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Last Updated: Friday, 27 June, 2003, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Connex - how was it for you?
As the rail company is stripped of its franchise, Jon Yuill, voted by users of BBC News Online as the man to speak up for rail commuters, allows himself a wicked smile.

A casual visitor to planet earth this morning could well be forgiven for thinking that a sizeable population of southern England was simultaneously engaged in bedroom athletics. "YES! YES!" could be heard coming from homesteads in the catchment area of Connex.

But it wasn't sexual congress that brought these gasps of delight, rather the breaking news of the uncoupling of Connex and its franchise to run services in the South East.

After years of collective misery, passengers woke to the dulcet tones of Richard Bowker, head of the Strategic Rail Authority, explaining that he had removed the Connex franchise after if failed to meet previously agreed commitments.

Elected: Jon Yuill was voted BBC News Online's rail commuters' champion by users of the site
Voice: His role is to speak up for the commuter
Commute: Married with three children, Jon commutes by train between Witham (Essex) and London

Yes, at last he was getting tough. Yes, at last he was taking action. Yes, at last he was doing to Connex what thousands have wanted to do for years.

But wait. Just as you were reaching for that post coital fag, it was announced the decision had nothing to do with the stifling and packed trains, (of which every fifth one is late), but due instead to "financial mismanagement". Oh, and "a serious loss of confidence on a wider front".

On this latter basis alone, you could expect to see the whole network shut within minutes. Quite why it's taken Mr Bowker this long to see what everyone else has seen for years is beyond me. But then again, I'm a bit of a reactionary; one of those strange characters that believe when you pay an extortionate sum for a service, it's rather nice to get it.

Just in case you have some sympathy for Connex, remember this is a private company with directors who receive bonuses. Last December 58m of public money was ploughed into the company. They've recently requested another 20m.

So now what? Well, an interim company will take over. The SRA and Connex have told passengers that nothing will change at all. Which, after that initial lustful catharsis, must be akin to waking up with a stonking hangover.

But let's not spoil this magic moment. Relax, lay back and think of re-nationalisation.

Some of your comments so far:

Good riddance. The company which treated passengers with contempt and cynicism - let's hope its replacement will have the funds and the attitude to care about the railway, not just about the profit.
Darryl, London

This "Rail Champ" is a commuter from Essex, how does that make him qualified to talk about Connex?

Delighted, but sceptical. The problem isn't so much the financial mismanagement of one company, it's the ethos of making money out of running a public service.
Guy Taylor, London, UK

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Train firm loses franchise
27 Jun 03  |  England


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