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Great Western Railway

Following in the footsteps of the iconic GWR of days past, Great Western Railway runs trains from London to the far reaches of Cornwall and South Wales.

Who is Great Western Railway?

Great Western Railway has been running trains for many years, though it was previously known as ‘First Great Western’. Their fleet of 233 trains serves over 270 stations. Of these, they run 197 of them. They also operate the Night Riviera Sleeper train.

On their routes to and from London, there aren’t any ‘secret’ savings to be had, so to speak. They offer ‘Advance‘ tickets on these trains, and our usual advice applies. Make sure you book as early as you can and try to avoid the busiest times.

If you’re travelling from the South Coast to Bristol and Cardiff, then you can certainly make a saving by using their direct Portsmouth to Cardiff train. Here’s how the fares compare for a Southampton to Cardiff trip, booked a month in advance:

It’s a slightly slower journey, but it’s much cheaper to go direct.

You could also consider ‘splitting’ your journey at Didcot Parkway if you’re travelling from the Cotswolds, Bristol or South Wales to London. It’s often cheaper to buy a ticket to there first, and then another one to London.

On board services


You’ll find a variety of luggage stacks and overhead racks on long-distance trains to and from London. All other trains will have overhead luggage space at minimum.

Food & Drink

You’ll find a trolley service on long-distance trains to and from London. It’s usually available on trains that start their journey between 06:00 and 19:30 during the week.


Free WiFi is available on all Great Western Railway services.


It’s strongly recommended that you make a bike reservation if you’re travelling on an Intercity Express Train. These trains run on most services to and from London. Reservations are compulsory for the Night Riviera Sleeper train between London and Penzance. All other trains are first-come, first-served. There’s more information in our dedicated guide to travelling with bikes.

Special Assistance

You can find out more about Passenger Assist on our dedicated page.

Standard Class

Great Western Railway has a very diverse fleet of trains. All of their long-distance services to and from London are operated by a fleet of Hitachi-built ‘Intercity Express Trains

They have either five, nine or 10 carriages. Seating is in a 2+2 formation in Standard Class (2+1 in First) and all seats have access to a power socket.

The largest regional fleet of trains on Great Western is the ‘Networker Turbo‘. They operate on all of the branch lines in the Thames Valley, as well as on routes such as Gatwick Airport to Reading and Exmouth to Paignton.

Seating on these trains is in a 3+2 formation (2+2 in First Class or ex-First Class compartments) and all window seats have access to a power socket.

Can I upgrade to First Class?

On trains to and from London, you can indeed choose to upgrade! You’ll get a guaranteed table seat, as well as access to a power socket and USB port at every seat. On selected trains, you get priority booking for their Pullman Dining service.

During the week (between around 06:30 and 19:30), you’ll get free drinks and snacks. This applies on all routes except Paddington to Newbury/Bedwyn, Gatwick Airport to Reading, Paddington to Oxford and Cardiff to Penzance.

Looking to upgrade at the weekend? You can do it from £10. The price depends on how many ‘zones’ you travel through, and the map is available here.

Information about routes

Here’s a brief overview of the long-distance routes that Great Western Railway serve:

  • Penzance and Plymouth to London Paddington
  • Weston-super-Mare and Bristol to London Paddington
  • Swansea and Cardiff to London Paddington
  • Hereford and Worcester to London Paddington (via Oxford)
  • Cheltenham Spa to London Paddington
  • Cardiff Central to Portsmouth Harbour
  • Great Malvern to Bristol, Westbury and Weymouth
  • Penzance and Taunton to Cardiff Central.

They also run trains on a number of regional routes, including:

  • London Paddington to Didcot Parkway
  • Branch lines to Greenford, Windsor, Marlow and Henley-on-Thames
  • Gatwick Airport to Reading
  • Didcot Parkway to Banbury
  • Swindon to Westbury (via Melksham)
  • Bristol to Severn Beach
  • Barnstaple to Exeter Central
  • Okehampton to Exeter Central
  • Paignton to Exmouth
  • Gunnislake, Looe, Newquay, Falmouth Docks and St Ives Branch Lines.