Passenger Rail, Legal & Compliance, Operations & Maintenance, Social Governance

Adelaide Metro to return to public ownership

adelaide metro

The South Australian Government and Keolis Downer (KD) have reached an agreement which paves the way for the progressive return of the operation of the Adelaide Metro Passenger Rail Network (AMPRN) to public hands.

The agreement, signed on Sunday, sets the key principles under which the management of operations will be transferred to the state in January 2025.

The train system has been managed and run by Keolis Downer, a joint venture between the Downer Group and French transport company Keolis, since January 31, 2021, after it was awarded the $2.14 billion contract by the previous Liberal Government.

However, the current government had always been intent on reversing the privatisation of Adelaide’s train and tram networks, a promise it made while in opposition and maintained as part of its election platform.

After returning to power last year, the new Labor regime had quickly declared its intention to run a $1 million commission of inquiry to advise on returning public transport on light and heavy rail back into public ownership. But this was suspended after Keolis Downer agreed to work collaboratively with the Government.

The operator said the agreement was not reflective of the performance of Keolis Downer Adelaide (KDA) under its existing rail contract. It is recognised that KDA has been performing well since taking over the network.

KDA will continue to deliver asset management and maintenance for the AMPRN and customer services into the future.

Keolis Downer said it and the South Australian Government had partnered collaboratively since the start of operations of the rail services, but now the association would continue in a different form, aiming to maintain a high-performing network while delivering benefits to the local community.

Keolis Downer chief executive Julien Dehornoy as a public transport operator, the company’s objective would always be to partner with governments to provide services that are safe, performant and deliver a positive passenger experience.

“Our people are at the heart of the successful delivery of transport services, and we will ensure they are supported as we enter this new partnership,” he said.

The agreement outlines the principles for:

  • KDA to return operational functions for drivers, operations control, network and timetable planning to Government by January 31, 2025
  • The delivery of customer service and security management functions of Adelaide Metro to remain with Keolis Downer, returning to Government control in June 2027
  • Maintenance of fleet and infrastructure to continue to be managed by KDA to 2035
  • KDA to continue to provide expertise to Government around future innovation opportunities for customer services and the broader rail network.

Earlier in the week, SA transport minister Tom Koutsantonis said instead of delivering $118 million in savings, analysis had now shown that the privatisation would have instead cost taxpayers up to $120m over the contract’s potential 12-year life span.

This was because more than 100 rail staff who did not transition to the private sector when the deal was struck currently “remain unassigned” but on the public payroll, essentially being paid not to work.

Koutsantonis said the government had no intention of paying any termination and disengagement fees in the contract, which could have been as high as $94m.

He said he had met with senior Keolis Downer staff and believed it would act as “a good corporate citizen” and not pursue legal action.