This follows the fiasco in February when a management buyout team, operating under the name Enterprise, came within hours of being allocated the franchise. The offer was withdrawn because of the revelation of a ticketing fraud.
Roger Salmon, the franchising director, said that the new deal was better than that put forward by Enterprise, but it will involve fewer new trains and the same amount of subsidy. Mr Salmon pointed out that Prism is planning to create a new station at West Ham to connect with the new Jubilee Line by December 1999.
Prism, which has been given a 15-year franchise on the condition that it buys 50 new trains, will receive pounds 29.5m in the first year, declining to pounds 11.2m by the year 2010/11. This is the same as would have been paid to Enterprise, which promised to buy an entirely new stock of trains to replace the 83 in use. If Prism fails to buy new trains, it will get only seven years.
Prism, which is a consortium of four companies - Blazefield, EYMS, Lynton and Q Drive - led by Godfrey Burley, is to seek a listing on the alternative investment market, the high risk part of the Stock Exchange.
Up to 5 per cent of train miles could be cut under the terms of the franchise as Prism has only guaranteed the current level of service for the first year and 95 per cent of mileage for the next three years. The company has promised to restart a new hourly Sunday service to three stations - Rainham, Purfleet and Dagenham Dock.