About half of Sydney’s suburban fleet has been replaced, in a $3.5Bn Public-Private Partnership (PPP). It is the largest passenger fleet procurement in Australian history, replacing non-air-conditioned rolling stock and providing for future growth. This required a robust commercial and operational framework for a contract term which exceeds 30 years.
In 2004, the NSW railway operator RailCorp took an innovative approach. At the very beginning of the procurement process, rather than at the typical point of signing contracts, it appointed a project delivery leader to establish an integrated commercial, operational, technical and delivery management team. This has been a main contributor to a successful PPP contract, which was structured to underpin safety, quality control, and reliability over 30 years. This specialist team provided input into the final contract design and performance specifications based on previous new fleet deployments. The delivery team has also proved invaluable in overseeing implementation, from the build phase through to passenger service.
One of the unique features of this PPP contract is that it does not contain typical liquidated damages penalties (although, the separate contract between the consortium’s manufacturer and TLS provider does include liquidated damages). Instead, the contract relies on several ‘incentivising’ payment mechanisms aligned to drive desired performance outcomes. The payment system promotes behaviour that reduces the need for the NSW railways operator to actively enforce the contract. At the heart of the contract are performance-based payments that require 72 of the 78 trains to be made available for passenger service each day. Until the trains are provided and available, Sydney RailCorp makes no payment to Reliance Rail for them.
Another significant factor has been a comprehensive operational-readiness programme. This involved stakeholder and expert consultation during the development phase, to integrate contract requirements with the operational requirements of the operating railway. This readiness programme involved over 20 enabling projects including people & change management initiatives to support operational efficiencies and the deployment of the new fleet.
These measures have led to one of the smoothest new fleet deployments in the history of NSW. In just over 14 months, 14 eight-car double deck trains (which include 1 spare set) have been introduced into passenger service and accumulated more than a million kilometres in service. Feedback and internal surveys indicate customers rate the Waratah train as the best train for performance and comfort amongst all existing fleet, including other recent fleet acquisitions. Similarly feedback from crew about the Waratah trains has been positive with train performance in line with expectations.