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New Zealand rail has been in the spotlight recently. With the newly launched electric trains set to bring more, faster and better services to Auckland, the city’s residents are celebrating. The electrification of trains in New Zealand is a great example of how rail can transform a city’s passenger experience, and there is always more can be done.
We spoke with Mark Davies, Head of Country and Business Development, New Zealand at Serco Asia Pacific recently, to find out what expertise Serco can bring to New Zealand’s rail and transport networks.
Serco owns Great Southern Rail who operates iconic trans-continent rail routes in Australia, it operates transport information and integrated transport management systems in New South Wales, Victoria and also Hong Kong. What other transport services do Serco operate around the world?
Mark: The operation of integrated transport services comprises one of Serco’s largest market segments globally. The most significant part of our transport operations is the delivery of mass transit passenger rail operations; indeed in the UK, Serco is one of the country’s largest franchise operators in terms of passengers carried.
As well as the Great Southern Rail operation you have mentioned above, we deliver high performing passenger rail services through our contracts in the UK (via our Merseyrail, Northern Rail and Docklands Light Rail operations) and the range of rail and light rail services that we deliver through our contracts in Dubai. Serco’s expertise in this sector is well recognised and we are also advising a number of passenger rail owners on how to maximise network performance in the Middle East and Asia.
All of our contracts have been able to demonstrate a strong record of improving performance under Serco management where our focus on providing reliability and an excellent customer experience has resulted in growth in public support and patronage.
What are some of Serco’s key projects in the Asia Pacific region at the moment?
Mark: Serco is active in a number of sectors in the Asia Pacific Region including Justice, Immigration, Defence, Health, and of course Transportation. With regard to Transport, we see a great pipeline of opportunities in the Region and have been steadily raising our profile as a passenger service provider. We welcome that Clients in the region are becoming more and more aware of the need to attract patronage through improved Customer service in the delivery of rail operations and it’s no longer enough just to ensure that trains run on time. Many of our Clients are looking to form partnerships with an organisation that can help them maximise the benefits of the significant investment they have made in their Public Transport assets and to leverage off the operator knowledge base developed in other countries.
We are particularly excited by our involvement in two landmark projects currently being Tendered in New South Wales at the moment; both through innovative Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracting models. We are the passenger rail operators in the TransForm consortium for Sydney’s North West Rail project. As one of the two remaining consortia bidding for this contract, Serco is passionate about delivering a great service solution for Sydney’s rail commuters.
Serco is also the operator in the SydneyConnect Consortium which is one of three short-listed bidders for the ground-breaking Sydney Light Rail contract due to commence operation next year.
We are delighted that Serco is the Platinum Sponsor of the upcoming New Zealand Rail conference. As the Head of Country and Business Development at Serco Asia Pacific, what opportunities do you see in the New Zealand transport market?
Mark: The transport sector in New Zealand is going through a pivotal period at the moment and we see the forthcoming passenger service contract opportunities in Auckland and Wellington as being of critical importance to those cities.
An unprecedented level of investment has already taken place in both Auckland and Wellington to upgrade our passenger rail assets and infrastructure after a prolonged period of neglect. We see informed and committed Clients at the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Auckland Transport who are determined to ensure that there are pro-active strategies implemented to address the congestion challenges of urban growth and that the travelling public of both those cities see a tangible return on those investments in terms of improved customer service and the delivery of excellence.
GWRC has kicked off the procurement process with a very well-constructed industry brief recently. We anticipate that Auckland Transport will also start a procurement process soon to ensure that the City selects an appropriate and experienced operator that will help deliver on its future objectives and support the ongoing integrated transport network so critical to Auckland’s future as a modern city.
These excellent opportunities, and others to come in the Asia Pacific region, point to a significant ongoing growth and consolidation of our passenger transport operations in this part of the world. As a result we are pleased to announce the recent arrival into the Asia-Pacific region of Steve Butcher, the Managing Director of Serco Rail. Steve has re-located to our region on a full time basis and will be a keynote speaker at the New Zealand Rail Conference.
Residents of Auckland are enjoying their fleet of newly launched electric trains which will significantly improve rail travel within the city. How does Serco envisage its expertise assisting New Zealand’s rail and transport networks?
Mark: Internationally we have a number of impressive contract references which have had similar profiles and challenges as the Wellington and Auckland networks. One of our key aims as part of our engagement with our local stakeholders will be to demonstrate where the experience gained at those reference sites will add value to the local solutions we can offer.
We have worked with a range of operational scenarios and have successfully transitioned service delivery from previous public sector and private sector incumbents with a particular focus on minimising Client risk and interruption to service delivery.
We have also picked up some great expertise in delivering innovative service solutions in the New Zealand marketplace in recent years. One example of this is our ground-breaking PPP contract at the Auckland South Corrections Facility at Wiri. This contract incorporates innovative commercial Payment by Results mechanisms which provide financial incentives should we successfully reduce re-offending rates among the prison population. We would be really interested to explore where other innovative, ‘outcome-focused’ contracting methodologies may be applied to the delivery of public transport services to our customers.
What are you most looking forward to at this highly anticipated industry event?
Mark: Serco sees that taking a lead role in the event will provide us with the opportunity to develop new relationships with relevant stakeholders and industry players and to refresh some longstanding existing relationships. We are very keen to communicate the strength and capability of our international passenger rail expertise and to learn more from our potential New Zealand Clients about how that experience can be used to provide great solutions to local issues.
Join Steve Butcher and Mark Davies of Serco at the New Zealand Rail Conference on the 17th and 18th June in Auckland, for some detailed and exciting conversations about the future of New Zealand’s rail and transport industry. To see the conference program and to register, please visit the event website.