departure so that we could get comfortable and see what we had been given, again they weren't both table facing seats, but we did manage to both continue facing as the reserved seats from Taunton were not taken.
I had chosen the table seats after previous experience of the airline ones which I used to find a little uncomfortable so I was not that pleased to find we'd actually been allocated one facing and one back around our table. Luckily, it wasn't as big an issue as we'd imagined as the reservations were not all taken, but I expect to get what I have asked for.
At Plymouth and Paddington security is quite tight and both stations operate automatic ticket barriers, which for family and friends are a hinderance especially if you are trying to help them on the trains! Apart from the sprinter service the journey was extremely smooth and quiet.
What does concern me with First Great Western is that they rely on what are not 30 year old trains - mainly what were Intercity 125 trains on the majority of their mainline services. It also concerns me that 8 years ago their service was probably less than half of what it is today as they have bought up a number of other regional services including Wales and West, and on a visit to Exeter we paid a visit to one of their smaller stations - Exeter Central (that I visited about 10 years ago) which now have a high number of Great Western Services. Not only that, but it is now manned by Great Western staff.
In terms of journey time it took approximately 4 hours travelling to London (including waiting at Newton Abbot) and about 3.75 on the return.
I do feel that First Great Western is becoming the Tesco of the rail network. Great Western Trains was one of the first of the rail networks to win its licence after the denationalisation of the rail network, and its services were from Paddington to the South West as far as Paignton/Penzance and to Swansea in South Wales. Now services extend as far as Cheltenham Spa, and many regional services which have extended its empire.
I'm not convinced what Isimbard Kingdom Brunel would have thought if he were alive to day after designing many of the monuments to what was then "Gods Wonderful Railway" including Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads Stations and many of the bridges and viaducts which look so splendid on this section of the rail network.
To me, if First Great Western Trains expands much more, then in my view we should seriously consider re-nationalising the railway network. In addition, many of their trains have travelled over a million miles each, and it may be time for new investment to be made in its rolling stock.
On both days, there were only 3 trains that were late operated by First Great Western, but it did appear that they had extra time added to the journey whether as a back up or for other reasons I'm not sure, but I do know from experience of what was then Virgin Cross Country that they didn't have this luxury.
As a journey their trains were very confortable (seat wise), but our train was also very poorly ventilated and felt a little in need of air as the temperature rose. In terms of using their services again, well unless we drive, we have no real alternative so the answer would have to be yes. The only time I wouldn't is around Christmas when every train is packed and it is extremely clostrothobic.
In terms of rating, well I don't have any real complaints in terms of the service, more their manipulation of the rail network, so I have to give them 5* (probably 4.5)
As I spend many, many days travelling up and down the country, I'm very familiar with the First Great Western service as I live in the south west. Often it is my beginning train service to get to a main station before continuing my journey north.
The First Great Western trains are quite distinctive, being a purple-y blue colour with pink doors and dashes of pink in the logo. They look about fifty years old, and they probably are. All of the trains I get with First Great Western have manual doors rather than automatic, which is a complete pain in my opinion because they can be dangerous swinging open and half shut too easily on the platform. I see a lot of people struggling off the train with their luggage and almost killing themselves trying to push the door back as it swings forward to shut. Additionally, many people in this area commute as there are a range of cities, and so it slows down passengers getting on and off, particularly when the trains are delayed which happens fairly frequently.
It also creates more work for the station staff as they have to close all the doors, check them etc. It is also less energy efficient because despite the signs, more often than not the windows remain open at the ends of the carriages (because you need to reach outside and grab the door handle). Terrible design, and not particularly easy for the disabled, the short, the infirm, those with lots of luggage, those with children etc.
Inside the trains, the seats are generally a greyish colour. As with all UK trains, there isn't enough space for luggage. Though I know this and travel light with a shoulder bag, there is inevitably the person or family with 25 pieces of luggage, perfectly sized so it won't fit under the seats, in the overhead rack, or in the overflowing luggage store. This usually means the gangway gets blocked or someone insists they booked an extra seat for their suitcase (?!).
As the train I get most often is one from London, I have always been able to get a seat as the train is so long - one of the few positives.
First Great Western is also the only train company that sticks in my head that provides full safety information on a leaflet for every seat (rather than on a randomly placed poster). I've never seen anyone read this but at least it's there.
Last few points: the trains are usually clean enough, I've never seen a trolley service but there's often a buffet carriage, and the toilets are best avoided when possible, as on any train. There are also no opening windows in the carriages themselves, but there is air conditioning.
Overall, the biggest problem with FGW for me is the horrible doors of death. That and when they're late, it's often by half an hour or more. Otherwise, not too bad.
Most of my experiences of travelling by train in the past have been with South West Trains or Southern, neither of which has impressed me with punctuality. More recently, I have travelled several times with First Great Western from Portsmouth to Bristol; punctuality has been a strong point, but there is room for improvement in other ways.
I found it easy to look up times of trains and prices of tickets on the website, and it soon became obvious that buying two single tickets in advance was usually cheaper than buying a return. Prices seem to vary according to how busy a particular train is and to how far in advance you purchase your ticket. The disadvantage with buying a cheap ticket is that you are tied to a particular train (on which you have a reserved seat) and if you miss it your ticket is not valid on the next train. If you buy your ticket in advance and then want to change the date or time you travel, there would be an administrative charge of £10.
One thing that did annoy me was that I could not purchase tickets online and collect them at any Portsmouth station. There are only a certain number of stations from which you can collect tickets bought on the Internet. There was an option to have the tickets posted, but a signature is required on delivery and I would not have been at home at the time. The only way I can purchase tickets is to go to a station in person. On the last occasion that we travelled to Bristol there were three of us and we were entitled to a discount as long as we travelled together on the outward and return journeys. With these discounted tickets no seat reservations are given, but at least you are free to travel on any train on that particular day.
The carriages of First Great Western trains have been replaced quite recently and are certainly more comfortable than the ones I can remember travelling to and from Cardiff in a number of years ago. I have no complaints about the seats themselves, other than that leg room is very limited. A tall person on a long journey would suffer, I'm sure. There are the usual overhead racks for hand luggage, with extra space at the end of the carriage for larger bags and suitcases. Also at one end of the carriage is a space left free for anyone travelling in a wheelchair. The carriages are usually fairly crowded, but I have never had to stand for any part of a journey, even when crowds of rugby fans poured onto the train at Bath on one return journey. On one occasion the older carriages were in use and seat reservations had not been allocated, but we were lucky enough to find seats by a door that actually had extra leg room. When we are on our way back to Portsmouth we usually find that things become pretty quiet by the time we leave Southampton.
We have only once arrived late into Bristol, and that was by about fifteen minutes. None of the trains we have planned to travel on has been cancelled. I can't say the same for other train companies that I regularly travel with.
Considering that the Bristol train's final destination is Cardiff, what does surprise me is that there is no trolley service on this journey. The total journey time is around three and a quarter hours. When the departure of the train is announced in Portsmouth, the information is that a trolley service is available on the train. I have only once seen one, and that was a few minutes before we were due to arrive in Bristol. It must have been aimed solely at passengers going as far as Cardiff. We usually make sure to bring drinks and snacks with us from home, then make a point of buying a drink at Bristol station before boarding the train home. I don't understand why First Great Western don't provide this service, as the number of passengers would suggest that it would be worth their while.
The toilets on First Great Western are usually clean and in good working order on the outward journey. On the return journey they may still be working, but it is unlikely that they will be very clean. Once, about a year ago, the lack of cleanliness made them almost unusable. I have to say that I haven't noticed a better state of affairs with companies such as South West Trains, and it just leaves me thinking that Mr Messy must be very fond of travelling on trains.
The guards I have encountered on recent journeys have always been very polite, and I noticed one recently giving helpful advice to two young Japanese women who should have been travelling to London Paddington but boarded the Portsmouth train instead. That's some detour.
On almost every journey someone has come round once to collect up any rubbish, so the carriages are usually kept clean.
I do enjoy the journey to Bristol, particularly because of the picturesque countryside around Bradford-on-Avon. The White Horse of Westbury is easily visible on a hillside to the north of the railway line. None of this is down to First Great Western, of course, but it makes the daytime journey more pleasant.
I would probably have given First Great Western three and a half stars if it were possible, but as it is I have awarded three. Punctuality I cannot personally criticise. However, a trolley service would avoid the necessity to carry heavy drinks, and the possibility of buying tickets online and collecting them on arrival at the station would make life easier.
Also posted on ciao.co.uk under my username denella.
I have only ever been on 2 first western trains as my experiences were so bad! I was travelling from london to oxford during rush hour, i use trains regularly so i'm not bothered about having to stand or a train being busy but this train there was not room for a single person but we had to get on that train, a nice gentleman managed to squeeze me and my friend in and for the first half hour until the next stop it was impossible to move, i was packed in like a sardine, i didn't even have enough room to put my bags down or to read my book. The next day we had to get a train back and it wasn't so bad but it was still incredibly busy, i think they really need to work on their service and put on more trains as it was way too crowded!
To get to work by car is an absolute nightmare, my journey is about 10 miles, and depending on the weather and time of the journey this has taken anywhere between half an hour and nearly two hours! Then on top of that there are petrol costs, parking costs, and wear and tear, and running costs of the car. Using a car to commute is therefore entirely ridiculous. However, using First Great Western is nearly as bad as I shall explain.
My first gripe is that they are just plain unreliable, it is impossible to be certain that the train will turn up on time, and there seems to be a myriad of excuses. Waiting for other trains to move out of stations seems to be the most popular, faulty signals, obstructions on the track, mechanical problems with the train, and even staffing issues! I realise that this is not unique to FGW Ironically however during the recent period of arctic weather they were as reliable as clockwork, so I must give them some credit.
Room on the carriages:
At rush hour periods the train I travel on is absolutely jammed to the hilt. Sardines would even feel like they were packed a little too tightly if they were to get on a First Great Western Service at rush hour. A friend of mine has enquired why it is that the service has the same number of carriages in the middle of day, when there are maybe ten people on the whole train, as it does at rush hour, when there are several hundred on it. Apparently they are only allocated a certain number of carriages due to some bizarre Government ruling, and First Great Western are entirely blameless. I have my doubts about that, it's easy to pass the buck.
Condition of the carriages:
Pretty good in general, of course with heavy use there is the odd issue but I don't expect public transport to be as clean as a dentist surgery. There is quite a mix in the types of carriages used, ranging from cattle truck types with tiny narrow hard seats to carriages that seem almost as good as the Virgin Cross Country services I have been on.
I pay £4.80 for a return, it's a 20mile round trip. Compared to the car this is enormously cheap, and considerably cheaper than the same 'FirstBus' journey which would cost over £6. However prices are steadily going up in an annoying drip. 20p here and 20p there. I wouldn't mind if the service was good, or improving, but it seems to me that my money is disappearing into the FGW profit mountain and not into finding an extra carriage or removing the chewing gum from seats.
First Great Western
I am not a great traveller but do like visiting other places and experiences different cultures. Although South Wales is only over the river the culture different.
My partner and I decided to travel with First Great Western on a day trip to Cardiff, simple because of convience. We didn't want the hassle of driving ( because of raising fuel costs and we wanted to have a good pub lunch wiv beers, well I did)
My partner check out the times of departures, arrival and prices on the net and found nagivating their web-site easy. Sitting next to her while she found these details was far easier then her navigating from car positions. She will kill me for that one!! The web-site for Great Western was very easy to find the details we needed.
Travelling was pretty smooth. We arrived within minutes of our train leaving (someone had to go the building society first to get the fare out, so wasn't arriving early) However, the train was delayed by 20 minutes. I didn't think that too bad but then not really in any great hurry to go shopping. The train was actually only 15mins late. The tickets were £15.10 for a day return so definately cheaper than taking the car.
When we got on the train it was really comfortable, clean and well presented. There was a combination of seating (although some reserved- something to bear in mind if going on a long journey) of front facing/ rear facing and 4 seats with table. Good safety hints and advice about not putting your feet on the seats. There were areas at the entrance of the carriage for the disabled and pushchairs. I even witnessed staff helping mums with pushchairs on and off the train.
All seats had small pull down trays with a small swallow drinks holder. I wouldn't trust this on a bumpy journey with hot drink!
The whole journey from Bath Spa to Cardiff Central was meant to take 55 mins. However, we had to change at Bristol Temple Meads and the connecting train was 25mins delayed. This delays were given to us quickly and we were well informed while waiting on the platform.
The next Great Western Train that arrived to take us onto our final destination was just as clean and well presented as the first (excuse the pun)
I would recommend travelling with this company as they did had a great and eay to use website, good service on platforms to keep you informed to the trains operational services and good clean carriages.
thanks for reading.
also on ciao