Connex set to slam door on ancient carriages with new carriages

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The Independent Online
Connex South Central, the French-owned company which runs commuter services in London, said yesterday it would make "a significant investment" in rolling stock as part of plans to lengthen its franchise.

Connex is unique among rail companies in having an option to extend the franchise written into its original contract with the Government. Geoff Harrison Mee, the company's managing director, said Connex's 300 four- carriage ancient "slam door" rolling stock could be completely replaced as part of the deal.

Mr Harrison Mee made his comments at the unveiling of a train, the Adtranz Classic. This uses an old-style slam-door carriage frame to which a more crash-resistant top has been added and would only cost half the price of a new train.

Adtranz also say that the Classic can be in service about nine months after being ordered - vital for those operators looking to replace slam- door carriages. One problem for prospective buyers, identified by Mr Harrison Mee, is the lack of air-conditioning on the new Classic. "It would certainly not be able to replace all our stock," he added.

But there are some obvious advantages. For train companies worried about overcrowding, the new trains can offer up to 30 per cent more seats than older stock. Connex has a good track record in investing in rolling stock. Last year Adtranz supplied 30 new trains to Connex for pounds 150m.

"It is time the railway industry was able to demonstrate not only its commitment to providing high-quality services for customers, but also its commitment to good quality design and safe products," said Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody, whose constituency of Crewe and Nantwich is home to one of Adtranz's plants. Mrs Dunwoody, chairwoman of the House of Commons Transport Committee, added: "People deserve good quality railways and to be able to travel in speed, comfort and safety."