PRG Logo Portishead Railway Group

Greater Western Franchise


The privatisation of the railways in the nineties created 25 franchises. As part of the planned reduction to 17, a new ‘Greater Western’ franchise was formed by the grouping of Great Western, Great Western Link and Wessex into one large operator.

Current Franchise

First Group were originally awarded the current Greater Western franchise on December 13 2005 which started on April 1 2006. It was intended to run for for 7 years coming to an end in April 2013 - but see below..

New Franchise

The Department for Transport issued an Invitation To Tender in July 2012 with a brand new specification. The specification included the Bristol Metro Phase 1 which includes the Portishead line. Bids had to be in by 25 October 2012. The winning bidder was to be chosen in March 2013. The new franchise was to start on 21 July 2013 and run until 2028 - but see below..

Delays to Franchise process

Due to problems with the the West Coast rail franchise, the Dept for Transport initiated two reviews: (a) where the franchise competition went wrong and (b) a wider review of the franchise process.


Franchise competition terminated

A Government Press Release on 31 Jan 2013 said that “The Great Western franchise competition will be terminated. The current franchise will now run until October 2013 after the department exercised its contractual right to extend the current contract with First Great Western by 28 weeks. Negotiations for an additional two-year contract will commence with the operator, while longer-term proposals will be set out in the spring.” See below.

Existing Franchise further extended

Another Government Press Release on 26 March 2013 announced a revised franchising schedule including the existing Great Western franchise which is to be further extended to July 2016. See also BBC website article. (But see below)


On 23 March 2015 the government announced that First Great Western’s franchise will continue until April 2019. Note that the Portishead branch is due to open in early 2020, i.e under a new franchise. See Bristol Post article 24 March 2015.

In September 2015, First Great Western re-branded itself as Great Western Railway.