Goodbye Connex: It's time to party

December 2, 2009

Critics of Melbourne's public transport system are preparing to party at Flinders Street Station on December 3 to farewell the much-maligned train operator Connex.

Connex has run trains in Melbourne since the public transport system was privatised in 1999. Hong Kong-based company Metro will take over the contract on December 1.

Connex was dumped earlier this year following a series of train cancellations due to failed air-conditioning systems in the summer. The July 21 Age said Connex cancelled 3800 train services in January and February. It said more than 12,000 services were late or cancelled in the six months to March.

The Age also said the company's submission to a parliamentary inquiry revealed it was aware air-conditioning on 92 of its 164 trains would break down when the temperature reached 35 degrees. But Connex took no action because it was not required under its contract with the Victorian government.

It cost the state government more to subsidise Connex's failures than it would have cost to run the system itself. The government paid Connex about $345 million a year.

By 2010, Victoria's privatised public transport system will have cost taxpayers $2.1 billion more than if it had remained state-owned, the 2006 Putting the Public Interest Back Into Public Transport report said.

Even rebadging the trains with the new Metro company logos will cost the public $25 million, said the Age. This is more than the cost of a new six carriage train.

Palestine solidarity activists had also run a campaign to have Connex's contract cancelled. The company has a stake in building a light rail system in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem, which connects with illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Socialist youth organisation Resistance has orgainsed the "Goodbye Connex Party" It will feature live bands, guest speakers, party food, and a giant farewell card signed by angry commuters.

The party's theme will be "affordable, accessible, and reliable public transport". Resistance organiser Chris Peterson told GLW that "the only way to achieve this would be to put public transport back into public hands".

"The public should not be left to pay for the failures of private companies", he said. "Regardless of which company operates the city's trains, it won't make a difference. Public transport must be put back into public hands to make a real and lasting improvement."

[The Goodbye Connex Party will be held at 4pm on December 3 at Flinders Street Station. For details ph Chris 0431 311 520 or Martina 0402 486 019.]

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