Connex Melbourne was a train operator in Melbourne, Australia. Formed in October 1997 as Hillside Trains, a business unit of the Public Transport Corporation, it was privatised in August 1999 becoming a subsidiary of Connex.
|Predecessor||Public Transport Corporation|
|Successor||Metro Trains Melbourne|
|Founded||1 October 1997|
|Defunct||29 November 2009|
|$22.5 million (2008/09)|
Number of employees
|2,501 (August 2009)|
|Parent||Veolia Transport (formerly known as Connex)|
In April 2004 it became the sole operator of Melbourne suburban rail services, taking over the services of M>Train. When the franchise was re-tendered, it was awarded to Metro Trains Melbourne from November 2009.
On 1 October 1997 in preparation for privatisation, the Public Transport Corporation's suburban rail operations were split into two business units, Bayside Trains and Hillside Trains. The latter took over operation of the Lilydale, Belgrave, Alamein, Glen Waverley, Epping (now Mernda) and Hurstbridge line services.
Connex successfully bid to take over the Hillside Trains services from 29 August 1999 beating competition from GB Railways and National Express. It was rebranded Hillside Trains as Connex Melbourne in July 2000.
In December 2002, National Express withdrew from its operations in Victoria, and the State Government took control of the M>Train franchise. Early in 2003 the government began negotiations with Connex to assume responsibility for all Melbourne's metropolitan train network. An agreement was reached in February 2004 that awarded Connex the exclusive right to operate the entire metropolitan train network from 18 April 2004.
In August 2007 Connex's contract was extended until 29 November 2009. Veolia Transport was short listed to bid for the new franchise but lost to Metro Trains Melbourne and ceased operations on 29 November 2009.
As at August 2009, Connex Melbourne operated 15 train lines, 331 trains, 12,909 weekly services, and carried about 720,000 passengers each weekday. In 2008/09, 214 million passenger trips were made.
After initially retaining the Hillside Trains name, in July 2000 the Connex Melbourne name was introduced. Following Veolia's rebranding of its transport operations from Connex to Veolia Transport on all other transport systems worldwide in late 2005 and early 2006, Connex Melbourne was one of the very few Veolia Transport operationsa to retain the Connex name. It was not until May 2008 that Connex Melbourne began to publicly acknowledge its connection with the parent company, using the "Connex: A Veolia Transport Company" phrase in publicity material and using the Veolia Transport and Connex brands together. Branding on staff uniforms, trains and station signage was not altered all branding was put on practically everything but as of 2019 as a company is no longer around almost all sides of branding have been removed except for a few odd places we can still find it.
In late 2017 - early 2021 certain Comeng locomotives under the authority of Metro Melbourne / PTV  underwent refurbishment at Macaulay "The Comeng Life Extension project" as part of this work train fronts were renewed on the ageing Comeng fleet, some needing to be stripped back to their original form as part of the work, consequently by stripping them back gave glimpses of a very faded version of the Connex livery were seen when peeping your eyes through the fence. ( ( https://pikstagram.com/media/BwvVeWxHan8 ) click hear for an example picture of what could and still can be seen. )
To replace the Hitachis, 58 three-car X'Trapolis were ordered with the first entering service in December 2002. The Comengs were refurbished between 2000 and 2003 by Alstom at Ballarat North Workshops.
When Connex Melbourne took over the M>Train franchise in April 2004, it took over all of its rolling stock including the remaining Hitachi and Comeng sets as well as the Siemens Nexas fleet. A class locomotives and MTH carriages were hired from V/Line for services on the unelectrified Stony Point line. These were replaced in April 2008 by Sprinters.
Because the modifications made by both operators had made the Comeng fleets incompatible with each other, Innovonics Limited modified the sets from both operators to enable them on the entire system again, along with a CCTV upgrade.
Maintenance of the Hitachi and Comeng sets was outsourced to United Group, while Siemens maintained the Siemens Nexas fleet. In October 2004 Alstom were contracted maintain the Hitachi, Comeng and X'Trapolis fleets. The maintenance contract was included in the sale of Alstom's Australian operations to United Group.
Connex was also responsible for the maintenance of the electrified metro network, which was contracted out to Mainco, a subsidiary of the United Group. The Department of Transport also had input into infrastructure related issues and major rail projects.
2009 heatwave issuesEdit
During January 2009, Melbourne experienced several days of extreme heat with temperatures in excess of 43 °C – the hottest heatwave since records were kept from the mid-1880s – with a maximum temperature reached of 45.1 °C (113.2 °F) in the Melbourne central business district. Prior to this, the ambient temperature was between 38 and 40 °C (100 and 104 °F). Connex was unable to guarantee services across the network. This was highly controversial as, in previous years, 'heatwaves' did not cause train cancellations. The heat-distortion of tracks has been attributed to the lack of expansion joints within newly replaced rail. Figures based on Connex media releases for the same period show the numbers of cancelled services exceeded one third of total services.
On 29 January 2009, over 500 services were cancelled. Next day services on eight lines were cancelled and the City Loop closed in the afternoon owing to the extreme weather (at the height of the heatwave) and knock-on effects, and the loss of power at the South Morang transmission station. By Connex's own estimates in the Melbourne media, over 750 services were cancelled out of 2,400. In response to the loss of services, the State Government made 30 January a day of free travel on trains, trams and buses.
Between 2004 and 2009, Connex Melbourne was paid an average of $345 million per annum by the State Government of Victoria to operate the metro network. At the end of the 2004-2009 franchise agreement, Connex was paid well over $2 billion by the state government. In addition to the base contract payments, other payments from the state government to Connex included farebox, concession top-ups, maintenance, rollingstock adjustments, incentives and capital projects.
Under the terms of its contract with the state government, Connex Melbourne was required to deliver on-time (no more than 59 seconds early, and no more than 4:59 minutes late, formerly 5:59 minutes) performance, system-wide, of no less than 92%. It was also required to deliver not less than 98% of scheduled train services, and significantly reduce any time spent by passengers waiting due to a delay, over a 1998 benchmark.
Fines for failure to meet service obligations were deducted from contract fees paid by the government to Connex. As of July 2006, the most recent fine imposed on Connex by the government was $5.1 million. Connex paid almost $70 million in penalty payments for poor performance over the life of the franchise. Connex released performance data on a monthly basis, usually put on view at railway stations. Fines and customer satisfaction levels are detailed in the quarterly 'Track Record' report released by the Department of Transport.
For every month that Connex failed to meet the performance benchmarks, a free daily Metcard was offered to holders of monthly or yearly tickets valid during that month. No compensation was offered to passengers using weekly, daily or other tickets.
Despite the formation of Metlink to deliver co-ordinated marketing initiatives across the entire Melbourne public transport network, Connex undertook its own marketing campaigns.
In July 2000 an advertising campaign featuring Harry Connick Jr publicised the name change from Hillside Trains to Connex. The campaign produced by Melbourne advertising agency Cummins & Partners played on the similar sound of Connex and Connick's name. A television commercial aired with Harry explaining; "I heard Hillside Trains was going to change its name and I was honoured to hear they were going to name it after me. Connicks. Well they could have consulted me on the spelling." Billboards on station platforms had Connick stating in a voice bubble; "Welcome to my train company - Connick's. That's OK, they'll fix the spelling..."
Its most recent campaigns generally focused on commuter behaviour and etiquette. In mid-2005 Connex launched a print and TV advertising campaign featuring Humpty Dumpty and focusing on safety initiatives; the Don't Hold Others Back campaign of 2006 featured imagery of commuters struggling to board a train; and a 'train etiquette' campaign featuring fictitious character Martin Merton PhD, "the worlds #1 expert on train etiquette" offered advice to passengers on such topics as mobile phone use, flatulence and other low-level behavioural annoyances of train travel.
On 23 February 2007 a computer hacker broke into the gateway used by the SMS system and sent threatening messages to over 10,000 commuters who had subscribed to the service.
A Connex spokesman said this was a hoax and that the hackers were able only to send the message and could not get access to the customer database.
Melbourne artist Van Thanh Rudd made an artwork attacking Connex's parent company Veolia Environnement's building of a light rail system in Jerusalem, including in East Jerusalem which is considered by some to be questionably inhabited by Israel.
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