The ageing Southend pier trains are expected to be replaced early next year, it has been revealed.

Warwickshire-based company Severn Lamb announced it had secured a contract with Southend Council to build the new trains – and bosses promised they will be “eco-friendly” and cheaper to run.

Severn Lamb was behind the two existing diesel trains which were opened by Princess Anne in May 1986.

While they were only supposed to have a lifespan of 20 years, the council has kept them in service for more than 30 years and last year funding of £3.25million was allocated for their replacement.

The design of the new trains is still being finalised with the council considering four ‘nose designs’ for the train, along with three potential colour schemes.

Severn Lamb has promised the trains will offer passengers a “fantastic viewing experience” thanks to large panoramic windows and a modern design.

The company will also produce zero emissions, have reduced running costs and be able to run with fewer carriages during off-peak times.

Matthew French, sales and marketing executive at the Severn Lamb, said: “We are honoured to be working on this project again after many years and these completely custom designs are shaping up to be something truly special.

“We were awarded the contract about a month and half ago after being in tender against number of businesses in the UK.

“This is a really important project for us as we previously did the trains in 1986 so this is keeping in the Severn Lamb and Southend family.

“We’ve not finalised the details in terms of design yet but we will be working with the council to do so and as with many of our other projects, the trains will be running on a battery system which is far more eco-friendly than the hydraulic system in theexisting trains.

He added that the ambitious plan is for construction on the trains to begin in the middle of the year, with them coming into operation early 2021, but this will also depend on the council.

Councillor Carole Mulroney, deputy cabinet member for business, culture and tourism, is delighted.

She said: “Southend pier is iconic.

“It brings thousands of visitors to our town every year, and we know that part of that draw is to travel the length of the world’s longest pleasure pier on the traditional diesel trains.

“As we continue our drive to create a carbon neutral Southend, we are pleased that the new trains will be fully electric and produce zero emissions, which we know is something that is very important to local residents.

“This is in line with the council’s ambitions to be carbon neutral by 2030.

“I am excited to see the proposed designs, and would like to hear the views of local people and residents to help inform the decision we make on what to go ahead with.”