Great Western Railway

Great Western Railway (the new name for First Great Western) has the largest fleet of HSTs. The fleet operate from London Paddington to destinations such as Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance. HSTs can also be found in services from the capital to Cheltenham Spa. GWR also use their HSTs on Summer Saturday services to Newquay and Paignton.

GWR liveried 43188+43187 working ‘First Devon and Exeter Explorer’ charity railtour at Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway, 10/10/2015. ©125 Group

Great Western Trains became the first TOC to enter the private sector on 4th February 1996. There were no sweeping fleet changes at this time, but obviously the new company wanted to make its mark and so 43183/185 and PM43 were the first to emerge in the new ‘Merlin’ livery, with emerald green and ivory colour scheme in September 1996.

First Group took over the operation of the Great Western franchise in 1998 they began to relivery their fleet of HST powercars and trailers in a gold and green livery that became known as the ‘fag packet’ livery. This livery was then replaced with the corporate First Group colours of the time. The purple based livery was initially introduced with white cabs however this was subsequently replaced with all over purple powercars.

43042 seen at Swansea in the First Great Western blue livery (c) 125 Group

A further re-shuffle took place later in 1998, which was a pre-emptive move by Great Western: the report into Southall by Professor John Uff was likely to recommend that all 125 mph rolling stock on GW main lines be equipped with operational ATP equipment, 43173 did not have operational equipment at the time of the accident. So ATP fitted 43028/041/042/164/165 in the IWCP fleet were swapped with non-ATP fitted 43006-008/178/184. After the Ladbroke Grove accident of 1999, FGW required a replacement for 43011 and so it was decided that 43104 would replace ATP fitted 43029 in the IWCP pool, but only after 43104 had an extensive re-build at Crewe Works, having been sidelined some years previous.

FGW made further changes to their fleet at the end of 2002, when all the GEC traction motor fitted power cars (43124-152) were moved to Landore depot. This allows the depot, which has always specialised in electrical problems, to provide special maintenance to these troublesome motors, a policy that has generally worked well.

Operation of 43005+009 on MML’s ‘Project Rio’ ceased in February 2004, and the pair returned to FGW, where 43005 swapped places with 43004 which left 43004+009 redundant. They were not inactive for long, as by September they were both at Brush works, Loughborough for experimental fitting of MTU 4000V engines to reduce emissions, noise pollution and fuel consumption. This work also included the power cars receiving the First Great Western ‘Dynamic Lines’ livery. In 2005 First Great Western announced all their HST powercars would go through a major overhaul and re-engineering programme. This would include stripping each powercar down fully and rebuilding it with new technology and the MTU engine.

43009 seen in the short lived ‘Dynamic Lines’ livery at Swindon on 8th April 2008 (c) S352

The sizeable fleet of Porterbrook stored off-lease power cars was reduced by the purchase of 068/084/092-094/097/098/122/123/153/155/198 by First Group, who were expected to deploy these on the ECML if they won the franchise for that route.

43019 was seriously damaged in an accident in November 2004 at Ufton Nurvet and this became the third power car to be withdrawn and scrapped as a result.

At the end of 2005 the fleet consisted of 43002-005/009/010/012/015-018/020-037/040-042/063/071/079/088/091, 43124-152/156/161-165/168-172/174-177/179-183/185-192/195. Together with 43068/084/092-094/097/098/122/123/153/155/198 (all stored).

FGW commenced work on converting the 12 power cars purchased from Porterbrook by First Rail Holdings by sending six of these to Brush Works, Loughborough in January 2006 and started work to install ATP equipment in the others. During this process it was found that 43068/084/123 were unsuitable for ATP fitment due to the state of the TDM wiring, so these were exchanged with Porterbrook for 43154/158/194. In April 2006 FGW started the long process of converting its large serviceable fleet to the new engine type when 43175 was taken to Brush Works and became the first ‘production’ MTU power car into service during July 2006.

In order to fully displace the Class 180 DMU fleet once the HST power car, ‘repower’ programme was complete FGW committed to take another ten power cars on lease from Porterbrook in May, so the remaining off-lease ‘Project Rio’ power cars 43069/078/086/159/193/197 joined the FGW fleet and were taken to Laira so that the engines could be extracted to keep the ailing fleet in service until the call to Loughborough. 43070+087 were sent to Laira in August 2006 after their spell with Cotswold Rail ended, and 43196 was taken to Laira in November 2006- all three of these yielded components to feed the repower programme before heading to Brush Works themselves. The final member of the FGW fleet became, when off-lease 43160 joined the FGW fleet after a period in the NMT operation.

A First Great Western HST set heads West from Exeter St Davids (c) Jack Needham

Almost all powercars in the fleet now carry the First Group updated blue corporate livery however some carry (or have carried) all over advertising liveries. The coaching stock also carries First Group blue however the carriages have ‘dynamic lines’ decals with pink doors to comply with disability regulations.

43186 carrying a livery celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (c) Jack Needham

On 20th September 2015 at the start of a new franchise deal, First Great Western was rebranded as Great Western Railway, harking back to the origins of Isambard Kingdon Brunel’s network. Still in the hands of First Group, to mark the occasion power cars 43187 and 43188 with set LA15 were unveiled in a new racing green livery with large metal GWR logos on the power car bodysides.

Download the latest diagrams for Great Western Railway HST services here.

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