Informa Transport, Passenger Rail

Collins: Customer experience will drive patronage

Sydney Train

Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins is set to speak at this year’s New Zealand Rail conference in Wellington. He sat down with Informa Transport to discuss Sydney Trains, the future, and the role rail can play in growing cities.

Howard, tell us a little about your background and how you came to your role at Sydney Trains.

I started as chief executive in the new organisation Sydney Trains in July 2013.

Previously I held the position of chief operating officer of the London Underground, having had a 35-year career with London transport, from front-line roles to major projects.

I also held part-time appointments with the British Transport Police, Pension Fund Trustee and London Transport – Heritage.

The theme of the conference this year is “Rail as the driving force behind economic growth”. What do you think this means for New Zealand?

We know that rail can be a driver of economic growth and productivity as it is an efficient and economical way to move people and freight.

Rail can also generate growth by facilitating new development and allowing access to markets – essentially improving the connectivity and accessibility of people to other people, opportunities, goods and services.

It’s all about “mobility”. I have seen many global cities and countries transform their “mobility” through sustained rail investment.

What are the major concerns for Sydney Trains this year and looking forward to 2016?

Our goal is to keep Sydney moving and our customers are at the centre of everything we do. We are focused on customer satisfaction, reducing travel times, improving punctuality and all the things that will help improve the customer experience and grow patronage.

In less than two years, customer satisfaction has improved 10% to 88%, so we know our customers are happier with safety, cleanliness, journey times, air-conditioning and improved connections.

Looking forward my concern is to maintain this trajectory of improved performance and to continue to adapt our organisation to meet the needs of our customers.

We are also making changes which will accommodate future passenger growth and ready our network for the not too distant future when new railways feed into the existing network.

In addition, whether we are in the public or private sector, creating greater efficiencies by reducing costs and improving revenue streams, are a key focus going forward.

What interested you in the conference?

The rail conference is the annual and primary forum for the rail industry to focus on the development and growth of rail operations.

Being held in New Zealand this year it is an opportune source of directly engaging with stakeholders such as rail industry leaders from Australia and New Zealand, government agencies (i.e. NZ Transport Agency and, NZ Ministry of Transport), rail customers and wider transport participants such as construction companies and major engineering project consultants.

New Zealand Rail will take place in Wellington, New Zealand, from June 4 to 5. Key speakers include:

  • The Hon Simon Bridges, Minister of Transport
  • Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland
  • Howard Collins, CEO, Sydney Trains
  • Peter Reidy, CEO, KiwiRail
  • Bryan Nye, CEO, ARA
  • Mayor Len Brown, Auckland Council
  • Philip Chalk, Director Asset Management & Maintenance, ANZ, Network Rail
  • Megan Drayton, Foundation Manager, TrackSAFE
  • Simon Wood, Associate Director, AECOM
  • Brent Efford, NZ Agent, Light Rail Transit Association
  • Anthony Eid, Operations Director, Sydney Trains
  • Noel Burton, Head Engineering NZ, Siemens Rail Automation
  • Ken Shirley, CEO, Road Transport Forum

View the full agenda and more information here.