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Shake-up costs firm its train franchise.

ONE of the most criticised train companies in the country is to lose its franchise in biggest shake-up in the rail industry since privatisation.

French-owned Connex will have to give up its south central service within the next year - the first time a privatised franchise has changed hands.

The new operators will be the consortium Govia. Its main partner, Go- Ahead, operates Thames Trains, which was involved in last year's Paddington rail crash in which 31 passengers died.

Govia, which is part owned by French firm Via-GTI, also runs the Thames Link services throughout southern England and London.

The company is promising pounds 1.5 billion investment in services throughout London and the south-east which are currently run by Connex South Central, including more trains, refurbished stations and improved performance.

The south central franchise covers Surrey and Sussex, and services are due to continue to be run by Connex for at least the next year.

Connex will retain its neighbouring south-east franchise, which is not yet due for renewal.

Travellers have criticised Connex, which is owned by French conglomerate Vivendi, for late running and overcrowded trains. The company has also suffered industrial relations problems in recent years.

Govia will rename the franchise New Southern Railways, a name which was last used more than a decade ago.

Govia has also pledged that all new trains in service after 2003 will be fitted with the Train Protection warning system.
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Author:Jones, Alan
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 24, 2000
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