FURIOUS campaigners say train bosses are trying to make passengers bail out the owner of c2c, amid reports of a £20m debt being carried.

Widespread reports suggest Trenitalia, owner of train operator c2c, has accrued the large debt.

And now rail union bosses have accused the firm of trying to force south Essex passengers into bailing out its failing c2c line amid reports the company is threatening to pull the plug on its UK operations.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “‎The crisis on Britain’s privatised railways is deepening by the day.

“The Tories have been forced to strip Arriva of the Northern Franchise, South Western Railway is on financial life support and likely to be the next to fall and now Trenitalia has taken c2c to the brink.

“This madness cannot be allowed to continue.

“With the publication of the Williams Report, a review of Britain’s railway, independently chaired by Keith Williams, repeatedly delayed we can smell panic right at the heart of Government as even hard-line Tories start to realise that the only solution that can keep trains running is to bring these basket-case franchises into public ownership.

“For passengers and staff alike these constant reports of private rail operators ‎driving services into financial meltdown is deeply unsettling.

“It means we are running on an ad-hoc, short-term basis when we should be investing and planning for the long term future.”

The general secretary added: “RMT will continue to monitor the situation and while we campaign for the integrated, publicly-owned railway that the country is crying out for we will also defend the jobs and conditions of our members caught in the crossfire as the privatised franchises go down like dominoes.”

Trenitalia bought c2c from National Express in early 2017, not long after a new contract had been awarded.

That contract runs until 2029.

Despite the reports, a Trenitalia spokesman said: “We do not comment on press speculation.”

The public sector Operator of Last Resort is reportedly monitoring the situation and is ready to step in if the rail firm decides to hand the keys back.