From the seaside line to the misery line to being one of the best train services in the UK – the London, Tilbury & Southend railway has changed considerably over the years.
The current c2c rail service has operated under a number of different names since the line was first built in the 1850s. The railway was originally built and ran by the London Tilbury & Southend Railway. In 1912 the line was taken over by Midland Trains. The local service was nationalised in 1948 and became part of British Rail, which continued until the re-privatisation of the railways in 1996.
The “Misery Line”
In 1996 a 15-year franchise was awarded to a company called Prism Rail, who operated under the brand name LTS Rail. The service’s poor punctuality record in the 1990s, along with the old-fashioned slam-door trains, had earned it the nickname of “The Misery Line”. In autumn 2000, LTS had train punctuality of 88 per cent and passenger satisfaction was recorded at just 63 per cent.
Investment and improvement
In 2000, Prism Rail was bought by National Express Group, who have operated the service ever since. An entire fleet of new trains were ordered, and delivered between 2000 and 2003. After a difficult initial introduction, the trains soon proved to be reliable and popular. The new fleet supported a dramatic improvement in punctuality and by 2005 93 per cent of trains were on time, with 84 per cent of passengers satisfied.
In 2003 a new brand name for the train service was also introduced: c2c.
Winning awards & breaking records
The new trains and c2c’s expertise led to continued improvements in the train service over the following years.
In 2009 we became the most punctual train operator in the country for the first time, with 96.2 per cent of trains on time by the end of the year, while passenger satisfaction reached 91 per cent.
By the end of the decade, c2c set two new UK records: for annual punctuality, at 96.7 per cent; and for punctuality over a four-week period, at 98.8 per cent in August 2010 – a record that still stands. c2c was also named ‘Suburban & Metro Operator of the Year’ at the 2011 National Rail Awards, ‘Rail Operator of the Year’ at the 2012 National Transport Awards, and Which? magazine’s best commuter operator in 2012.
In May 2011, c2c’s franchise was extended by a further two years in an agreement between National Express and the government.
In 2012 c2c played a key role in transporting passengers to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Annual punctuality increased to a new UK record level of 97.5 per cent and we reached our highest ever level of passenger satisfaction at 93 per cent in the 2012 National Passenger Survey.
In May 2013 c2c signed an interim franchise with the government, which lasted until November 2014, and the company was Highly Commended in the 2013 National Rail Awards. c2c was also Highly Commended in the best train operator category at the 2014 Rail Business Awards.
c2c launched the new c2c Smartcard in 2014, allowing passengers to travel across the entire route using tap-and-go technology that had previously been restricted to the London area.
A Platform for the Future – c2c’s new franchise
In June 2014, the government announced that National Express had won the right to continue operating the c2c service in the new 15-year franchise, which started in November 2014.
c2c has made a number of promises to improve the future quality of the service, including extra capacity, additional carriages, new services, and investment in our stations. We also introduced new technological benefits for passengers to mark the start of the franchise, including free wifi, new ways to pay for travel, and the new c2c Live app.
Since National Express first took over the service in 2000, we have turned the Misery Line into an award-winning service that operates the UK’s most punctual trains. In our new franchise we intend to retain that record while delivering a similar transformation in the overall quality of service that our passengers receive.