A sigh of relief on the cramped, dirty 'misery line'

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The Independent Online

First through the ticket barrier was a parliamentary researcher who bemoaned the crowded train carriages. Next came a security guard whose summary of Connex South Central was: "Horrible."

First through the ticket barrier was a parliamentary researcher who bemoaned the crowded train carriages. Next came a security guard whose summary of Connex South Central was: "Horrible."

By 9.30am yesterday, Platform 10 at Victoria station was the scene for a collective venting of commuter spleen, encouraged by the news that the French-owned south-coast train operator had lost its South Central rail franchise.

One after another the commuters told horror stories of delays, cramped seats, antiquated rolling stock and Connex's "licence to loiter".

Anna Pollard, 25, who works in advertising and travels from Gipsy Hill, south London, was thankful that another franchise owner was to take over the task of getting her to work. "Since Connex took over, the trains have been smelly and dirty. They cut the services on the smaller lines and you pay large sums every month for the privilege," she said.

The chorus of rush-hour dissatisfaction could be heard along the concourse beneath the "Welcome to Connex South Central" signs.

Gary Campbell, a 25-year-old security guard who pays £136 a month to travel to Victoria from Purley, south London, said: "I've been using Connex for years and it just drives me mad. It's all very well them posting up welcome signs but when a train is cancelled or delayed they don't even bother telling you so you can get an alternative train. They're just horrible."

No passenger defended the South Central lines, although some were indifferent. Nigel McKinley, 43, an advertising sales manager of Peckham Rye in south London, said: "They're not too bad. There are always a few late trains; it's to be expected. And they have smartened up my station."

Pamela Lee, a teacher of "inner spirituality" of Southwick, West Sussex, had paid £11.10 for a day-return to London on her 67th birthday: "What bothers me is the old carriages - they should have put some modern rolling stock in place by now," she said.

Laura Macleod, 46, a parliamentary researcher of Haywards Heath, West Sussex, said: "I once complained about overcrowding after they reduced the train from 12 to eight carriages. All I got was a letter explaining that more people were getting on down the line. It hardly amounted to an explanation. I'm delighted Connex has lost the franchise."

Ron, a member of the platform staff, wearing a blue blazer and a yellow waistcoat, said: "I can think of one good thing only about today - at last we'll get rid of this bloody uniform."

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