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The BBC's Simon Montague
"Connex had a history of things that went wrong"
 real 56k

Govia Managing Director, Keith Ludeman
"My initial message to people that use south central is to be patient"
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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Connex loses rail franchise
Connex train
Connex has a poor record for timekeeping
Rail firm Connex has lost its south central franchise after criticism of its management and performance.

The announcement was made to the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA) at 0800BST on Tuesday morning.

The French-owned company, which is just four years into a seven-year contract, has been condemned for poor punctuality and for running old trains in the south of England.

The SSRA called for new bidders to apply for the contract following Connex's punctuality problems.

Twenty year franchise

The franchise for the next 20 years has been granted to Govia, a company owned by the Go-Ahead group, which already runs the Thameslink and Thames Train services.

It now makes Go-Ahead the biggest rail player in the commuter belts around London.

John Prescott
John Prescott has announced a boost in spending on rail safety

Govia has promised a 1.5bn investment in the service.

It will include the scrapping of all old slam-door trains by 2004, and the introduction of more than seven hundred new vehicles.

There will be upgrades of the Brighton main line, and the Arun Valley line to Chichester.

Govia has promised that more than nine out of 10 trains will be running on time by 2005. Currently one in five Connex south central services are late.

We have some detailed and imaginative plans to transform those services

Keith Ludeman, managing director Govia

Govia managing director Keith Ludeman stressed that the company still had to negotiate a takeover of the service from Connex.

"My initial message to people who use the service is to be patient. We have some detailed and imaginative plans to transform those services.

"We have a 1.5bn investment planned and we are keen to get on with it," he told BBC Breakfast News.

"Half of the investment will go towards replacing the entire train fleet. All of the slam-door rolling stock will be gone by 2004.

"We will then be spending a lot of money on improving the rest of the stock with facilities such as air conditioning.

"Half of the money will go towards track and signalling to grow the capacity and improve safety and reliability."

A Connex spokeswoman said the company was "very disappointed" at the outcome.

Connex complaints
Connex carries 100,000 commuters a day
Complaints were up 31% last year
Its slam-door rolling stock is 40 years old
Staff hated new uniforms in 1997
Industrial action led to cancellations last autumn
In August Connex blamed cuts in winter timetables on a lack of drivers

She said Connex had pledged to spend almost as much over the next 20 years on improving services as Govia, and was committed to many of the improvements promised by the new company, such as replacing slam-door trains.

The south central franchise covers Surrey and Sussex, and Connex will continue to run services there for at least the next year.

Connex, owned by the French conglomerate Vivendi, will retain its south-east franchise, which was not up for renewal.

South central was the second of a series of franchises being renegotiated by the government.

Investment plan

Go-Ahead already runs two other London rail routes, including Thames Trains which was involved in the Ladbroke Grove crash.

Connex timetable
Punctuality has been Connex's biggest problem

Winning the south central franchise now turns Go-Ahead into London's dominant train operator.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is expected to highlight the announcement as a sign of the government's intention to improve the rail infrastructure.

It was announced on Monday that Railtrack is to receive an extra 855m to improve rail safety in the aftermath of the Hatfield crash.

The government has expressed the aim of reducing the number of companies running the railways.

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See also:

24 Oct 00 | UK
Connex travellers' woes
24 Oct 00 | UK
Connex's colourful years
13 Jul 00 | UK
More trains running late
24 Aug 00 | Business
Battle for train operator escalates
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