Learn from Connex debacle, MP warns
A member of a powerful committee of MPs has warned the Government and train operating companies to learn from the termination of Connex's rail franchise for Kent and South East England.
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, a member of the Commons public accounts committee, was speaking as the National Audit Office (NAO) published its report into the South Eastern Passenger Rail Franchise. Connex made an over-ambitious bid for the franchise and ran into financial difficulties early on. Connex failed to reduce its costs as expected and the Strategic Rail Authority subsequently identified a funding gap of up to £0.8 billion for the remainder of the franchise.
On 27 June 2003, Connex became the first and, to date, only operator to have its franchise terminated early. The Strategic Rail Authority itself was scrapped under the Railways Act 2005 and its franchising role will be transferred to the Department of Transport.
Mr Bacon said: “The Strategic Rail Authority was right to end Connex's franchise. However, the travelling public still faces poor and unreliable service from too many train operating companies. Now that the Department of Transport is taking over the SRA's responsibilities, I hope ministers will be equally vigilant in calling time on train operating companies which are not up to the mark.
“I was surprised to learn this summer that One, the train operating company on the route between Norwich and London Liverpool Street, had purchased rolling stock from Virgin Trains without being aware that the air conditioning equipment had not been serviced for two years. Passengers pay a small fortune for their train tickets and they are entitled to expect a high standard of service”.
2 December 2005
NAO REPORT: The South Eastern Passenger Rail Franchise
PARLIAMENT: Mistrust and conflict derailed Connex franchise, says MP