Rail services in Essex will continue to be provided by c2c Rail Ltd for at least another 16 months following agreement of a short term contract with the Department for Transport.
This direct award negotiated with c2c Rail Ltd, a National Express subsidiary, is the first contract agreed by the department with the rail industry following publication of its revised railways franchising programme in March.
From May 2013 c2c will continue to operate the current Essex Thameside franchise until September 2014 when a long term partner is expected to take over running the successful franchise.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
This is a vital step in getting our refranchising programme back on track.
It gives the industry time to develop their long term plans for the future franchise and confidence to passengers that services will continue for the next 16 months.
I am determined to ensure that when we let the long term franchise the operator to delivers significant benefits to passengers and tax payers alike.
Following the cancellation of the West Coast Mainline franchise competition last year the department commissioned Richard Brown, an independent expert on the industry to examine the government’s approach to rail franchising. He endorsed the current overall strategy but made a number of recommendations to strengthen the approach, including letting no more than 3 franchises a year.
In developing a revised timetable for refranchising the department is seeking to negotiate a number of short term franchise agreements with existing operators to ensure the robust delivery of the long term programme.
The Essex Thameside franchise is the first of the short term franchise agreements to be negotiated. It will run for 16 months from 26 May, but can be extended by up to 8 further railway periods, each 28 days long, as contingency. The aim of the contract was to secure the continuity of services for passengers at the current levels.