Great Western Railway – Weekend First

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  • Anonymous


    I had the opportunity to travel from Castle Cary to London yesterday and upgraded to Weekend First. This is a far more cost-effective way of purchasing a first class ticket at weekends, especially when low Advance tickets are not available. As Paddington is closed we were diverted to Waterloo, which suited me fine. It’s a far more convenient station for me.

    DATE: 27 DECEMBER 2015
    TIME: 1536
    ROUTE: Castle Cary to London Waterloo

    First impressions:

    Excellent. A really nice looking first class carriage that looks sumptuous. Something you don’t really get on train these days.

    Plug sockets for charging are on the table, and in addition include USB sockets for charging. Three little blue lights highlight this area and it just looks really quite fetching.

    The seats are configured in 2-1 across the carriage, with some airline style and some nests of two and four provided.

    The (leather) seats themselves are well padded (almost too much) and are embroidered with the attractive GWR logo. They provide a slight recline. I found the seats uncomfortable as the ‘wings’ dig into your shoulders and with the padding I felt like I was being pushed forward.

    The carriage was also extremely busy so I had to sit with my back towards the direction of travel (not the worst thing in the world) so there’s clearly demand for it, and of course GWR replaced a first class carriage with a standard class one due to DfT stipulations, I do wish the government would just admit that the ‘privatized’ railway is anything but. Of course, how much easier for First Group / GoVia / Arriva etc. to take the blame when things go wrong, rather than HM Govt!

    There are two curtains for each window (a strange thing to mention – I do so because Virgin Pendolino and Voyager trains have one blind – if you want to avoid the sun you need to have agreement from your fellow passengers)!

    First Class Service was non existent.
    First Class passengers are instructed to go the buffet car to collect ‘refreshments’ although no mention is made of what this includes. The one member of staff manning the buffet car squarely ignored passengers coming from First Class due to the many standard class passengers queuing. Without being snobby, I have no issue with people being served in order and just because you have picked a bigger seat (for an extra £15) does not entitle you to queue jump. But I can’t see why a staff member could not have visited the 1 1/2 carriages at least once with refreshments.

    So I boarded at 1536 and disembarked at 1819 with not even a bottle of water provided.

    I was hoping GWR would sweep a lot of the worst of FGW away, but it seems like SouthCentral becoming Southern, the change is skin deep.

    However, annoying niggles aside, not by any means a bad journey, and I think GWR Is going in the right direction.


    Sealing BF, GWR is FGW, all they have done is renamed it, dropped the First brand. It is 100% the same company.


    I know that (their Twitter address is @FGW) , but this is from their website:

    It’s more than a rebadging exercise. It’s a complete shift in our ethos as a train operator. It means we no longer behave as a franchisee, but as a custodian – responsible for reinvigorating the west by returning the railway to its former glory.

    All told, it was not a bad journey. But there’s still some way for GWR to go…


    Additionally, this makes it look like the GWR name is here to stay. Which will hopefully save £££s when franchises change. (A canny move by the Scots years ago when they made every franchise winner adopt the ScotRail brand!)

    The current custodian of the Great Western Railway is FirstGroup plc (First), one of the country’s most experienced train operators. First is extremely proud to ‘un-brand’ themselves from the livery and reinstate the original name and ideals to the region’s railway.


    Sealing BF, I thought you had realised but was not sure.

    It does seem odd to me that First Group, who like to use their brand and logo a lot in their brands suddenly believe that one of their biggest brands should not have the First branding in any way. Maybe I’m a suspicious old nut, but when a company with a strong brand like First distances itself from one of its largest products I cannot help but wonder why. However, I do rather like the new brand!


    The rebranding is nothing new, the Scotrail franchise also removed the First name years before it became Abellio. Also Cross Country is Arriva but there is no aquamarine! I understood that the idea was to stop the rebranding if a franchisee changes so there was less confusion with passengers in the change over period.

    Travelling First at weekends is more like a premium economy on the likes of EMT and as SealinkBF has shown on GWR as well. Their argument is that it is leisure travelers rather than business people travelling on Saturday and Sunday, but having travelled on a Sunday on EMT to be ready from an early Monday morning meeting like a number of other people, it all devalues the first class experience. There really needs to be a consistent service every day, after all if you travel in First on say BA, there would be uproar if they told you to collect your food from Club world!


    As noted by NTarrant, first class at weekends is not the same as it is between Monday and Friday.

    That’s the same with EMT as it is with Virgin East and West Coast.

    Although the latter Virgin rail firms still provide a little catering there are no complimentary alcoholic drinks.

    I believe the first class station lounges are also closed at weekends.

    Here’s a recent weekend Virgin West Coast check.

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