Friday, 19 December 2008

Train Surprise

Life can be full of surprises. At least if you're Connex and you have been in charge of running Melbourne's trains over the last very cancellation riddled weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, Connex has explained the morning cancellations by saying the trains were left in the wrong positions over night and thus weren't able to provide full service come morning. I can clearly see it: the Connex organizing staff went home after a hard day at the office all full of satisfaction for managing a successful day, only to come back to the office the next day and learn - to their total astonishment - that they actually need to run the trains for yet another day. That's not it, though, for lo and behold - they need to run the trains according to the very same schedule they had the day before! Who could have thought of that! Now, where did we leave them trains overnight?

However, that excuse was the exception. The regular Connex excuse for not being able to run trains according to schedule is malfunctioning trains, and lately their press releases keep saying day after day that this morning's bunch of cancellations is due to malfunctioning trains.
I find this approach rather surprising. As a company in charge of running services worth millions of dollars, including train maintenance services, I would have expected Connex to have pretty accurate statistics on trains' MTBFs (mean time between failures), which should mean that they would plan routine services at the right frequencies to prevent breakdowns . But they don't, or at least they don't manage their train rotations as if they do. Which pretty much means that they're incompetent and that they should not be running Melbourne's trains.
Yet Connex does continue to run Melbourne's trains, the state government let's Connex do whatever they do, and Veolia - Connex' French owner - is reporting record profits, specifying explicitly that these are due to their operations in Melbourne.
Ain't it great to see incompetence paying off?

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