Southeastern is looking to invest millions of pounds in a new fleet of trains to encourage more commuters back into the office.

The major London commuter network is planning a multimillion-pound investment to revamp its "metro" services, which operate from Victoria, Charing Cross, and Cannon Street stations, serving south-east London and Kent.

The hope is that this will attract more people back onto the trains and into the office.

The present fleet of Networker trains, used for metro services to destinations such as Dartford, Sevenoaks, Grove Park and Gillingham, were first introduced in 1992.

Currently, about half a million journeys are made daily on Southeastern's high-speed trains running between the Kent coast and St Pancras.

However, passenger numbers remain at around 70 to 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels - despite a nine per cent yearly increase in 2023/24.

This is largely due to a decline in the number of five-day-a-week commuters.

The company, operated by the government, relies on a subsidy of over £1 million per day from the taxpayer.

This Is Local London: Southeastern has shortlisted five companies to bid for the new train contractSoutheastern has shortlisted five companies to bid for the new train contract (Image: Southeastern Rail)

It hopes the new fleet will be an attractive and reliable alternative to the current Networkers, thus potentially reducing the need for such substantial subsidies.

The process has already begun to secure the new fleet with five companies shortlisted to bid for the contract to manufacture the new trains - a deal likely to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

The shortlisted companies include Alstom, Siemens, CAF, Hitachi and Stadler.

The new trains are designed to offer increased comfort, with brighter, more spacious interiors, on-board toilets and air conditioning, plus improved accessibility with the inclusion of level boarding.

The contract is planned to be awarded next year.

It usually takes between three to five years to build new trains, so they should be in service by the end of the decade.

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Steve White, the managing director of Southeastern, said: "We are pushing forward with our plans to develop our metro operation into a high performing railway.

"We are working at pace, with our partners at Network Rail, to improve performance, expand our timetable, enhance our stations and increase staffing levels.

"The final piece of the jigsaw will be the replacement of our ageing metro fleet."

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: "This is great news for the rail manufacturing industry.

"Modernising rolling stock is crucial to delivering a sustainable, reliable and growing rail network, encouraging more people to travel by train."