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c2c retains Essex Thameside franchise

The Department for Transport has awarded and extended the Essex Thameside franchise to the current operator c2c, owned by National Express. 

As part of the 15-year deal, c2c has committed to rolling out a host of passenger benefits costing around £160m. National Express will make about £1.5bn of payments to the DfT over the life of the new franchise, which will run from 9 November 2014 until 2029. Under the deal, the operator will provide new trains, extra services and an innovative Personal Performance Promise at the heart of a Passenger Charter. 

c2c will run an additional fleet of 17 new trains on top of its existing fleet of 74 Class 357 Electrostars, providing almost 4,800 extra seats on the line. 

Additionally, from December 2015, an extra 438 services will be running into and out of London every week – delivering 20% more trains on a weekday and over 21% more at the weekend. By the end of the franchise there will be 25,000 additional seats serving London in the morning peak every week. 

The operator will also introduce a Personal Performance Promise, providing automatic compensation for delays over two minutes for registered users; and a new Passenger Charter, guaranteeing excellent customer services, including a right to be sold the cheapest ticket. 

It is to enter into a new alliance with Network Rail to cut running costs and deliver Right Time operational performance for all stations. National Express will help finance a joint plan to improve line speeds to reduce journey times further.

Free wi-fi will be available at stations on the line and on board trains, and more than £30m will be invested in improving stations, including Fenchurch Street and Barking. Complete step-free access will also be brought in at all stations, providing improved accessibility for people with limited mobility and parents with buggies and push chairs. 

Dean Finch, National Express Group chief executive, said: “I am delighted that we will continue to serve the people of East London and South Essex for another 15 years. National Express is very proud of our record on c2c, transforming it from the 'Misery Line' into consistently the best performing railway in the country. 

“We believe our ambitious plans will transform the franchise again. We will introduce more services, new trains and a ground-breaking Personal Performance Promise. Our ambition is for c2c to stay at the forefront of reliability and punctuality but also set new standards for customer service.” 

The Essex Thameside franchise is one of the highest performing operators across the network with around 97% of its trains running on time. It is also in the top 10 for overall passenger satisfaction. 

c. Mrsteviec

Rail minister Stephen Hammond said: “This deal is all about putting passengers at the heart of our railways. Brand new trains, thousands more seats and millions of pounds invested in stations will mean significantly improved journeys for those passengers who use these services every day. It’s further proof that our long-term economic plan is on track with the taxpayer getting more than £2bn out of this deal.” 

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 deal will mean the total number of vehicles serving the franchise will increase to 364 by 2024. Richard Brown, chairman of the Rail Franchising Advisory Panel, said: “The successful award of these competitions demonstrate the progress the department has made in its franchising programme. 

“They go to show that skilful public sector specification married with excellence in delivery produce real benefits for passengers, with both innovation and a focus on efficiency.” 

c2c said it will provide the following service enhancements for passengers:

More trains, more services, more London destinations

  • From December 2015, a new timetable will add 20% more trains each weekday and 38% more capacity during each morning peak into Fenchurch Street.
  • During the high peaks, all London-bound trains (morning) and trains leaving London (evening) will call at the key interchange stations of Barking, West Ham and Limehouse. These stations will also benefit from a ‘metro service’ running between Upminster and Fenchurch Street at 3 minute intervals during these high peaks, enhancing service levels and expanding capacity on the most heavily-used section of the line.
  • Our current popular train fleet will be refurbished and upgraded through a significant investment programme.
  • We will procure 68 brand new carriages, increasing capacity by over 4,500 extra seats a day to accommodate future growth in commuting. These will be introduced from 2019 onwards.
  • Our new timetable will include plans to serve new London destinations, with a quarter of weekend trains calling at Stratford for access to Westfield shopping centre and on to Liverpool Street, offering new connections.
  • By the end of the franchise there will be 25,000 additional seats serving London in the morning peak every week.


Ground-breaking Passenger’s Charter

  • New automatic compensation for registered smartcard customers for any delay over 2 minutes without the need to complete claim forms.
  • Registered customers will also receive personalised performance reports showing which services they have used and the punctuality c2c has delivered on those journeys.
  • Passengers given a new right to be sold the cheapest ticket for any c2c journey and compensation if they are not.
  • Staffing at every station from the first train until the last service. Security also boosted by a renewal and expansion of CCTV across the network.


New tickets meeting customer demand

  • Smart ticketing across the route from day one, with route-wide contactless payment rolled out in 2017.
  • A trial of a new flexi-monthly season ticket that will provide money back if journeys are made outside of the peak or if the ticket isn’t used on some days.
  • Carnets of 10 return journeys will provide a flexible travel option for local residents and businesses
  • Discounted seniors and local student fares introduced
  • New discounted advanced fares to encourage greater off peak travel.

Technology revolution for passengers

  • New hi-quality free to use Wi-Fi to give a seamless service between station and train.
  • Live, personalised information direct to customers via new mobile ‘c2c Live’ app.
  • Personalised purchasing online and at new and improved ticket machines.
  • Up to £250,000 annual fund for future innovations.

£33m investment in a three-year station improvement programme

  • All stations improved to our ‘Smart Station’ standard - safe, modern, easy-to-use and offering more services.
  • £5.3m redevelopment of Barking station.
  • £1.7m to transform facilities at Fenchurch Street station.
  • Upgrades at all stations to ensure c2c becomes the UK’s first fully-accessible franchise.

Local partnerships to improve services

  • A new alliance with Network Rail to reduce running costs and deliver Right Time operational performance for all stations. The alliance includes a commitment from National Express to help finance a joint plan to improve line speeds to reduce journey times further.
  • Partnership with British Transport Police to provide more officers on the railway, combined with new CCTV control centre and improved system of cameras to boost security.
  • Working with local authorities to help develop integration with smartcards on local bus routes.
  • £1m investment in energy efficiency to reduce energy consumption at stations and depots by at least 25%.
  • £750,000 annual fund for improvements decided by local stakeholders

(Top image: c. Joshua Brown) 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Kent Railman   23/09/2014 at 12:14

It all sounds very impressive. Staffing of all stations throughout operating hours means that the new lifts will be available throughout the operating day - unlike other stations, where flashy new lifts cannot be used in the evenings because the station is unstaffed. We look forward to delivery of these promises and hope they will be a model for other franchises in future.

Kent Railman   21/12/2014 at 19:13

£1.5bn premium payments may be good for the taxpayer, but it represents an average of £2.70 per passenger journey.

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