Bristol train stations: Great Western Railway receives National Rail contract extension

The Department of Transport have extended Great Western Railway’s contract with National Rail

Great Western Railway has been awarded a contract to extend its network services and given the task of improving operations around Bristol.

The Department of Transport awarded the company a National Rail contract to continue operating for three more years.

The new contract will run to at least June 21 2023, with the potential for a further three years at the Secretary of State’s discretion.

In line with the new contract, GWR will look to attract more people back to the railway by delivering improvements in customer experience while focusing on sustainable services and providing better value for money for customers and taxpayers.

Great Western Railway received a contract extension (Pic: National Rail)

For Bristolians, a smart card travel solution is expected to go live later this year, alongside additional services to Gloucester and Westbury and improvements at Castle Cary station for accessibility.

A smart card is a physical device that allows you access to the station, usually being plastic and the size of a credit card.

GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: “We are delighted to have been awarded a National Rail Contract by the Department of Transport, which is a sign of its confidence in GWR as a trusted operator.

“[This] means we can continue to build on welcoming more people back to the railway.”

The Great Western company first began in 1996, then called Great Western Trains, before adopting its current name and livery in September 2015.

Since taking over the franchise in 2015, GWR has seen satisfaction levels among customers climb from 81% to 91%, helped considerably by the introduction of its high-speed Intercity Express Trains, and the biggest timetable change in a generation in December 2019.

“We look forward to working with our rail partners to develop services designed to meet changing customer needs, and putting passengers at the heart of an updated, modern railway,” Mr Hopwood said.

As part of the improved customer experience, GWR are continuing to invest into developing digital, smartcard and mobile phone ticketing systems at their stations to change customer habits, after seeing 85% paperless ticket transactions following the pandemic.

Great Western Railway is the primary train operator in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Bristol, Berkshire and many more - it manages at 197 stations and its trains call at 270.

Department of Transport’s Rail Minister Wendy Morton was looking forward to the extended partnership.

She said: “We’re delighted to continue our partnership with Great Western Railway, and excited by its plans to deliver more benefits for local communities.

“During the pandemic, GWR was instrumental in keeping critical services moving and this new contract will see it continue to deliver our ambitious Plan for Rail and provide a fantastic service for passengers.”

The Integrated Plan for Rail was first published by the government in November 2021 and was updated in March 2022, looking to deliver and sequence major rail investment in the North and Midlands.