IET Challow

National Rail Contract awarded to Great Western Railway

The Department for Transport (DfT) has today awarded a National Rail Contract (NRC) to Great Western Railway (GWR) to continue operating the Great Western network.

The new contract will run until at least 21 June 2025, with the potential for a further three years at the Secretary of State’s discretion.

In line with the contract, GWR is committed to attracting people back to the railway by continuing to deliver improvements in customer experience, while focusing investment on sustainable services, and providing better value for money for customers and the taxpayer.

Since taking over the Great Western 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.

GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:

“We are delighted to have been awarded a National Rail Contract by the Department for Transport, which is a sign of its confidence in GWR as a trusted operator, and means we can continue to build on welcoming more people back to the railway.

“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.”

Rail Minister Wendy Morton 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.”

Contact Information

John Carter

Media and Communications Manager

Great Western Railway

0845 410 4444

Notes to editors

Key aspects of GWR’s plans include:


GWR will continue investment in developing digital, smartcard and mobile phone ticketing to ensure it is best placed to respond to changing customer habits – which have seen paperless ticketing sales reach 85% of all transactions following the pandemic.

A smart card travel solution for Bristol and the wider area is expected to go live later this year and GWR is working with Transport for Wales to provide a similar scheme for South Wales.

GWR will develop its Great Experience Makers (GEMs) training programme for all customer-facing colleagues, ensuring passengers can continue to expect the highest levels of customer service at its stations and on its trains.

To enhance the journey experience for customers, GWR will continue with an interior refresh of its Class 16x Turbo fleet, having already completed 14 two-car sets.

GWR is committing more than £1m on increasing the accessibility of its services, including the delivery of a new ramp at Castle Cary Station, plus a series of minor works across the network including the installation of power assisted doors, tactile paving and hand rails at stations.


GWR will continue to work with partners in the West of England to deliver the next phase of the MetroWest programme, including additional services to Gloucester and Westbury from Bristol. This builds on the improvements already delivered to improve capacity and frequency on the Severn Beach line last year.  

New stations at Portway Park & Ride, Marsh Barton and Reading Green Park are also on the way as GWR works to help reconnect towns and communities with the railway.

The train operator will also continue to support the Government’s Restoring Your Railway programme, which has already seen the reopening of the Dartmoor Line.

More than 50,000 journeys were made in the first 20 weeks of the line’s reopening last November – more than double the number expected.

GWR will also build on the success of integrated travel schemes like the new bus service in South Devon linking towns to the national rail network at Totnes; improved bus connections at Bristol Parkway; and a new GWR train/steam train/river boat through journey to Dartmouth.

It is also committing more than £1m for a new Community Fund to support local communities and address areas of social need. Schools, colleges, councils, community and other not-for-profit organisations can apply. More here.


GWR is to start a comprehensive review of its diesel fleet to deliver better reliability, greater comfort and quicker journeys for customers.

A fleet strategy plan aims to reduce the costs of a mixed fleet and cut carbon by replacing diesel-only trains with greener units such as battery-only trains.

GWR is already working with manufacturer Vivarail to trial new battery-charging technology on the Greenford branch line.