First Great Western Managing Director, Mark Hopwood told delegates at TravelWatch South West’s AGM on 3 March that rail passenger numbers in the west have risen by some 47 per cent since the beginning of his company’s franchise - the equivalent of six million additional journeys every year.
In 2005/6, customers made 12.5 million journeys on West services, compared to 18.5 million last year. Over the same period First Great Western has increased the size of its West Fleet by around 45 per cent with 145 vehicles in the fleet, compared to 100 originally specified in 2006. He also highlighted improvements delivered in the performance and reliability of services, which has seen an uplift of some nine percentage points since 2006/7 with 91.5 per cent of West services arriving on time in the past 12 months. First Great Western’s long distance High Speed Services have fared even better with a 10 point improvement over the same period.
Mark said: “It is clear that more and more people are choosing to travel with us, and that’s because of a number of different factors. The increase in demand for ‘staycations’ cannot be ignored - in a region where tourism plays a key role in the economy we recognise and cherish the role we play in bringing visitors in and helping them travel once they arrive.
“But we have also worked hard to deliver the services we know that our customers want. Our work with local authorities and user groups mean that our branchlines - written off long ago by many commentators - have never had a better frequency of service, and we’ve worked tirelessly with the Department for Transport and local partners to add additional capacity, and provide greater frequency and punctuality of our services.”