Q&A with Sandrine Gaubert, Network Development Strategy Manager for Keolis Downer and works along the network teams for both Yarra Trams and Keolis Downer Gold Coast, who recently spoke at the Light Rail 2015 Conference.
Informa Insights sat down with Sandrine to talk about her background and the recent renaissance in light rail networks around the world.
Can you tell us a little about your professional background and the path to your current role?
My involvement in public transport has spanned the last two decades in both Europe and Australia. I have worked in a range of roles from market intelligence and network design to director of networks in France.
Like many people who have been in the bid environment, it is hard to shake off once you have the experience. The excitement of the bid process has brought me to Australia, where I am now working in the business development team. My role particularly looks at network design, marketing and new tenders. I work alongside the network design teams within Yarra Trams and also Keolis Downer Gold Coast to understand how to optimise our transport and customer service offering to the needs of the customer.
This is a central tenant of the way Keolis Downer operates. We are focused on thinking like a passenger.
Can you tell us one or two of the major highlights of your tenure overseeing this network/project?
The focus on sector reform and network optimisation as well as new projects in Australia is a real highlight of the role. I have been focused on translating our experience from around 20 networks globally into the Australian environment.
It is always exciting bring together best practice with the local experience and industry capabilities in order to tailor a solution for a network. There is an incredible capacity within Australia’s light rail industry and a real desire to drive innovation and to deliver world class networks.
I think it is important to share knowledge and experience, and the ARA-Informa light rail conference provides an important platform for these conversations.
Are there any particular light rail transport networks you admire and why?
The Keolis Group is the world’s largest operator of light rail, so we have a tremendous network of experience to draw from. Over the past 15 years, we have launched on average more than one new light rail system or extension.
Each of these projects have a story and a challenge around designing an efficient new network. The Divia network in Dijon is particularly interesting. Since 2012, there has been a major investment in the transport network of the city, including two new light rail lines and the reorganisation of the city’s bus network. A new bike share system has also been introduced and striking new branding.
The results have been outstanding customer satisfaction results, with both tram vehicle and tram stop ratings above 99 per cent and patronage growth of 20 per cent between 2012 and 2013.
A public transport network is very much a part of the community in which it is based. As such, how does Keolis Downer/KDR Gold Coast ensure that it has a contemporary and relevant CSR program?
Light rail is as much an urban design solution as it is a transport network. Light rail shapes a city, and if partnered with other transport options like cycling, biking, walking and effective interchanges it can redefine the very fabric of the city’s culture.
We know this at Keolis Downer and we are committed to delivering light rail that understands the drivers of a population’s movement and seeks to deliver transport that matches their way of life. From the foundations of our network design, through our Keoscopie tool, we seek to understand the needs of the community and to build a public transport solution tailored to the needs of the community.
Our corporate social responsibility program is heavily focused on ensuring we deliver a true partnership with our customers and the community to deliver what really matters to them. Continued roll-out of easy to access customer information and low floor trams in Melbourne helps to ensure the public transport network is accessible to the community, especially those members of the community who need it most. This focus on the vulnerable and fragile in the community is very important, even for the way we target safety messages. We are only able to do this with cooperation from government and the public transport authority, and PTV has also made this a major focus.
Most recently we have made the delivery of green operations a priority. The commitment to green depots reduces our water and energy footprint as well as ensuring sustainable treatment of waste. This has meant more sustainable designs and operations for our new networks as well as retrofitting greener systems to our depots in Melbourne.
We also have a major focus on gender diversity. This is a priority from our top level, where four of five senior representatives are female, to the whole workforce where the number of women in the workforce is above the industry average.
In your opinion, to what do we owe the recent renaissance in light rail, evident in Australia and throughout the world?
The resurgence of light rail in Australia is the product of the convergence of a number of factors. The strength of the property sector, particularly around in-fill development and urban renewal is a real driver as established areas try to manage growth without compounding traffic congestion.
This is particularly important in Sydney, whether in the east or the west, traffic congestion is becoming a major issue that communities and government are coming to grips with. Increasingly traffic congestion is an issue for smaller cities like Dijon, Tours and Canberra. The result is we have seen a number of community campaigns calling for the introduction of light rail or supporting particular routes.
Light rail is also matched to modern lifestyles. People want to travel, whether commuting, catching up with friends for coffee or travelling to sporting events on the weekend. The need for flexible travel is growing as cities grow.
Unlike other modes of transport, light rail systems are also extremely open. This allows people to pass across the tracks and for the city to remain uncluttered. This is great for business and we have seen the positive impacts in Melbourne, the Gold Coast and our other projects across Europe.
A city with light rail can expect to have lower levels of congestion and to be cleaner. Light rail vehicle can carry up to 300 people, taking these people out of cars and removing these emissions. Well-designed light rail, can also operate extremely quietly. This reduces road noise and improves the streetscape.
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