National Express sells c2c franchise to Italian Railways

By Ben Jones

TRENITALIA, the national passenger subsidiary of Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (FSI), has agreed to pay £70million to acquire the Essex Thameside franchise from National Express.

The franchise, better known as c2c, operates commuter services from London Fenchurch Street to Tilbury, Southend and Shoeburyness.

National Express is reducing its UK rail activities to focus on other areas, where it sees more potential for growth, while FSI is actively expanding outside Italy as part of an ambitious 10-year, £82billion (€94bn) industrial plan for 2017-26.

With 12 years to run, 42 million journeys each year and annual turnover of around £174m, the Essex Thameside franchise is the Italian group’s first venture into UK rail operation.

Trenitalia CEO Barbara Morgante said: “We are confident that British customers will benefit from our skill and capabilities developed in the highly competitive Italian market.

“We are closely monitoring the Railways Franchising Programme as we intend to participate in tenders issued by the DfT to strengthen our presence in UK.”

The current management team will be retained by Trenitalia, which plans to invest in improvements to customer service.

Nicknamed ‘The Misery Line’ in the early years of privatisation, the former London Tilbury & Southend (LTS) route has been transformed over the last decade with a new fleet of 74 Class 357 ‘Electrostar’ EMUs, helping c2c to top national reliability and punctuality tables.

Six Class 387/3 units, leased from Porterbrook, have just been added to the fleet to increase peak-time capacity. A further 68 additional EMU vehicles are expected to enter service by 2019.

■ Trenitalia and First Group have confirmed they have set up separate companies to bid jointly for the West Coast Partnership franchise that will run HS2, together with the West Coast Main Line from 2019, and also the East Midland Trains franchise, which is due to end in July 2018. Trenitalia has considerable experience in high-speed rail and says it will work closely with HS2 Ltd with its proposals for both the WCML and new HS2 services.

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