First Great Eastern

Franchise(s): Great Eastern
5 January 1997 - 31 March 2004
Main region(s): East London
East of England
Fleet size: 144
Stations called at: 61
National Rail abbreviation: GE
Parent company: FirstGroup

First Great Eastern[1] was a train operating company in England owned by FirstGroup, that operated the Great Eastern franchise from January 1997 until March 2004. All services called at Stratford.

Logo used from 1997 to 1999


First Great Eastern operated all stops and limited stops services on the Great Eastern Main Line from London Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria, Southminster, Braintree, Colchester Town, Clacton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze, Harwich Town and Ipswich. It also ran services on the Romford to Upminster Line and Gainsborough Line from Marks Tey to Sudbury.[2]

Rolling stock

First Great Eastern inherited a fleet of Class 312, Class 315 and Class 321s from British Rail. A Class 153 was hired from Anglia Railways for the Marks Tey to Sudbury service due to it not being electrified, a Class 150 being used on weekdays and a Class 153 on weekends. Prior to this arrangement, a Class 121 Bubble Car was hired from Silverlink.[3]

A franchise commitment was the replacement of the Class 312s. In May 2001, First Great Eastern ordered 21 Class 360 Desiros with the first entering service in August 2003.[4]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
121 Bubble Car diesel multiple unit 70 112 Hired from
Marks Tey - Sudbury 1960
150 diesel multiple unit 75 120 Hired from
Anglia Railways
Marks Tey - Sudbury 1984–1987
153 diesel multiple unit 75 120 Hired from
Anglia Railways
Marks Tey - Sudbury 1987-1988
312 electric multiple unit 90 145 24 Colchester - Walton-on-the-Naze
Harwich Town - Manningtree
London Liverpool Street - Clacton-on-Sea and Ipswich (peak times only)
315 electric multiple unit 75 120 43 London Liverpool Street - Shenfield and Southminster
Romford - Upminster
321 electric multiple unit 100 160 77 London Liverpool Street - Braintree, Southend Victoria, Ipswich, Walton-on-the-Naze, Colchester Town, Clacton-on-Sea
Wickford - Southminster (Sundays only)
360/1 Desiro electric multiple unit 100 160 21 London Liverpool Street - Clacton-on-Sea and Harwich Town
London Liverpool Street - Ipswich (peak times only)


First Great Eastern's fleet was maintained at Ilford depot.


In 2002, as part of a franchise reorganisation by the Strategic Rail Authority, it was announced that the Great Eastern franchise would be merged into the Greater Anglia franchise.[5] In December 2003, the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the Greater Anglia Rail Franchise to National Express, and the services operated by First Great Eastern were transferred to One on 1 April 2004.[6]


  1. Companies House extract company no 3007936 Great Eastern Railway Limited
  2. First Great Eastern route map August 2003
  3. "Bubble cars revived, depot opens to solve Great Eastern branch crisis" Rail issue 312 27 August 1997 page 10
  4. Rail issue 468 20 August 2003 page 9
  5. Rail issue 426 9 January 2002 page 4
  6. "National Express wins rail franchise". The Daily Telegraph. London. 22 December 2003.

Media related to First Great Eastern at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Network SouthEast
As part of British Rail
Operator of Great Eastern franchise
1997 – 2004
Succeeded by
Greater Anglia franchise
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