Connex Melbourne

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.

Connex Melbourne
IndustryPublic transport
PredecessorPublic Transport Corporation
Founded1 October 1997
Defunct29 November 2009
SuccessorMetro Trains Melbourne
ProductsTrain operator
$22.5 million (2008/09)
Number of employees
2,501 (August 2009)
ParentVeolia Transport (formerly known as Connex, now Transdev Australia)

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.[1][2]Connex successfully bid to take over the Hillside Trains services from 29 August 1999 beating competition from GB Railways and National Express.[3][4] It was rebranded Hillside Trains as Connex Melbourne in July 2000.[5]

In December 2002, National Express withdrew from its operations in Victoria, and the State Government took control of the M>Train franchise.[6][7][8] 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.[9][10]

In August 2007, Connex's contract was extended until 29 November 2009.[11][12] Veolia Transport was short listed to bid for the new franchise but lost to Metro Trains Melbourne and ceased operations on 29 November 2009.[13][14]

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.[15]


After initially retaining the Hillside Trains name, in July 2000, the Connex Melbourne name was introduced.[5] 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.[16] 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.


Connex liveried Comeng train at Tooronga in January 2007
Connex X'Trapolis train at Flinders Street in December 2005

When the Public Transport Corporation fleet was split, Hillside Trains were allocated 58 three-car Hitachi and 91 three-car Comeng sets, as well as the single prototype 4-car 4D.[17]

To replace the Hitachis, 58 three-car X'Trapolis were ordered with the first entering service in December 2002.[18][19][20] The Comengs were refurbished between 2000 and 2003 by Alstom at Ballarat North Workshops.[21]

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.[22]

The majority of rolling stock was owned by the Victorian Government business enterprise VicTrack.[23]

Maintenance of the Hitachi and Comeng sets was outsourced to United Group, while Siemens maintained the Siemens Nexas fleet.[23] In October 2004, Alstom were contracted maintain the Hitachi, Comeng and X'Trapolis fleets.[24][25] The maintenance contract was included in the sale of Alstom's Australian operations to United Group.[26][27]

Connex was also responsible for the maintenance of the electrified metro network, which was contracted out to Mainco, a subsidiary of the United Group.[23] 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[28] – 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.[29] 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.[29]

Government subsidyEdit

Between 2004 and 2009, Connex Melbourne was paid an average of $345 million per annum by the Victorian government 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.[13]

Reliability benchmarksEdit

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.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32]


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..."

Television advertisements featuring Sheena Easton and a trainload of passengers singing her 1980 hit Morning Train (9 to 5) screened during April and May 2004.

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 No. 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.[33]

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.[33]

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.[34]


  1. ^ "Melbourne's Rail Network to be Split" Railway Digest November 1997 page 12
  2. ^ "City in Brief" Railway Gazette International December 1997 page 835
  3. ^ "First Melbourne franchise" Railway Gazette International July 1999
  4. ^ "All change for private trains and trams" Railway Digest August 1999 page 22
  5. ^ a b "Connex unveils new image in Melbourne" Railway Digest September 2000 pages 16/17
  6. ^ National Express walks out of Australian rail service The Daily Telegraph (London) December 2002
  7. ^ Nat Express pull back Down Under The Daily Telegraph (London) 3 September 2004
  8. ^ Web, Richard (14 March 2004). "The long goodbye". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 17 February 2008.
  9. ^ Connex Awarded Melbourne Train Contract Connex 19 February 2004
  10. ^ Milovanovic, Selma; Wells, Rachel (17 April 2004). "Down Frankston way it's a popular line". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 17 February 2008.
  11. ^ Sharp, Ari (21 August 2007). "Connex wins extension". The Age. Melbourne.
  12. ^ "Connex asks for second chance on trains". The Age. Melbourne. 1 July 2007.
  13. ^ a b Putting the Public Interest back into Public Transport Archived 13 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine Swinburne Institute for Social Research
  14. ^ New train, tram operators for Melbourne The Age 25 June 2009
  15. ^ Fast Facts Connex Melbourne
  16. ^ "History". Veolia Environnement. Archived from the original on 26 May 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2008.
  17. ^ "Melbourne EMU Fleet" Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 737 March 1999 page 116
  18. ^ Alstom to supply new-trains and services in Australia Archived 16 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine Alstom 13 July 1999
  19. ^ "Hillside EMU deal signed" Railway Gazette International January 2000 page 10
  20. ^ "Metros" Railway Gazette International February 2003 page 70
  21. ^ "Rolling Stock" Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 758 December 2000 page 32
  22. ^ Innovonics Concorde project ASX announcement. Retrieved 10 July 2006. Archived 20 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ a b c Who's who in Victoria's public transport network Department of Transport Archived 23 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Connex Melbourne extends maintenance contract with Alstom Progressive Railroading 3 October 2004
  25. ^ Alstom wins 330 million euro contract for maintenance of rolling stock and infrastructure in Melbourne Archived 16 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine Alstom 3 October 2004
  26. ^ Alstom signs agreement with United Group for sale of Australian & New Zealand transport business Alstom 2 June 2005
  27. ^ United Group completes acquisition of Alstom transport business United Group 16 September 2005
  28. ^ "Heatwave record set in Melbourne". ABC News. 30 January 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  29. ^ a b Cooper, Mex (30 January 2009). "Rail network meltdown: city loop closed, lines suspended". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  30. ^ Gardiner, Ashley; Mitchell, Geraldine (22 August 2007). "Tussle to stay on track". Herald Sun. Melbourne.
  31. ^ Track Record Monthly performance bulletin Archived 21 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Department of Transport. Retrieved 10 July 2006.
  32. ^ Dowling, Jason (1 May 2009). "Connex trains run late - again". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  33. ^ a b Connex_SMS_hacking_under_probe Archived 5 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ Sexton, Reid (8 March 2009). "Rudd's nephew clashes with Connex". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 7 May 2009.


a.^ One of the other operations to retain the Connex name is Connex Transport Jersey which operated MyBus until December 2012.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Public Transport Corporation
(as Hillside Trains)
Railways in Melbourne
(Burnley & Clifton Hill groups)

Succeeded by
Preceded by (Caufield & Northern groups)