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NEW Melbourne rail operator MTM could deliver a worse service than current operator Connex and still meet its contractual obligations to improve the network.
MTM's deal with the State Government, signed off last month, means it must cut cancellations by 24 per cent and improve punctuality by 10 per cent in its first year.
But its performance will be compared with the 12 months to July 2009, meaning it will be measured against a year that included thousands of services cancelled and delayed by a catastrophic heatwave that brought the network to a standstill during summer.
In the three months since the benchmark was set, Connex has met its performance targets and delivered some of the lowest cancellation rates to date. It has also improved punctuality by almost 10 per cent.
This means that the standards promised by MTM, a group that includes Hong Kong-based MTR, are actually lower than the present cancellation rate and virtually identical to the present punctuality rate of 92.4 per cent.
MTM must reduce the number of cancelled services each week to about 128 under the promised improvements.
But the recent turnaround means that cancellations have already been slashed by about 77 trains a week in the three months since the benchmark was set. Similarly, about 981 trains have run late each week since early July, just 11 more than MTM's target figure.
President of the Public Transport Users Association Daniel Bowen said it would be disappointing if MTM could not deliver a better performance than Connex had recently. ''Connex has had a reasonable run lately but it wasn't brilliant,'' he said.
An MTM spokeswoman said the performance of the network was subject to weather, and the operator was confident it would continue to improve reliability.
A Transport Department spokesman said failure to meet its obligations could see MTM ''called in'' and would affect the chances of its eight-year contract being extended.
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