Contracts and Projects, Light Rail, Operations and Maintenance, Passenger Care and Comfort, Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand)

Transdev keeping cities on the move



With the Transdev global transport network making about 10 million trips a day, its local focus on “brilliant basics” is delivering for customers and clients.

Sydney’s love affair with trams is a shining example of how light rail can keep cities moving.

The network currently consists of three passenger routes – the L1 Dulwich Hill, L2 Randwick and L3 Kingsford lines – with a fourth, the 12 km Parramatta Light Rail in Sydney’s west, currently under construction and planned to open in 2024.

The day-to-day operations of the entire Sydney light rail network is managed safely and efficiently by Transdev, on behalf of Transport for NSW.

Part of the ALTRAC Light Rail consortium, the operator has literally been in the driver’s seat for Sydney trams since inception, and until at least 2036.

Transdev is a French-based global mobility company which runs public transport all around the world, making almost 10 million trips a day across 19 countries.

Rail Express spoke to the head of Transdev’s Australian and New Zealand business, Brian Brennan, about what makes the company tick and its growing reach in the region.

Brian Brennan.

In his current role as Chief Executive Officer since April, Brennan is a Transdev veteran, having been with the company for 23 years in three different countries.

“At Transdev, we’re Journey Makers – people moving people,” he said.

“Transdev has roughly about 100,000 people globally, on 16 different transport modes, from bus, train, tram to cable car.

“We run all public transport modes – the only thing we don’t do, is fly airplanes.

“We are an absolute leader in light rail running 15 tram networks in eight countries now. And we’ve got two more tram networks coming up with Parramatta and also an extensive line being built in Ontario, Canada, with construction due to end in 2024.

“Locally, we’ve got a big footprint in Australia and New Zealand. We employ more than 4400 people and have a big multimodal presence with our operations here spanning buses, trains, trams and ferries.”

Brennan said Sydney Light Rail had gone from strength to strength since its evolution from the decommissioned Sydney Monorail almost three decades ago.

The network’s original passenger route, the L1 Dulwich Hill line, first commenced in August 1997, but it wasn’t until 2019 that lines 2 and 3 were opened, just as COVID was rearing its head, forcing travel restrictions.

“Transdev’s success as a light rail operator here has been due to the great collaboration we have between us and our partners: Transport for NSW, tram maker Alstom and ALTRAC Light Rail,” he said.

“We’re focused on the brilliant basics including day-to-day operational safety, our focus on customer service, caring and developing our people, seeking labour harmony and supporting our diverse communities.

“Passengers on the light rail lines have skyrocketed with an increase of almost 50 per cent during the last 12 months, a major turnaround from a nose dive in patronage during the worst of the pandemic.

“February was the first time we we’ve carried more than three million passengers in the month. And in September, the Sydney network recorded its highest levels of patronage to date with about 3.7 million passengers choosing to travel on the light rail.

“It’s really exciting that our trams are the first choice for so many. It’s easy, reliable, frequent, cost-effective and we run them well.

“Having integrated ticketing here in Sydney also helps in terms of crowd management for events and it’s been a real success story.”

Brennan had no doubts about the growing effectiveness of the network in transporting people around quickly and conveniently.

“There’s been a massive improvement in terms of journey time since it opened. It’s come from end-to-end travel times of above 50 minutes down to about 32 to 33 minutes consistently,” he said.

“We’ve also been able to upgrade our infrastructure in record times to run mixed CAF and Alstom vehicles on the L1 which has built trust in our asset management.

“Even when a cracking issue emerged, it was expected to shut Line 1 to passengers for up to 18 months, but thanks to our partnership approach, we had services back in 100 days.

“Most importantly now, people can rely on Sydney trams. People can plan their lives around it. It’s a turn-up-and-go service. People love using light rail.

“The popularity of light rail has been reflected in the increased frequencies put in place by Transport for NSW.

“And Transdev and ALTRAC love helping move people around. We are truly Journey Makers at the heart of everything that we do.”

Brennan said four new trams would come into operation in January, further enhancing peak service frequency.

“We have 60 Alstom Citadis trams, which now travel around Sydney, and we have the capacity to run about 64 to 70,” he said.

“We’re really able to shift people very, very positively and quickly.”


•Record patronage 3.7 million trips in September
•94 per cent customer satisfaction levels
•99.67 per cent service availability for September
•97.12 per cent on-time running for September
•91.08 per cent headway compliance for September


Transdev has made its mark across the Tasman as well, with the company utilising its global experience in heavy rail for New Zealand’s capital Wellington.

Transdev Wellington began operating the passenger rail network on behalf of the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) in 2016, running five regional lines around the city on a network of 154 kilometres of tracks with 49 stations.

In conjunction with Hyundai Rotem, Transdev will continue to run Wellington trains through until 2031 after recently retaining the contract for the metro passenger rail service.

“Wellington is a city on the move and our local team has been very engaged and worked hard to improve the train network on all fronts since Transdev came on board in 2016,” Brennan said.

“From the outset, Transdev set up a control centre with a dedicated area for service monitoring and track control, in direct contact with the safety team.

“The contract extension reflects our commitment to support the Wellington public transport authority, Metlink, in delivering rail reliability and improved customer service.

“The Greater Wellington Regional Council is a very good client to work with. And quite forward thinking in what we’re trying to do.”

•Lifting average punctuality from 91.8per cent (2012-2015) to 96.8 per cent (2019- 2023)
•Increasing service reliability from an average of 94.9 per cent (2012-2015)to 99.2 per cent (2019-2023)
•Improving the average distance between train failures for the fleet, increasing from an average of46,000km (2012-2015) to 85,800km(2019-2023) and train availability of 100 per cent (for 2022-2023)


Brennan said Transdev was also firmly committed to sustainability.

“Transdev aims for a 30 per cent reduction of emissions by 2030, and we plan to drive and be part of the climate solution rather than the problem,” he said.

Electric-powered light rail obviously lessens the carbon footprint and produces less noise than other transit modes, especially for the equivalent car traffic.

With this in mind, Transdev is constantly on the lookout for new public transport opportunities, including light rail.

In New Zealand, Transdev says its excited to support government in any future light rail or rapid transit opportunities.

Transdev is passionate about developing a workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities in which it works.


Brennan said Transdev’s philosophy for success revolved around maintaining a laser focus on improving business for customers, clients and its people.

“We call it ‘brilliant basics’. Our mantra for operations is to really deliver on the things that matter to people,” he said.

“Being safe, reliable, on-time, offering great customer service, looking after our people, collaborating with multiple unions and in addition to that, always doing the right thing by the customer, even if it makes it harder for us.

“We’re also investing in our own people. This year alone we’ve had 140 people who’ve gone through frontline leadership training right across Australia and New Zealand.

“That’s a big number. We’re trying to change the culture and the framework so our frontline managers are better equipped and confident to continue to do their jobs well and keep things running smoothly.

“As well, we’ve just been awarded a NSW Training Award, for our work with training and investing in our people and apprentices, and that award is across the all sectors, not just transport.

“Transdev is also passionate about developing a workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities in which we work.

“We back our people right through the completion of their apprenticeships and traineeships and have developed strategic partnerships with organisations that can help and mentor people who may need extra support in the work environment.

“We also want to develop a learning and development culture.

“So since I’ve taken over, we’ve had 16 of our senior members go through a growth mindset course, looking at motivation, intelligence, resilience, accountability and some of the evidence of how we’re achieving our goals.

“Transdev, like any transport company, is on a journey, but at the end of the day, we’re really investing in our people to ensure we deliver the best for our customers and clients.”