THREE months on from the introduction of a new timetable on the Essex Thameside rail line and passengers are still campaigning for it to be scrapped.

Rail operator c2c, owned by National Express, introduced the new schedule in December 2015, claiming it was a necessary step due to customer growth, dropping customer satisfaction numbers and crowding on trains.

Three months later there are still vastly more complaints about overcrowding now, than there ever was during the old timetable.

c2c’s figures show nearly a ten per cent increase in passengers during peak times since last autumn, almost double the projected five per cent annual growth.

Communications and stakeholder manager Chris Atkinson admitted the passenger increase took them by surprise.

He said: “We absolutely understand the frustration and anger from passengers.

“Our trains are busier than they were, as a commuter on one of the busier trains we completely understand the strength of feeling from our passengers.

“We are working hard to increase the capacity of our service and that means extra carriages – they are expensive but they are necessary.”

The operator had been in negotiations to bring in extra carriages but that deal fell through and they are currently in negotiations with the Department for Transport (DfT) about other possibilities.

Those talks also include discussions about potential modifications to the current timetable after the Minister for Railways, Claire Perry MP, waived the contractual obligation for 95 per cent of their trains to stop at east London stations Barking, West Ham and Limehouse, as part of the franchise awarded in 2014.

A spokeswoman for the company said on Tuesday that the talks were positive and that they looked forward to making an announcement once the negotiations were concluded.

Things look bleak then for any immediate changes to solve the issues of overcrowding and increased journey times for south Essex commuters, caused by the extra stops in east London.

Mr Atkinson added: “The increase in passenger numbers has surprised us – it has been much more than we expected.

“Passenger growth at Leigh can partly be attributed to more fast trains starting there so people go there rather than elsewhere, and the same can be said for Basildon as people who travelled to Laindon previously now go to Basildon.

“We have seen large growth at Thorpe Bay though, which cannot be explained as easily.

“Nothing has changed with our schedule of new trains in 2019 but we cannot currently say anything more about future changes until we conclude talks with the DfT.”

The Echo requested a comment from managing director Julian Drury, giving c2c 28 hours to produce a written response or put him up for interview, but we were not provided with a comment.