AUSTRALIA: 'The biggest shake up to the state's railways in a generation' was announced by New South Wales Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian on May 15.

The 'Fixing the Trains' initiative will see RailCorp replaced by two new organisations over the next 12 to 18 months. Sydney Trains is to be created to take over suburban services, while NSW Trains would operate long-distance inter-city and regional trains. The government hopes the new organisations will be better placed to tailor services to meet different customer needs. 'RailCorp has tried to be everything to everyone and failed', said Berejiklian.

A new Customer Service Division is to be created from July 1, while responsibility for construction and major projects will be transferred to Transport for NSW, which was created last year with responsibility for policy and planning. Around 750 RailCorp middle-management jobs are to go through voluntary redundancies. Train cleaning procedures will be revised to eliminate legacy working practices, with 870 staff transferring to a specialist unit and 'commercial' benchmarks introduced.

The government is predicting that patronage on its rail services will grow by 50% over the next 25 years, and says meeting this demand would be 'unsustainable without reform'. It claims RailCorp's operating costs are 50% higher per passenger-km than comparable international systems, with rolling stock maintenance costs 30% higher per vehicle-km. 'RailCorp is currently financially unsustainable', said Berejiklian. 'It costs A$10m a day to run, with costs rising three times as fast as the number of passenger journeys.'

Restructuring aims 'to give the people of NSW the world-class rail system they deserve', said Berejiklian. 'This is all about making customers the focus of the railways, not the bureaucracy. These changes will align rail services to customers' needs and make it easier for rail employees to do their job. Unless we take drastic action, things will continue to get worse'.

Berejiklian said more changes are planned, but privatisation 'is not our policy.'