The Department for Transport has today (16 July 2014) confirmed it has officially signed the contract for the new Essex Thameside franchise with NXET Trains Limited.
The 15-year contract will allow the company, trading as c2c, to build on the impressive performance of the franchise and deliver a host of passenger benefits, worth around £160 million.
The franchise provides vital commuter services to passengers travelling between London and the commuter hubs of Barking, Basildon, Southend and further afield.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
The Essex Thameside franchise provides a vital service for tens of millions of passengers every year and with this deal we have ensured that they are going to see real improvements. New trains, thousands more seats, free wi-fi and millions invested in stations are just some of the benefits that commuters can look forward to.
It’s further proof that our franchising programme is back on track, playing a key role in a long-term economic plan that is driving forward our economy and benefitting hard-working people.
The Essex Thameside franchise is one of the highest performing operators across the network with around 97% of its trains running on time. During the last 14 years c2c has increased the number of passengers it carries by 42%, from over 26 million to around 37 million passengers a year, with the majority of journeys during the morning and evening peak as commuters travel to and from London.
The new franchise will deliver a host of passenger benefits, including 17 new trains that will provide almost 4,800 extra seats. The operator has also committed to more than 25,000 additional seats for morning peak time passengers every week by the end of the contract. Other improvements include free wi-fi, an enhanced compensation scheme and more than £30 million invested in improving stations, including Fenchurch Street and Barking.
The Essex Thameside franchise follows the successful award of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise earlier in the year. It is the second franchise the department has let since the re-launch of its franchising programme in March last year. This followed an independent review into franchising by industry expert Richard Brown, who concluded franchising was the right way to secure passenger services.
The signing of the contract followed a formal standstill period after the department announced its intention to award the contract on Friday 27 June 2014.