CGEA TRANSPORT is so pleased with the Connex branding used for its British rail franchises that it has decided to extend the name to its other rail and bus operations. Managing Director of the parent Vivendi Group Henri Proglio says studies in five countries have shown that the Connex name conveys positive connotations, ’intrinsically associated with the notions of transport and modernity’. With our offices deep in the heart of Connex-land, our experience suggests that the name may be well-known, but it is not generally associated with clean trains, high standards of punctuality or good passenger information.

Nevertheless, CGEA favours a common brand to signify that services belong to ’a large network’. The Connex name is already in use in Stockholm, where CGEA runs the orbital light line which opened between Gullmarsplan and Liljeholmen in January. It is will shortly be launched in Australia, where Melbourne Transport Enterprises led by CGEA Transport Asia Pacific Ltd has a 15-year franchise to run Hillside Trains.

CGEA Transport’s revenue from European bus and rail operations was 2·5bn euros in 1999, and Connex’s South Central and South Eastern franchises represent around 65% of the rail business. Dismissing the criticism, General Manager Antoine Frerot suggests that a 26% increase in passengers over four years is evidence of good performance. Proglio agrees that the perceived image is ’unjustified’ but admits that ’progress needs to be made’.

Vivendi is keen to develop its British business, bidding for the South West Trains and Trans-Pennine Express franchises (RG 4.00 p203). Proglio expects to bid for ’around half’ of the remaining 11 passenger franchises up for renewal - not the inter-city routes but regional and suburban operations which offer ’synergies’ with the group’s other businesses.

Displaying the first Adtranz-built Class 375 Electrostar EMU to the public at Brighton on April 18, Connex revealed that it would be taking up an option for another 120 vehicles for South Central, emphasising that the £100m investment was in addition to its franchise commitments. It is perhaps no coincidence that Vivendi is currently locked in battle with the GOVIA joint venture for the South Central franchise replacement.