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June 25, 2009

Connex and Yarra Trams lose Melbourne contracts

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NEW operators are set take over Melbourne's commuter rail and tram networks from the end of the year after the state government of Victoria decided not to renew its contracts with Connex and Yarra Trams. Metro Trains Melbourne, a consortium of MTR Corporation, Hong Kong, and Australian partners United Group Rail and John Holland has been chosen as preferred bidder to operate the commuter rail network from December, while KDR, a consortium of Keolis, France, and Downer EDI, Australia, will run the tram network.
The winning consortia will finalise the terms of their eight-year contracts with the state government in August, and both deals include options for a seven-year extension, subject to the contractors' performance during the initial term.
Veolia-owned Connex Melbourne won the franchise to operate the commuter rail lines serving the east and northeast of the city in 1999, but took over the remainder of the network following the withdrawal of National Express, Britain, in 2002. Connex has since been penalised by the state government several times for failing to meet punctuality standards and last week it was fined $A 11.2 million ($US 8.9 million) for its poor performance during a heat wave earlier this year. Yarra Trams also received a $A 1.84 million fine.
For the last decade Melbourne's 249km tram network has been operated by Yarra Trams, a joint venture between Transfield Services, Australia, and Transdev, France. Ridership grew by 15.2% in the 12 months to March to around 178.4 million trips. Transdev CEO Mr Dennis Cliche said: "Over the 10 years, we've had a demonstrated track record of performance, value for money and low risk. We have proven expertise in operating the complex and unique Melbourne tram network. This is a sad day for Transdev."
 
Photo: John Hoyle
 
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