Adtranz wins pounds 150m order from Connex

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The Independent Online
Adtranz, the Derby-based train manufacturer, has been chosen as the preferred bidder to supply 30 new trains to a private commuter train service in a deal which industry experts suggest is worth pounds 150m. The order is for 30 four-car trains for Connex South Eastern, the French-owned company which runs commuter services from London to Kent.

The deal is another fillip for the trainmaker, which last week finalised a pounds 38m order for 13 units from Midland Mainline, a division of National Express. According to industry sources Adtranz beat off stiff competition from GEC Alsthom Metro-Cammell but clinched the deal with lower maintenance costs.

The package comes with a tight timetable. Connex was awarded a 15-year franchise on the condition that the company ordered new rolling stock. This order will mean that 16 trains will have to be in service by April 1999, which leaves little time for the carriages to pass Railtrack's stringent safety tests.

Although the privatised rail industry has been quick to trumpet new orders, it has been quiet about the lack of completed deals.

Despite a rash of announcements by owners, the deals have produced only 47 new units. Of these, 30 units were the price extracted by competition authorities from Stagecoach in order to purchase Porterbrook, one of the three train leasing companies.

Separately, Eurotunnel has come under attack from the rail industry for "seriously hampering" the growth of container traffic under the Channel with its "excessive charges".

Lord Berkeley, the Labour peer who chairs the Rail Freight Group, complained in a letter to John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, that rather than using the railway freight link "it would cheaper to unload a freight train from Glasgow at Ashford, put the containers on a lorry... and take them across to Calais and load them back onto a train".

The industry body called for the Government to refuse the extension of Eurotunnel's 65-year franchise, which the company is desperate to clinch in order to ease its new pounds 2bn debt package, until Eurotunnel reduced its charges.