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, including the route, the ownership and even its name.

From Victorian origins to British Rail

The railway from Fenchurch Street to south Essex was first built in the 1850s, and operated by the London Tilbury & Southend Railway. The line was extended and new stations were built throughout the 19th Century, and in 1912 the line was taken over by the Midland Railway, which later became London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

The local service was nationalised in 1948 and became part of British Rail, which continued until the re-privatisation of the UK railways in 1996.

The end of the ‘Misery Line’

In 1996 the 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 its old-fashioned slam-door trains, earned the nickname of ‘The Misery Line’.

In 2000, Prism Rail was bought by National Express Group. The introduction of a fleet of new trains between 2000 and 2003 supported a dramatic improvement in both punctuality and customer satisfaction. In 2003 a new brand name for the train service was also introduced: c2c.

Winning awards and breaking records

In February 2017 c2c was acquired by current owners Trenitalia, one of Europe’s leading train operators, and the current National Rail Contract, awarded in 2023 by the Department for Transport runs until 2025.

c2c is consistently named one of the UK’s most popular and most punctual commuter operators, winning 15 industry and corporate awards over the past five years, including being named ‘Rail Operator of the Year’ at the 2018 National Transport Awards.

c2c has led the rail industry as the first company to introduce customer-friendly new products such as Automatic Delay Repay for customers whose journeys are delayed by more than 2 minutes and pioneering Flexi-Season tickets for part-time workers even before their 2021 national roll-out.

c2c also holds the all-time UK records for punctuality over the course of a full year (97.5 per cent) and during a single four-week period (98.8 per cent).