Rail Commuters Promised Better Compensation
Commuters in Essex have been promised more trains and better compensation procedures for late or cancelled services as part of a 15-year rail franchise.
Incumbent National Express will operate the Essex Thameside contract, run under the name c2c, until 2029.
The company promised a commitment to tougher punctuality targets, with more than 90% of services reaching their destination within one minute of the schedule before 2019.
It will also invest £160m to add new train services and upgrade station facilities.
An additional 17 new trains will boost seating capacity by 4,800 and by the end of the deal, 25,000 more morning rush hour seats will be available.
Essex Thameside is the last remaining franchise for National Express, the rail and coach operator.
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."
The franchise covers London and the surrounding commuter hubs of Barking, Basildon and Southend.
More than £30m will be spent improving stations including Barking and Fenchurch Street.
Cycling and parking facilities will be improved and all stations will receive step-free access.
C2c's victory in the race to win the new franchise means FirstGroup, one of the other bidders, has missed out again, having been overlooked for the recently-awarded "mega" franchise of Thames, Southern and Great Northern.
Franchise awards have started again after the hiatus that followed the botched West Coast Main Line award, which led to a major review of the franchising process.