Connex Melbourne

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Connex Melbourne
Industry Public transport
Founded 29 August 1999
Defunct 29 November 2009
Headquarters Melbourne, Australia
Products Train operator
Profit $22.5 million (2008/09)
Number of employees
2,501 (August 2009)
Parent Veolia Transport
Connex Melbourne
Melbourne railways map.gif
Melbourne railway network
Locale Melbourne
Dates of operation 1999–2009
Predecessor Public Transport Corporation
Successor Metro Trains Melbourne
Track gauge 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)
Headquarters Melbourne

Connex Melbourne was a wholly owned subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, which had a franchise from the State Government of Victoria to operate all suburban passenger rail services in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. In August 2007, Connex's contract was extended until November 2009. Connex lost the bid to renew its contract to Metro Trains Melbourne who took over the network on 30 November 2009.[1][2]

As at August 2009, Connex Melbourne operated 15 train lines, 331 trains, 12,909 weekly services, and carried about 720,000 passengers each weekday. In 2008/09, 214 million passenger trips were made.[3]


Melbourne Transport Enterprises (later Connex Melbourne) was awarded a franchise to operate the then government-owned Hillside Trains rail services in Melbourne's eastern and north-east suburbs in August 1999. The franchise for the southern parts of Melbourne's suburban train network was awarded to National Express Group trading as Bayside Trains and later M>Train).

On 22 December 2002, National Express withdrew from its operations in Victoria, and the State Government took control temporarily.[4][5][6] Early in 2003 the Government began negotiations with Connex to assume responsibility for all Melbourne's metro train network. A new partnership agreement was reached in February 2004 that awarded Connex the exclusive right to operate Melbourne's entire metro train network from 18 April 2004.[7][8]

In August 2007 Connex's contract was extended until 29 November 2009.[9][10] Veolia Transport was short listed to bid for the new franchise but lost to the Metro Trains Melbourne consortium and ceased operations on 29 November 2009.


Following Veolia's rebranding of its transport operations from Connex to Veolia Transport on all other transport systems worldwide in late 2005 and early 2006,[11] Connex Melbourne was the only Veolia company to retain the Connex name. It was not until May 2008 that Connex Melbourne began to publicly acknowledge its connection with the parent company, using the "Connex: A Veolia Transport Company" phrase in publicity material and using the Veolia Transport and Connex brands together. Branding on staff uniforms, trains and station signage was not altered.

2009 heatwave issues[edit]

During January 2009, Melbourne experienced several days of extreme heat with temperatures in excess of 43°C – the hottest heatwave since records were kept from the mid-1880s[12] – with a maximum temperature reached of 45.1 °C (113.2 °F) in the Melbourne central business district. Prior to this, the ambient temperature was between 38 and 40 °C (100 and 104 °F). Connex was unable to guarantee services across the network. This was highly controversial as, in previous years, 'heatwaves' did not cause train cancellations. The heat-distortion of tracks has been attributed to the lack of expansion joints within newly replaced rail. Figures based on Connex media releases for the same period show the numbers of cancelled services exceeded one third of total services.

On 29 January 2009, over 500 services were cancelled. Next day services on eight lines were cancelled and the City Loop closed in the afternoon owing to the extreme weather (at the height of the heatwave) and knock-on effects, and the loss of power at the South Morang transmission station.[13] By Connex's own estimates in the Melbourne media, over 750 services were cancelled out of 2,400. In response to the loss of services, the Victorian State Government made 30 January a day of free travel on trains, trams and buses.[13]

Contractual details[edit]


Connex was responsible for the operation and maintenance of Melbourne's metro railway system, including manning stations and fare enforcement. It was not responsible for capital works such as expanding the system, but on a number of projects it has managed the project on behalf of the State Government.

Government subsidy[edit]

Between 2004 and 2009, Connex Melbourne was paid an average of $345 million per annum by the State Government of Victoria to operate the metro network. At the end of the 2004-2009 franchise agreement, Connex was paid well over $2 billion[1] by the state government. In addition to the base contract payments, other payments from the state government to Connex included farebox, concession top-ups, maintenance, rollingstock adjustments, incentives and capital projects.

Reliability benchmarks[edit]

Under the terms of its contract with the state government, Connex Melbourne was required to deliver on-time (no more than 59 seconds early, and no more than 4:59 minutes late, formerly 5:59 minutes) performance, system-wide, of no less than 92%. It was also required to deliver not less than 98% of scheduled train services, and significantly reduce any time spent by passengers waiting due to a delay, over a 1998 benchmark.

Fines for failure to meet service obligations were deducted from contract fees paid by the government to Connex. As of July 2006, the most recent fine imposed on Connex by the government is $5.1 million. Connex paid almost $70 million in penalty payments for poor performance over the life of the franchise.[14] Connex released performance data on a monthly basis, usually put on view at railway stations. Fines and customer satisfaction levels are detailed in the quarterly 'Track Record' report released by the Department of Transport.[15]

For every month that Connex failed to meet the performance benchmarks, a free daily Metcard was offered to holders of monthly or yearly tickets valid during that month. No compensation was offered to passengers using weekly, daily or other tickets.[16]


Connex liveried Comeng train at Tooronga in January 2007
Connex X'Trapolis train at Flinders Street in December 2005

The Connex Melbourne fleet consisted of:

The majority of rolling stock was owned by the Victorian Government business enterprise VicTrack.[17]

Connex was responsible for maintaining its train fleet. This responsibility was outsourced to two companies: United Melbourne Transport Limited, a subsidiary of the United Group, maintained the Alstom X'Trapolis and the older Hitachi and Comeng trains; and Siemens maintained the remainder of the Siemens fleet.[17] Innovonics Limited modified the Comeng sets from both parts of the network to run on the entire system again, along with a CCTV upgrade.[18][19]

Connex was also responsible for the maintenance of the electrified metro network, which was contracted out to Mainco, a subsidiary of the United Group.[17] The Department of Transport also had input into infrastructure related issues and major rail projects.


Despite the formation of Metlink to deliver co-ordinated marketing initiatives across the entire Melbourne public transport network, Connex undertook its own marketing campaigns.

In July 2000 an advertising campaign featuring Harry Connick, Jr. publicised the name change from Hillside Trains to Connex. The campaign produced by Melbourne advertising agency Cummins & Partners played on the similar sound of Connex and Connick's name. A television commercial aired with Harry explaining; "I heard Hillside Trains was going to change its name and I was honoured to hear they were going to name it after me. Connicks. Well they could have consulted me on the spelling." Billboards on station platforms had Harry stating in a voice bubble; "Welcome to my train company - Connick's. That's OK, they'll fix the spelling..."

Television advertisements featuring Sheena Easton and a trainload of passengers singing her 1980 hit Morning Train (9 to 5) screened during April and May 2004.

Its most recent campaigns generally focused on commuter behaviour and etiquette. In mid-2005 Connex launched a print and TV advertising campaign featuring Humpty Dumpty and focusing on safety initiatives; the "Don't Hold Others Back" campaign of 2006 featured imagery of commuters struggling to board a train; and a 'train etiquette' campaign featuring fictitious character Martin Merton PhD, "the worlds #1 expert on train etiquette" offered advice to passengers on such topics as mobile phone use, flatulence and other low-level behavioural annoyances of train travel.

Connex SMS service[edit]

Connex had a short message service system that allowed passengers to receive updates about train delays of more than 15 minutes on their phone for free.[20]


On 23 February 2007 a computer hacker broke into the gateway used by the SMS system and sent threatening messages to over 10,000 commuters who had subscribed to the service.[21]

A Connex spokesman said this was a hoax and that the hackers were able only to send the message and could not get access to the customer database.[21]

Melbourne artist Van Thanh Rudd made an artwork attacking Connex's parent company Veolia Environnement's building of a light rail system in Jerusalem, including in East Jerusalem which is considered by the international community to be occupied by Israel.[22]

On 29 April 2009 it was reported that complaints against Connex and Yarra Trams ticket inspectors had risen by 60% in 12 months.[23] Officers were accused of excessive force, intimidating and heavy-handed behaviour towards commuters.[24]


  1. ^ a b Putting the Public Interest back into Public Transport Swinburne Institute for Social Research
  2. ^ Cooper, Mex (25 June 2009). "New train, tram operators for Melbourne". The Age (Melbourne). 
  3. ^ Connex Melbourne: Fast Facts
  4. ^ National Express walks out of Australian rail service The Telegraph (London) 17 December 2002
  5. ^ Nat Express pull back Down Under The Telegraph (London) 3 September 2004
  6. ^ Web, Richard (14 March 2004). "The long goodbye". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 17 February 2008. 
  7. ^ Connex Awarded Melbourne Train Contract Connex 19 February 2004
  8. ^ Milovanovic, Selma; Wells, Rachel (17 April 2004). "Down Frankston way it's a popular line". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 17 February 2008. 
  9. ^ Sharp, Ari (21 August 2007). "Connex wins extension". The Age (Melbourne). 
  10. ^ "Connex asks for second chance on trains". The Age (Melbourne). 1 July 2007. 
  11. ^ "History". Veolia Environnement. Archived from the original on 26 May 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2008. 
  12. ^ "Heatwave record set in Melbourne". ABC News. 30 January 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2009. 
  13. ^ a b Cooper, Mex (30 January 2009). "Rail network meltdown: city loop closed, lines suspended". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 4 February 2009. 
  14. ^ Gardiner, Ashley; Mitchell, Geraldine (22 August 2007). "Tussle to stay on track". Herald Sun (Melbourne). 
  15. ^ Track Record Monthly performance bulletin. Department of Transport. Retrieved 10 July 2006.
  16. ^ Dowling, Jason (1 May 2009). "Connex trains run late - again". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 28 May 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c Who's who in Victoria's public transport network[dead link] Department of Transport
  18. ^ Innovonics Concorde project ASX announcement[dead link]. Retrieved 10 July 2006.
  19. ^ Updated ALSTOM Comeng sets with Innovonics gear, Railpage Australia (enthusiast site). Retrieved 10 July 2006.
  20. ^ Connex SMS Updates.
  21. ^ a b Connex_SMS_hacking_under_probe[dead link]
  22. ^ Sexton, Reid (8 March 2009). "Rudd's nephew clashes with Connex". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 7 May 2009. 
  23. ^ Cooper, Mex; Dowling, Jason (29 April 2009). "Complaints against ticket inspectors soar". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 8 May 2009. 
  24. ^ Cooper, Mex (6 May 2009). "Angry commuters hit out at ticket inspectors". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 7 May 2009. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Public Transport Corporation
(as Hillside Trains)
Railways in Melbourne
(Burnley & Clifton Hill groups)

Succeeded by
Metro Trains Melbourne
Preceded by
(Caufield & Northern groups)