The Essex Thameside franchise covers commuter services from London Fenchurch Street to Basildon, Southend Central, and Shoeburyness, carrying around 37 million passengers per year. Ridership has increased by 42% since the current franchise started in May 1996.

Under the new contract, which comes into effect on November 9, National Express will invest around £160m in improvements to the network. The train fleet will be strengthend from 2019 onwards with the introduction of 17 new four-car trains and the existing fleet of 74 four-car Bombardier class 357 EMUs will also be refurbished. An extra 438 services per week into and out of London will be introduced from December 2015.

More than £33m will be invested over the next three years in station improvements and free passenger Wi-Fi will be introduced at stations and on trains. Smart ticketing will be introduced from 2017 onwards with a new delay compensation system for passengers with contactless smartcards which will provide registered users with an automatic payment for delays of more than two minutes.

National Express will pay around £1.5bn to the DfT over the duration of the franchise.