Sydney’s population is booming, and to cater for the increasing demand that will inevitably be placed on the public transport system, Sydney Trains is improving its services and efficiencies. Chief Executive Howard Collins, who has 38 years of experience working for London Transport and joined Sydney Trains three years ago, spoke to The CEO Magazine about the organisation’s achievements so far, the building of a Rail Operations Centre, and the importance of robust partnerships.

The CEO Magazine: Since taking on the executive role with Sydney Trains, what have been your biggest highlights?

Howard: The feedback I regularly receive has been very positive. People tell me that their train journeys have changed and that they are much more reliable; that the stations are cleaner and the staff are more vocal, visible, and customer friendly.

Just last month, Sydney Trains scored a Customer Scorecard result of 90 per cent in terms of overall satisfaction. This is 12 per cent up in the last three years. I believe it is important to get the basics like this right first, and then you have a great foundation to build even better things upon.

We are getting guards to make great announcements—there are still some days when I have to quietly suggest that they speak at half the speed and twice as loud, but it’s improving. Hearing announcements like this one from the other day is fantastic: “Please put your iPads and iPhones down and look out of the window as we go over the Sydney Harbour Bridge: you’ve got the best view in the world. And by the way, the next station is Wynyard.” I thought that was a great personal announcement, and I think generally I’ve been surprised at how proactive and pre-emptive the staff have been at embracing that customer service model that we’ve created and have been focusing on.

There are now more customer-facing service hours than ever before, despite the fact we’ve found significant efficiencies in the number of station staff. The station staff are talking to customers more than ever before—we’ve encouraged them to step out of their offices, and have stopped them from selling bits of cardboard, which is what they had been doing since 1855. We have this great product that has been tried and tested in the UK called the Opal card which people are raving about.