AusRAIL, Products & Resources, Rollingstock & Manufacturing, Workforce

Alstom calls for unity to fix workforce shortage

planet ark


While leading rolling stock manufacturer Alstom has been a premium sponsor of AusRAIL since 2006, this December’s event was the first edition attended by Pascal Dupond in his newly-minted role as managing director for Alstom in Australia and New Zealand.

Since joining Alstom and the rail Industry in mid-1990s, Dupond has accrued extensive experience across multiple disciplines – including business development, project management, rolling stock manufacture, signalling, infrastructure and turnkey project delivery – on some of the world’s largest and most innovative railway projects.

Emigrating to Australia with his family in 2014, he was appointed project director for the Sydney Metro Project, Australia’s first fully automated, driverless metro, and later appointed operations for the Sydney Light Rail project – Australia’s first ‘wire-free’ tramway.

Following the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation in 2021, Dupond was appointed rolling stock director, responsible for the delivery of all Alstom rolling stock projects and manufacturing sites throughout Australia. With an extensive industrial base throughout the country, he has overseen the successful delivery of a number major locally manufactured projects in Victoria and has played a vital role in the recent re-establishment of railway manufacturing in Western Australia for the METRONET project in Perth.

In July this year, he was appointed as deputy managing director for Alstom Australia and New Zealand, and took up the top spot in November, replacing Mark Coxon.

ausrail pascal dupond
Pascal Dupond speaks at AusRAIL as part of a panel discussing rail industry challenges.

“AusRAIL is the place to be for all key members of the rail industry, whether it’s rolling stock, signalling or other areas, and that’s why Alstom has had a long-term presence here,” he said.

“We get to discuss common problems with our peers.

“There is a huge pipeline of rail projects in the works, showing confidence in the market, and there are some strategic opportunities for us in 2023, especially in rail manufacturing, where we are the leaders.”

Alstom will look to build on this year’s success of winning the largest light rail contract in Australia in delivering the Next Generation trams for Melbourne. The contract includes 65 per cent local content, with the NGTs being manufactured at Alstom’s Dandenong facility. Additionally the maintenance contract includes 85 per cent local content, providing long-term stability to the local railway industry and supply chains in the state.

Dupond said the Dandenong site was a shining example of how Alstom has localised its expertise in Australia.

“It’s in the DNA of the Alstom group to localise in various countries. We have done that around the world,” he said.

“We know how to transfer technology into skills in any country. Obviously we have done that for decades in Australia and in Victoria in particular, and that’s something we will continue to invest in.

“The award of the NGTs will enable us reinforce our presence, confirming us as a very local company in Australia.”

Dupond said all this meant Alstom was the only end-to-end manufacturer in Australia’s rail industry, able to deliver projects from start to finish: from the design and engineering to the manufacturing, testing and commissioning, delivery and maintenance.

With Australia looking to implement fast rail, and having recently set up the High Speed Rail Authority to advise on this, Alstom will also be keen to lend its expertise in this regard.

Alstom recently received a new contract worth around €590m from SNCF Voyageurs for the delivery of 15 Avelia Horizon high-speed trains designed to meet the needs of French and European traffic. Featuring an aerodynamic design with a remote diagnostic system that facilitates predictive maintenance, the new generation of high-speed trains are expected to consume 20 per cent less energy compared with other high-speed trains.

With the expansion of rail manufacturing on the localisation front, high-speed rail presents the opportunity to create a long term sustainable pipeline of work throughout the country.

Alstom expects that a national approach to high-speed rail would provide a long-term pipeline of work for both existing and the newly established supply chains and those entering the rail industry for employment.

In essence, it means supplying rolling stock and infrastructure for high-speed rail is no longer highly dependent on imports, which could also have an impact on delivery.

The concept will also help to entice graduates looking at the potential of contributing to the transformation of rail in Australia.

“Alstom is always a strong and vocal advocate for high-speed rail and we hope that one day, high-speed rail will become a reality in Australia … and we would be delighted to be part of it,” Dupond said.

He said the other big benefit of attending AusRAIL was that it provided the chance to meet old and potential new clients.

“And there are also a lot of suppliers here, many of them with great innovations and good trinkets or ideas that we could use. AusRAIL is a showcase for these businesses who could end up as suppliers for us,” he said.

“The attendees can position themselves as good employers or employees.”

But perhaps Dupond’s biggest impression was made at the start of the conference, when he participated along with other industry leaders in a panel addressing challenges facing the industry, chief of which was the skills shortage.

Fourteen newly recruited TAFE students will work with Alstom and METRONET on WA’s new C-series railcars.

“The whole industry must work together to get more graduates into the industry,” he told delegates.

“We must collaborate to raise the profile of rail, starting from school. We must be able to explain to people about rail projects in full, how they work.

“We all steal from the same pool of recruits. It’s very inefficient if we all do our own thing.

“We may be competitors but we need to unite to get effective messaging across.”

Alstom’s commitment to recruitment is well-known. This year it received Top Employer Certification again, which recognises a company’s efforts to creating a better work environment and the excellence of its human resources policies and practices.

Its work on the new METRONET C-series railcar project is a good example of how its process helps the community and boosts Indigenous employment.

Fourteen newly recruited TAFE students will be part of the team, thanks to Alstom’s recently launched pre-employment program that gives students on-the-job training and experience for future employment opportunities on the railcar program.

Pascal Dupond presents the cheque to Nicole T Garofano.

T he training initiative is a first for Alstom and was developed in collaboration with the METRONET Gnarla Biddi  team and North Metropolitan TAFE to provide employment opportunities for young Aboriginal people.

Based at Alstom’s purpose-built railcar manufacturing facility in Bellevue, students will receive practical training while completing two Rail Infrastructure Entry Level Skill Sets that introduce them to electrical and mechanical topics.

At the end of the 10-week program, some students will be offered apprenticeships where they will work on the factory floor delivering the new C-series railcars.

As always, Alstom was the sponsor of the Yellow Dinner that wraps up the conference, attended by well over 1000 delegates this year.

Alstom donated $10,000 on behalf of all the guests as an opportunity to give back to the community instead of supplying attendees with a material gift.

AusRAIL chose Planet Ark for its efforts at providing positive environmental actions for everyone. Dupond presented the cheque to Dr Nicole T Garofano, Head of Circular Economy Development at the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation.