First Great Western


Using their online system, you cannot book a ticket from outside the country.

Which knuckle dragging mouth breather designed that system then?

Chief Operating Officer

\"Andrew Andrew Haines, Chief Operating Officer

The First Great Western executive team is led by Chief Operating Officer Andrew Haines, who joined First Great Western in September 2007.

Andrew has spent his entire career in the railway industry, having joined British Rail as a graduate manager in 1985 and worked in numerous front line positions.

At privatisation Andrew joined Railtrack where he achieved rapid promotion before joining South West Trains in 1997.

In January 1999 he was made Operations Director and then became Managing Director of South West Trains in September 2000.

He joined FirstGroup plc as Managing Director, UK Rail division in July 2005.

Well done Mr. Haines. You\’re a credit to British industry.


Update: From the "customer care centre"

Our Address Search database only recognises UK postcodes, so we are unable to accept registration from anywhere outside the UK. Our Development team is working on modifying the web site to accept these addresses in the future.

Therefore, please buy your tickets on the day of travel from the station.

Umm, £140 against £35?

Please, do fuck off Mr. Haines.


15 thoughts on “First Great Western”

  1. “in numerous front line positions”: I can translate “numerous” as a pretentious way of saying “many”, or perhaps “several”, but I’m a bit stumpted by “front line”. Clearly it’s an attempt to claim credit for being lion-hearted, like a Tommy in the trenches, but what exactly does it mean?

  2. Hmm. Not great, but FGW are easily the worst performing train operator. I don’t think even they are dim enough to have the COO doing software design, though. Hilariously, it’s won awards:

    which neatly allows us to find out that the people responsible for the website are these guys:

    Does have the same restrictions? Since they sell Eurostar and have a sister site doing international fares, it’s possible, but I don’t have a foreign address I can test it with.

  3. Tom,

    The best website is which takes the national rail information and optimises it. You can do some really neat things with URLs to go immediately to “next train” for regular journeys.

  4. My wife is Canadian and she wanted to travel by train when we get back over to the UK. I tried and better tried to dissuade her, failed, then I get her to look at the trains online. crap – we will be flying from London going upt’north.

  5. Why bother giving a good service when you can lie instead?
    I got the same response 4 years ago when I started going to the UK and using FGW.
    They are lying.

  6. Was Mr Haines running the British Airways booking system in 2002, by any chance? That was when one suddenly couldn’t book online using a credit card from outside the UK when travelling from the UK.

    They did sort the problem eventually, but BMI picked up a lot of business for a while.

  7. Has anyone tested other train companies to see if this is true of those as well?

    @Kay Tie: I don’t think Tim was trying to book a cross-border ticket (do FGW even run cross-border services?), just book a ticket for an ordinary train journey from outside the country.

  8. When I was a management trainee at British Rail, admittedly some years before Mr Haines, I was certainly on the front line. Collecting the wages from the bank, running signalboxes (I had to pass an exam) and collecting the suicides with my black plastic bag (OK, it was a horse, and I got the engineers to bury it, but you get the picture). “Station Manager without Portfolio” was the job title.

  9. The FGW site *is* The Trainline. Indeed, with the exception of National Express East Coast, all train-company branded transaction websites are just white-label version of The Trainline.

    Not sure whether the NXEC site accepts foreign cards, but the other Trainline-based ones don’t. If not, you could always ring FGW’s call centre, which is happy to take orders from abroad over the phone and charges the same as the website.

  10. “The First Great Western executive team is led by Chief Operating Officer Andrew Haines, who joined First Great Western in September 2007.”

    Considering the website was winning awards aged 12 months in March 2007, it launched in March 2006, so he’d have been at First’s Rail division since the previous July, or 8 months. However, owing to a well-known internal weirdness at that company, FGW wasn’t run by the Rail division until, September 2007, which is the story behind him ‘joining’ FGW – the previous COO, Alison Forster, was (haha) shunted off at that point, when they finally realised it was a barking mad way to run things.

    Given all that, I’m inclined to let him off, personally. He was put in charge specifically because they realised they were rubbish. so judge him on his record since then. The main responsibility for FGW being rubbish goes back a lot further than that, and isn’t limited to their own actions by a long chalk.

    Interestingly, Haines’ previous employers at SWT and the other First franchises are generally pretty well regarded operations*, so he’s actually got a decent track record, although turning FGW round is a hefty ask given its obligations to government.

    * I live in an SWT area and they’re a lot better than they were, and the improvement came while Haines was running it, particularly the 2004 timetable upheaval and the replacement of slam door trains.

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