Connex is a British corporation
, but it also owns transport companies in other places around the world. One of these is Melbourne
, where about two years ago the Met (public transport system incorporating train, tram
and bus services) was split up and flogged off by former Premier Jeff Kennett
Kennett was popular in part due to his commitment to economic rationalism and privatisation as a means of lifting Victoria out of debt, which many people saw as a terrible thing to be in. Of course, selling off publc assetts might bring us a bit of cash in the short term, but this does not necessarily translate into better or cheaper electricity, water, service et cetera, and Kennett was dismissed from office in 1999 despite his attempt to bribe the proletariat with Crown Casino, the Grand Prix and the possibility of marijuana legalisation. By then, the damage had been done and our former beloved public transport system was in the hands of three foreign corporations, who were somehow meant to compete with each other for travellers. It's a bit insane, this fanatical devotion to privatisation and competition policy. It's bad enough selling off our water and electricity, for fuck's sake. But how are train companies meant to compete with each other? The line's either conveniently located or it isn't. But I digress.
In the UK, Connex gained notoriety when its commitment to economic rationalism (ie employing as few skilled people as possible and not worrying too much about safety checks) led to two trains crashing into each other and the death of many people.
Fortunately nothing of the sort has happened in Melbourne, probably since so few trains run they never even have an opportunity to crash into each other.*** Instead, Connex has distinguished itself by:
- Inroducing terrible musak in the underground (City Loop) stations which it manages
- Formulating a 10-point plan, two points of which involve making the trains prettier (see below) and one which the State Government is paying for (upgrade of Flinders Street Station). Nowhere do they promise to increase the frequency of their services or make them cheaper.
- Making the trains prettier. Well, easier to clean anyhow.
- Introducing guards, sometimes. This isn't too bad except that usually there is no trouble, so they just harrass you for having your feet on the seats, and when something actually happens (usually some nut pissing on the seat), they're not there. Plus there's this one American on the Hurstbridge line who clearly wants to go home and join the LAPD. And of course, you can no longer smoke joints on the last train home.
- Infrequent MASSIVE ticket-blitzes. The Revenue Protection Officers - there are sometimes 30-50 of them just at Melbourne Central - are merciless but seemingly very frightened of their supervisors. What a soulless job.
- A mind-numbingly crap advertising campaign involving Harry Connick, Jr. and the similarity between the genetive form of his last name and the name of the train company. Ho ho!
- Failing to make a profit and, along with the other private operators, whining about this to the State Government and recieving hundreds of millions of dollars in bailouts. Did they actually expect to make money from public transport, in Melbourne?
Connex runs the Lilydale
and Epping line
Melbourne's other private transport operating companies are known as M-Train and M-Tram, which are owned by National Express, and the French-owned Yarra Trams. There are a great many bus companies, including National and Dysons. See Melbourne Public Transport System for more detail.
***UPDATE: This has, in fact, since happened - twice. No deaths though.