FOUR firms have put their names forward to run the c2c train line, which runs through all of Thurrock’s main railway stations.

The battle to control the Southend to Fenchurch Street route, officially known as Essex Thameside, is hotting up after the full list of bidders was revealed by the Government yesterday.

Whitehall will sign a 15-year franchise for the rights to the line, starting in May 2013.

Among the bidders for the contract are current operator National Express, and FirstGroup, which also runs the Great Western franchise.

Dutch firm Abellio, which took over the Southend Victoria to Liverpool Street line in February, is also in the running, as is Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation.

Theresa Villiers, the Tory rail minister, welcomed the “strong interest” shown in the line.

She said: “The operator of Essex Thameside services will be expected to support economic growth along the Thames Gateway.”

National Express, which runs the line under the c2c name, has frequently topped the national punctuality charts for its services.

The latest figures show 96.7 per cent of its trains were on time during the 12 months leading up to January 14 this year.

Julian Drury, the firm’s managing director, has promised to try to make further improvements.

He said: “It’s a wonderful point from which to begin the new year. In 2012, we will strive to improve still further.”

As well as deciding the future of the c2c line, the Government will also hand out a 15-year contract for the Great Western line in April 2013 and a seven-year franchise for the Thameslink line in September 2013.

All four of the firms competing for the c2c contract will also bid for at least one other line.