Get rail network “back on track”
3 July 2008
Get rail network “back on track” by contracting out maintenance work
The best way to rectify New Zealand’s ailing rail network is to contract out maintenance work and let Ontrack staff focus on managing the rail asset to provide a sustainable level of service, Roading New Zealand chief executive Chris Olsen says.
Mr Olsen was commenting on a damning report released by the Auditor-General this week into planning and maintenance programmes by Ontrack, the government agency which has run the network since the Government bought back the tracks in 2004.
“The best way to get the country’s railway network back on track is to take the physical maintenance work off the hands of Ontrack. The Auditor-General’s report states the agency isn’t managing day-to-day maintenance, let alone planning for the future,” Mr Olsen says.
The report also raised concerns that Ontrack may not be meeting specified work standards, and that it did not have effective systems in place to demonstrate that plans and procedures for managing day-to-day work were being followed.
“Ontrack’s problems coping with the required level of maintenance could create further problems down the track.”
Mr Olsen says it is ironic that Ontrack decided in 2005 to decline bids from three major contractors to carry out the work on a performance basis. These contractors had the expertise and capacity to do the job, and they had the very latest management systems and experience to ensure it was done.
Mr Olsen says that using contractors to carry out track maintenance work will provide the opportunity for Ontrack to focus on becoming an established infrastructure manager.
Legislation has required the roading sector to use this model since the early 1990s. It recognises that the skills required to run a workforce are different to those required to set up condition databases and policy for managing an infrastructure asset to sustainable levels of service.
This approach has been one of the factors responsible for producing huge efficiencies in the roading sector and for enabling Transit NZ and local authorities to become world leaders in infrastructure asset management.