c2c awarded 15-year Essex Thameside rail franchise
A 15-year rail franchise for the Essex and east London area has been given to current operators c2c, the government has announced.
The Department for Transport awarded the Essex Thameside franchise to the company until November 2029.
The operator said it would make £160m of investment as part of the deal, including a fleet of new trains.
It covers journeys between London and areas including Basildon and Southend.
Over the past 14 years, National Express-owned c2c has increased its passenger numbers by 42%, from over 26 million to about 37 million passengers a year.
'Significantly improved journeys'
The company said 17 new trains would provide almost 4,800 extra seats and by the end of the contract there would be more than 25,000 additional seats for morning peak-time passengers every week.
More than £30m will be invested in improving stations, including Fenchurch Street and Barking.
The operator committed to hitting new punctuality targets, which means over 90% of services must reach their destination within one minute of the timetable, by December 2018.
Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said the deal meant passengers would have "significantly improved journeys".
"The rigorous new processes we have put in place means passengers can have every confidence we have got the right bid for the franchise," he said.
"The operator is ready to deliver and build on [its] high standards."