COMMUTERS could see the return of ageing trains if a train operator loses its contract.

c2c, who currently operate the line between Shoebury and London Fenchurch Street, are at risk of losing the Essex Thameside franchise after three alternative bids were put in to take over the route.

James Duddridge, Tory MP for Rochford and Southend East, has raised concerns that a change in operator could see older trains brought back into use.

The contract would allow an operator to reintroduce 1980s 315 trains - like those used on the Southend Victoria to London Liverpool Street line.

The newer 357 trains, which were built between 1999 and 2002, have air conditioning, sliding doors and CCTV.

Mr Duddridge said: “There is a possibility some of the decent trains could go. They could be relocated and you could have a Russian roulette situation, where passengers would not know if they are going to get an old train or a new one. They would have to decide whether to get on an old train or wait for a nicer one.

“There must be negotiations to ensure we don’t return to the misery line. I think it’s a massive issue.”

c2c face stiff competition from the likes of First, MTL and Abelio who want to take on the route for 15 years from May

The train operator regularly tops performance tables for the punctuality of their trains and they are confident that they can continue this success if they are allowed to continue operating the line.
A spokesperson for c2c said: "We are in discussions with the Department for Transport regarding the next steps for the Essex Thameside franchise process. We remain committed to providing the best possible service to our customers for as long as c2c continue to hold the franchise."

The bidders are not allowed to talk about the process, but concerns have been raised about the introduction of a different operator.

It comes after the tender procedure faced controversy in October following the collapse of the West Cost Mail Line franchise deal after the government found "significant flaws”.

First Group had been due to take over from Virgin Rail as operator of the London to Glasgow route after offering £5.5billion, but after a legal challenge the decision was overturned.

Since taking over the line in 2000, c2c has worked hard to ensure that the failures of previous operator LTS rail, which saw it nicknamed the “misery line”, are not repeated.