National Express retains Essex Thameside franchise
National Express Group has successfully held on to its Essex Thameside rail franchise – which it has operated since 2000 – and trumped rival bids from Abellio, FirstGroup and the MTR Corporation.
The new 15 year franchise becomes effective from 9 November 2014 and will provide passenger benefits of around £160m. From 2019, National Express – which operates under the c2c banner – will procure 17 new trains (68 carriages) adding around 4,500 new seats. An additional 438 services will increase the number of weekday London trains by 20% from December 2015, and there will be an extra 25,000 seats in the morning peaks every week by the end of the franchise.
£33m is to be invested in station improvements, including a £5.3m redevelopment of Barking station, and a £1.7m upgrade to Fenchurch Street facilities. The other 24 stations will also receive attention.
220 new car parking spaces will be created, and £457,000 is to be allocated to improving cycling facilities.
Franchise payments to the DfT over the 15 year period will amount to £1.5bn (equivalent to a NPV of £1.1bn if discounted at the standard DfT 3.5% rate). National Express will underwrite c2c’s commitments with bonds covering both performance and liquidity funding.