Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer is here...

...and with it comes the sweaty unpleasantness of the underground as I battle towards Paddington and hope for a seat on the train home.
But maybe soon I won't need to worry, as a small white ticket will hopefully save a seat for me, and allow me to make my way on to my regular-ish train without having to worry that I'm going to stand all the way to Reading.
A free reservation system is offered as part of FGW's Forward Customer Programme, which is designed for season ticket holders and regular travellers. Apparently there are all sorts of other benefits, but I've only just found this out, as I'm not a member. As you will see from the Forward Customer Programme page on the website, it offers all sorts of benefits, including free weekend car parking, free hot drinks from the buffet, free first class weekend upgrades, and access to the first class lounge. These are things I want! Unfortunately, when you read on, you discover that the programme is currently closed to new applications, as they're reviewing it. I've never heard of it before, have you? Maybe I've not been paying attention, but as far as I know I've never been offered membership, or ever seen the service being advertised or promoted. I've asked for more details on the scheme, but I'm expecting that, like most things at FGW, the reply will be slow in arriving, so if you know anything about it, please let me know, as I feel like I've been missing out all this time.


Richard said...

Yes - I'm a member of the Forward programme. I was made aware of it when my eagle-eyed work colleague found a link off the FGW website.
I've got my vouchers. Yes, for the 6 month period that the vouchers apply to, you get 6 first class upgrades, 6 free teas, a couple of 50p off vouchers and about 6 free weekend parking.
You also get a Forward membership card, which, so far, has been nothing but useless, and a "Forward" emblazoned luggage tag.

To be honest, you've not missed out on much.
The first class upgrades are only useable when there are free first class seats, and I think there's a caveat of it not being in the peak periods too.

I've used them once only.

TrainMan said...

You also might like to know that if you have a season ticket you cannot make a seat reservation !

I hate FGW said...

Well, that's what the website appears to suggest, but when I rang Customer Services, they said that apparently I can reserve seats, and asked me to send an e-mail, which I duly did. Mind you, I've heard nothing back, and I asked for the first seat to be reserved tomorrow, so I'm guessing that's probably not going to happen. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I currently work for First Great Western in their customer service centre. I have just stumbled across your site, and I cannot believe that FGW is hated this much! I, however, do not have to travel with them everyday. Forward has now stopped taking members but the existing members do still get sent offers. FGW policy is £5 per seat reservation - as far as I am aware you can only get around this charge if someone in customer services is willing to do it for you, which is why you were told to email.

Billyo said...

So much for Mr NVN's assertion that reservations were free!

As usual commuters who use the trains every day are treated with contempt compared to occasional travellers.

We cannot get discounted fares because they are now not available on peak services. We cannot get a seat. We cannot get free reservations, and you can't use your railcard either.

Any other business treats it regular customers well, but given we are a captive market FGW have obviously decided to remove the one small reward for customer loyalty.

Anonymous said...


From Bath at least the season ticket holders get a very good deal. A weekly season to London is about £170. An open return for a single day is about £125. Season ticket holders would appear to be being subsidised by the more occasional traveller who needs to travel in the peak.

In the days of BR, a weekly season was about 4 times the daily ticket price. The pricers of seasons are regulated but open returns are not. £170/4 = £42.50 which is what open returns would be if they had been similarly regulated.

The whole fare system is grosly unfair. Regular travellers should be rewarded with SLIGHTLY lower fares and cheaper fares should be used to encourage people to travel off peak, but when fares range from £5 to £100+ for the same journey something is wrong. The rediculusly high fares can't be justified and I don't think that the rediculaously low fares can be either (because they are being unfairly subsidised by other pasengers and the tax payer)

On the subject of Forward, it doesn't give you much benefits on your comuting days (apart from a few cups of tea) but being able to travel first class at the weekend when standard class is often full abd first class is empty is a great bonus. I struggle into London in standard class duringthe week and take the family on an occasional trip to London or Cornwall in First class at the weekend and there is certainly a difference in the travelling experience. I am sad to hear that it has been discontinued.

Billyo said...

Wow that weekly season ticket sounds very good value, by my calculations 1.36 x a daily ticket gets you 5 (well 7 actually) days travel.

As usual though the London traveller get's a great deal....

My journey Bath - Cathays costs £16.60 open day return. The weekly season ticket is £70.80.

So for 4.26x the daily fare I get 5 days travel.

So basically I get to come home on Friday for free. Forgive me if I'm not jumping for joy.

Billyo said...

I couldn't believe what I just wrote so have phoned FGW season ticket office.

Here's the exact numbers:

Daily Open Return: £121.00
Weekly Season: £174.80
Cost of Season: 1.44 x daily

Bath-Cathays (just outside Cardiff)
Daily Open Return: £16.60
Weekly Season: £70.80
Cost of Season: 4.26 x daily.

And as the man on the phone said to me "those fares are not set by the government, they are set by First Great Western".

So that is where I shall complain....

I hate FGW said...

It's lovely to hear from someone at FGW, welcome to the blog! I'm surprised that you're surprised that FGW is so hated. I only need to mention their name in company where I live and there's always someone who says "Don't talk to me about First Great Western, I hate them!"
But I would be very interested to hear more from you from your position on the inside, as visitors to this site have lots of questions I'm sure. I hope it's clear that my hatred is in no way directed at FGW staff, just at the company. Please come again and join the debate. And e-mail me at IhateFGW@yahoo.co.uk if you'd like to know more about what I'm trying to do.

Anonymous said...


Your numbers sound about right.

I travel from Bristol to Reading every day. The day return fare is £72, whilst the weekly season ticket is £135.

However, I have little sympathy for you. The journey from Bath to Cardiff is similar in length to mine, but a quarter of the day return fare and 2/3 of my weekly season ticket cost.

The numbers are odd, but the key to this is that FGW rip you off if you go east towards London in the morning!

If FGW want to encourage people to travel on off-peak trains, introduce an off-peak season ticket.

Finally, to the FGW employeee, I am staggered that any FGW employee cannot know how hated the company is. I'd like to have seen a senior FGW manager walk along any Bristol platform in December.

The degradation of service since december, the failure to invest in reliable rolling stock, etc, has not generated any good will towards FGW.

Billyo said...

Both journey's are in the region of an hour, but Bath to Cardiff is around 50 miles, whilst the high speed train to Reading does around 75 miles in the same time. So the difference between the weekly tickets seems about right. The massive disparity is with the open day return on the fast trains. Which makes sense as these are the government unregulated tickets which FGW have increased astronomically.

Simon said...

Thanks for your reply!

I've always thought that FGW sole purpose was to extract as much money as possible from customers. So, where there is no restriction, it certainly does charge rediculous prices.

Whilst the season ticket prices are much fairer, FGW does charge more for people travelling from or past Didcott Parkway. The last 15 miles of my train journey costs the most!

Your earlier comments about the poor quality of the roll stock is true. Whilst you think HST trains are much better than the local rolling stock, they are still very poor compared to Virgin's and GNER fleets.

Finally, the biggest insult that FGW/DfT have given to FGW customers is that FGW now pays the government over £1000 million pounds, replaces it best local rolling stock stock with old rubbish, and then uses the redundant Transpenine trains (which are better than any of FGW local trains). The irony of this is that First group are replacing all of Transpenine fleet at with new trains.

So the the profits from FGW are being used to re-equip Trans Penine Express!