RailCorp way off-track: report

The Boston Consulting Group’s report on the performance of NSW-owned RailCorp, which was commissioned by the NSW Government in October 2007, has finally came to the public’s attention after having been buried for six months.

The controversial report was made available when NSW Premier Nathan Rees was asked for a copy during a news conference.

Prior to the release, Mr Rees announced the abolition of the commercial board of RailCorp.

The report revealed the rail network’s maintenance standards were three times worse than those of similar railways, with fleet breakdowns being the largest cause of delays especially on the northern, western and north shore lines.

It said quality maintenance could reduce fleet breakdowns by up to 50 per cent.

Transport Minister David Campbell conceded maintenance was a major problem but it was heavily related to ongoing industrial issues.

“There is no doubt that the maintenance effort needs to be improved,” Mr Campbell told Fairfax.

“There are industrial negotiations underway to get some improvements in those maintenance areas and I look forward to those industrial negotiations being concluded.”

The network has also reached near capacity with a recent growth of 7-9 per cent in customer demand, well above the network’s annual growth target of 2.5 per cent.

Organisational issues were also pointed out as key challenges, especially in relation to frontline management capabilities and processes, such as complaints handling.

The report found the complex complaints follow-up procedure was working as a deterrent to effective customer management, making staff ‘hide’ from customers, avoid asking difficult questions and leave the gates wide open. 

The problem worsened as the number of complaints was used to measure the performance level of a station, the report said.

Also among the identified challenges were low levels of staff engagement, an inconsistent record of project delivery and a complex industrial relations environment.

Mr Campbell told Fairfax that the Government would soon conduct reforms.

“Any culture that discourages rail staff from assisting customers is unacceptable … Early work on a customer service charter has already been carried out and I've asked RailCorp to make it a priority,” he said.

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