THE DELAYED award of a new contract for a firm to run the Shoebury to Fenchurch Street line has been put back – again.
The Government has been seeking bids from a range of companies the line for the line run by c2c for 15 years from September.
Rail operator c2c’s last franchise expired in May, but it was allowed to continue running services while the Department for Transport delayed the awarding of a new franchise.
The first bidding process collapsed in 2012 after a legal wrangle over the West Coast line.
Today it has emerged that the Government has again delayed the awarding of the franchise – which has meant to start in September but now looks unlikely to be awarded until November.
Peter Slattery, chairman of the Southend Rail Travellers’ Federation, said: “It seems like a bit of a farce, it’s laughable.
“They put everything on hold for 18 months so they could sort out the whole system, then it was meant to be March of this year, then postponed again, they just seem to be opposed to making a decision.
“For customers it’s going to mean the same train service as we’ve had. It does need improving, we would like minutes taken off so there’s a faster service and we won’t get that until the new franchise is awarded, but we can’t complain too much as c2c is one of the best train operators in the country.”
A c2c spokesman said the company would maintain its current level of service.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I am determined that the next phase of this franchise will build on that success. By extending this contract, we are making sure that the best decision is made so that we can secure the best possible service for passengers in the future.”
Companies believed to be in the running for the new franchise contract are c2c, FirstGroup, Abellio and the Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation.