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What’s the best way to Southend by train?

Southend is a classic British seaside resort. It’s a firm favourite among those coming from London and beyond, and it’s served by two different railway lines. But what’s the best way to Southend by train? We took a look at the two different ways that you can travel to Southend to decide which one is better.

What are the options for getting to Southend by train?

When it comes to getting to Southend by train, you have two options. You can either take c2c from London Fenchurch Street, or Greater Anglia from London Liverpool Street.

When we compare the two options, we’ll be looking at the quality of the train, the journey time and how much it costs. Neither train has First Class, any sort of catering nor does it have a conductor on board. Both lines use commuter-style trains, so we aren’t expecting any luxury!


During Off-Peak hours, you’ll find four trains per hour between London Fenchurch Street and Southend Central. You have a choice of two different routes:

  • Two trains per hour running via Grays. These trains take around 75 minutes to complete the trip
  • Two trains per hour operate via Basildon and go further to Shoeburyness. They take just over an hour, so this is the fastest option.

The trains that go via Grays leave just after the one that runs via Basildon though, so it’s still faster to get the ‘slow’ train if you just miss the faster one.

On a frequency basis, this is the best way to Southend by train.

The cost

A day return to Southend is £22 (before any Railcard discounts). This reduces a little to £21.20 if you travel after 09:30. On a weekend it reduces further, so it’s only £16.60 if you fancy a weekend or Bank Holiday trip to the seaside. If you’re after the cheapest train, then this is the best way to Southend by train, too.

The train itself

For the moment, all services on the c2c route are operated by Class 357 ‘Electrostar‘ trains. Built between 1999 and 2002, they’ve been running on the route for just over 20 years.

They have four carriages and usually run in pairs to form an eight-coach train. Some peak trains also run as 12 carriages.

c2c train from london to southend

Storing your luggage

As you’re most likely to be taking a day trip to Southend, storing heavy luggage probably won’t be an issue. There aren’t any bigger luggage stacks, but you’ll find space for small items and backpacks above the seats.

The seat experience

The layout of the carriage will depend on the ‘type’ of train that you catch. Most trains operated by c2c have a 3+2 seating layout throughout most of the train. If you’re travelling with family or you’d like a table though, head for the ends of each ‘unit’. This is because the areas behind the driver’s cab have seats in a 2+2 layout with a full-sized table. On an eight-coach train, this means that you should aim for the outer ends of coaches 1, 4, 5 and 8:

interior of a c2c train from london to southend

The exception is on trains that have ‘Metro’ written on the doors. These have a 2+2 seating layout throughout so there’s more standing space.

There aren’t any power sockets on c2c trains. So, you’ll want to make sure that you bring a powerbank or that your devices have enough charge before you travel.

The journey

One of the positives about the journey between London and Southend on this route is that it does actually get quite scenic!

Once you get through the urban sprawl of London, you’ll be running alongside the Thames Estuary:

view of the thames estuary from a c2c train

Final thoughts

c2c are certainly the most affordable way to get to Southend by train, and the route is actually quite pleasant once you get alongside the Thames Estuary!

The lack of power sockets is a shame though, and we found the train in general to be extremely dirty and not all that well cared-for. If all you’re after is a cheap train from A to B, then this is likely to be the best option for you.

Our train was also bang on time. c2c trains tend to be fairly reliable as they run on a small and mostly self-contained section of lines.

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia run three trains per hour for most of the day on their route between London Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria.

Two of these trains run fast between Stratford and Shenfield, while the other train stops at Romford as well. In any event, all trains on the route take roughly an hour to travel between London and Southend. Time-wise, this means that Greater Anglia is very slightly the better way to get to Southend by train.

The cost

Greater Anglia is a little more expensive, with a day return being £30.50. This goes down to £25.90 if you travel after 09:30 and £21.40 if you travel after 12:00 (or all day on weekends and Bank Holidays).

Don’t forget that you can’t buy a ticket from London that’s valid on both routes (c2c and Greater Anglia), so even if you buy a ticket for this route you can’t return on the cheaper c2c trains.

The train itself

All of the services on the Greater Anglia route are operated by brand-new Class 720 ‘Aventra‘ trains. They’ve been gradually introduced to the route since 2020, so they’re about as modern as you can get:

class 720 train at southend victoria station

They’re all formed of five carriages, but they often run together to form a 10-carriage train. If you’re after a newer (and longer!) train then this will be the best way to Southend by train.

Storing your luggage

These trains were designed to have as many seats as possible, so you won’t find any luggage stacks. Any luggage storage will be above your seat.

As we said earlier though, it’s unlikely that you’ll be taking lots of heavy luggage on a day trip. So, the racks above the seats will suit backpacks and smaller items just fine.

The seat experience

Well, these trains certainly have a lot of seats. They’re pretty firm though, but should be fine for the hour’s trip between London and Southend.

The main issue is that the aisles are very narrow, so we wouldn’t recommend walking down them with any big bags if you’re trying to get down the train. You’ll probably end up hitting yourself on the sides of the seats:

interior of a class 720 train

Every seat comes with a three-pin socket and two USB ports. If you want to stay connected, then this is definitely the train for you:

power sockets under the seats on a class 720 train

The journey

There certainly isn’t any seaside scenery on this route, as it stays inland. However, you should keep an eye out for the London Stadium and Olympic Park shortly after leaving Liverpool Street.

Final thoughts

If we were looking at train quality alone, then Greater Anglia would be the best way to Southend by train. We found the trains to be clean and well looked after, with them being given a thorough run-through by multiple staff at Southend Victoria.

The very narrow aisles pose a bit of a problem though. We’d recommend walking down the platform to look for a seat rather than squashing through the train itself.

The main issue is that the station at Southend Victoria isn’t as convenient for the beach. It’s a lot more inland and better located for shopping and bus connections rather than a day by the seaside.

Final thoughts – What’s the best way to get to Southend by train?

Based on what the typical daytripper to Southend is after, c2c has to be the best way to get to Southend by train.

The trains are cheaper, run more frequently and arrive at a more convenient station for the seafront. They certainly aren’t the best in terms of the trains themselves, but they do just fine for a journey of just over an hour. c2c have also ordered a small fleet of new trains (the same as you’ll find on Greater Anglia) to supplement the existing trains.

If you’re coming from Stratford, then Greater Anglia is likely to be the better option. But, for people coming from Central London, you’re best sticking with c2c.

Looking for more tips on travelling by train? Take a look at our guide to travelling as a family. We’ve also provided some inspiration for more day trips from London with our very own top 5.