Sydney Trains’ asset management journey

On any given weekday, more than 260,000 train journeys will be made across Sydney Trains’ rail network. This will result in 21,336 services operating by the end of each week, travelling on 961km of rail. Away from the hustle and bustle of customers, hundreds of Sydney Trains staff are out on the network busily making sure the organisation’s $35 billion worth of assets are running efficiently and safely.

In charge of the organisation’s asset management program is Executive Director for Engineering and Maintenance, Stewart Mills.

“We have a very extensive rail network that is around 160 years old, so we have our fair share of challenges to contend with,” Mr Mills said.

“When you’re managing the volume of assets we have, it’s essential the decision-making process is clear and precise. There’s very little room for mistakes but we’re very fortunate we have great people at Sydney Trains who make the managing of assets easier.”

“From engineers inspecting tracks, to technicians working on overhead cables and executive directors making multi-million dollar decisions, everyone has an important role to play to keep Sydney moving.”

It’s this commitment that has seen Sydney Trains become the first public sector organisation in Australia to gain accredited ISO 55001 certification for its asset management system.

The country’s busiest rail network has achieved certification against the ISO 55001, the international standard for Asset Management Systems.

“This is a significant milestone for us, and one we’re obviously very proud of,” Mr Mills said.

“We have a mandate from the NSW Government to ensure our asset management system is aligned with the International Standards Organisation (ISO) requirements, so it was always our plan to meet this obligation.

“But we didn’t want to just stop there. We knew we had the capability to do more while meeting requirements.

“Achieving an internationally-recognised certification like the ISO 55001 is confirmation that we made the right decision when we started down this path three years ago.

“It means our customers and our stakeholders can be reassured that we have what it takes to deliver a world class service that’s safe and reliable.”

Implementing an asset management system

The ISO 55001 certification is a result of a number of steps Sydney Trains took when it began the process in February 2014, soon after ISO released the standard for asset management.

The completion of an internal self-assessment was the first step on the journey followed by a gap analysis conducted by an external party.

This led to the development of a program of activities involving various parts of Sydney Trains, including the development of a new asset management policy and framework.

A Strategic Asset Management Plan (SAMP) followed where 25 objectives were identified as outcomes for the organisation to focus on.

Existing processes and documents were reviewed and updated, and new processes and tools developed to provide a clearer line of sight between the objectives and the activities undertaken.

“The system we have developed will help us build our capabilities and will play a critical role in our ability to manage safely and efficiently more than 1,650km of rail track, another 1,500km of overhead wiring and 308 train stations across NSW,” Mr Mills said.

“We’re now able to clearly link what we need to achieve from our assets with the work we do on the ground through a greater focus on decision-making that balances costs, risks, opportunities and performance.”

He points to work recently completed at the Cooks River underbridge as an example of how the asset management system is used.

The timber beams running across the underbridge needed to be replaced.

“Using all the tools we now have, we were able to come up with the most suitable and cost-effective solution that aligned with our corporate and asset management objectives.

“The work that’s been done to this section of our rail network means we have improved the bridge’s resilience and performance, and save on maintenance costs.”

Benefits of an ISO 55001 certification

For the average traveller, the ISO 55001 certification may not mean much, which is fine with Mr Mills.

“If our customers get to their destinations in the easiest and most timely manner, then we are doing our job. We can reassure them that by complying with the requirements of ISO 55001, we are taking their safety very seriously.”

Mr Mills said another area that’s benefited from an improved asset management system has been around the reliability of services.

“We have done a lot of work in this area particularly with our signals through the upgrading and modifying of key components such as track turnouts, signals and track circuits.

“This has resulted in the reduction of repeat failures by 27 per cent in the last year. Signal failures causing train delays of more than five minutes has also dropped by nine per cent.”

A changing landscape

Impressive as it is in being awarded the ISO 55001 certification, Mr Mills said Sydney Trains is aware it cannot rest on its laurels.

“This is just the beginning for us. Our task now is to make sure the Asset Management System is well embedded in Sydney Trains’ DNA and to continuously improve the way we work. With a workforce of more than 10,000 employees, it is also the biggest organisation in Australia and New Zealand to achieve ISO 55001 accredited certification.

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