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The BBC's Simon Montague
"A poor record of late trains, dirty trains and cancellations"
 real 28k

Govia Managing Director, Keith Ludeman
"My intial message to people that use south central is to be patient"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 11:14 GMT
Connex travellers' woes
A Connex train
Connex is criticised for late, overcrowded and dirty trains
The announcement that train operator Connex has lost its South Central franchise has come as no surprise to many of its disgruntled commuters.

In May, it emerged that the company had received 31% more complaints in the previous 12 months, while most other operators saw numbers fall.

When I go to the Continent I see how it should be done

Commuter Will Martin

The company, which carries 100,000 customers a day into some of Britain's busiest stations such as London Victoria, will now be succeeded by the operator Govia.

On Tuesday morning, some of Connex's weary passengers took a few moments out of their commuter crush to express relief that their "nightmare" journeys may soon end.

Bad experiences

"It's been delay after delay after delay. I'm sick of having to turn up to work late and blame it on the train," said 28-year-old secretary Jane Williams, who makes the journey from Beckenham to Victoria station every day.

Keith Ludeman, managing director of Govia
Keith Ludeman of Govia: Can his company do better?
Web designer Will Martin, 24, who commutes to Victoria from Bromley South, agreed.

"The whole thing is a disaster. I've wasted many precious hours waiting for these trains to arrive. It's a nightmare," he said.

"The system needs a major shake-up. When I go to the Continent I see how it should be done - fast, clean, punctual trains. Why can't we have the same here?"

Sympathetic view

Some of those new to the UK train experience, however, were able to give out some grains of sympathy to the troubled train operator.

John Kearns, who arrived in London from Dublin three months ago, said: "People here love complaining about the trains and all public transport.

"Back home the local rail service is minimal and is forever being hampered by strikes and industrial disputes.

"Of course there are some delays - that's inevitable given the size of the operation. In my opinion it's still a great system."

People here love complaining about the trains and all public transport

John Kearns, from Dublin
Some commuters felt that Connex was "paying the price" for years of underinvestment under British Rail.

But many remained sceptical that the 1.5bn of new money promised by operator Govia would have much effect.

"We're forever hearing about money being thrown at the system but it never seems to get any better," said computer programmer John Breslin.

"When British Rail was privatised we were told that all our problems were over but it seems the same beleaguered service to me. Frankly I don't think they will ever get things right."

Crumbling network

French-owned Connex has been slammed for late trains, cancelled trains, overcrowded trains, not to mention some rather "unsavoury" train carriages.

The company's 40-year-old "slam door" rolling stock has become the archetypal image of problems on Britain's crumbling rail network.

Passengers have complained their trains are frequently dirty.

Connex has further been dogged by industrial relations problems during the four years it has operated what was to be a seven-year contract.

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See also:

24 Oct 00 | UK
Connex loses rail franchise
13 Jul 00 | UK
More trains running late
24 Aug 00 | Business
Battle for train operator escalates
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