Mistrust and conflict derailed Connex franchise, says MP
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has written to new transport secretary Douglas Alexander to call for openness and transparency in the Department for Transport’s dealings with train operating companies, as a new report finds that poor communication, mistrust and conflict marked the termination of Connex’s rail franchise in the south east of England.
Mr Bacon was speaking as the influential Commons public accounts committee published its report into the South Eastern Passenger Rail Franchise. The report states that Connex made an over-ambitious bid for the franchise in 1996 and had run into financial difficulties by 2001. Connex chose to try and resolve these difficulties internally and did not keep the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) fully aware of its problems.
Both parties agreed a £60 million ‘deed of amendment’ in 2002 which required Connex to make changes to its financial management, control and reporting arrangements. Frustrated by the slow progress of these changes, the SRA terminated the franchise in June 2003.
Mr Bacon, a member of the committee, said today: “It is the travelling public who ultimately paid the price for mistrust and conflict between Connex and the SRA. It was a mistake for Connex to attempt to extract itself covertly from its financial woes and had the SRA been paying more attention and enforced the changes it wanted to see, passengers might have been spared further disruption”.
“This situation cannot be allowed to occur again and the Department for Transport needs to be more vigilant in keeping its eye on the financial status of train operating companies”.
“I have asked the new Secretary of State for Transport to make sure his department has confidence in the financial management and reporting of train operating companies and that he has the information and the powers necessary to prevent the problems that derailed Connex from happening elsewhere”.
11 May 2006
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