Latest trains take blame

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The Independent Online
A COMMUTER rail company admitted yesterday that trains delivered only three years ago were 13 times as unreliable as rolling stock built 40 years old.

Connex, the French-owned company that runs services into London from a huge swathe of south-east England, said its Networker trains were to blame for its recent fall in performance. The chief executive, Antoine Hurel, said the Networkers, which make up a third of the company's fleet, suffered a "casualty" - a breakdown causing the train to be taken out of service - every 3,000 miles. This compared with a rate of once in 40,000 for its ageing "slam-door" trains.

Mr Hurel said Connex was in discussions with the rolling stock companies and the manufacturers to solve the problems. Connex has leased the 730 carriages, out of a total stock of 2,200, until 2004. The company said its lawyers had ruled out ways of breaking the contract. "We are setting them a target for improving reliability up to levels we want with new rolling stock," Mr Hurel said. "It is hurting us a lot in our image... it is hurting us contractually and we are triggering financial penalties."

The latest figures from the official watchdog showed reliability and punctuality of both Connex networks fell in the year to June.

Connex has announced details of a pounds 70m order for 25 new trains, which will be in service in the winter of 2000 and meet a franchise commitment to replace certain slam-door trains. The trains, for use in Kent, will be built by Adtranz, which built half of the Networkers. The new rolling stock has a projected breakdown rate of once every 60,000 miles.