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Transport for NSW customer stewardship exemplar

Breakthrough culture moves NSW forward

The Better Infrastructure Initiative identified eight industry exemplars who represent what good customer stewardship looks like and how it is being practiced in Australia. Transport for NSW is one of those 2017 exemplars.

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) is the lead agency of the NSW Transport cluster. It is responsible for strategy, planning, policy, regulation, funding allocation and integration of service delivery for all modes of transport in NSW including road, rail, ferry, light rail, point to point, regional air, cycling and walking.

Since its creation in 2011, there has been strong annual public transport patronage (up over 25 percent), matched with a significant uplift in customer satisfaction with public transport (up 10 percent). The organisation has and is continuing to go through extraordinary change that fits well with a broad range of customer stewardship principles, particularly in respect of customer-centred design (Principle 5), stakeholder management (Principle 3) and innovation (Principle 8).

Opal card: a gateway to efficiency and new customer opportunity

Opal cards are smartcard tickets used to pay for travel on all forms of public transport in Sydney. Whilst smartcard ticketing systems are now used in public transport systems around the world, their adoption requires a significant cultural step change for customers, which can complicate transition. However in Sydney there has been widespread acceptance and rapid adoption of the Opal card, reflecting a staged, sensitive roll out of the technology with all the key groups, particularly the aged. At each step, TfNSW engaged with customers to understand how to help them make the transition.

Beyond the simple act of customers being able to add money to a card then tap on and off wherever they travel on Sydney’s public transport network, Opal has opened up a rich set of opportunities where TfNSW can deploy emerging technology to the benefit of customer and stakeholders. That is where data, analytics and innovation can be fused together to better connect communities, transform service delivery and personalise mobility services for customers.

TfNSW also continues to innovate with credit cards now being trialled as an alternative form of contactless payment for travel on public transport. A test and learn approach is being taken starting with a pilot deployment on the Opal gates on Sydney Ferries service between Manly and Circular Quay to build an understanding of customer reactions and needs. This exemplifies the opportunity to leverage existing infrastructure to deliver customers benefits by co-designing solutions with them.

Open data, powering an innovation ecosystem

Delivering better transport and customer outcomes increasingly depends on TfNSW being at the forefront of applying new and emerging technologies. This process is driven by a vision that transport needs to become a technology business.

A key to delivering this vision is the way open data can harness the benefit of third party products. For example since the launch of TfNSW’s Open Data Hub there has been a dramatic expansion of third party real time apps, where visualisations and dashboards have been effective in conveying information to customers, and providing a finer resolution of detail. The real time bus occupancy data has been closely associated with improved customer outcomes because it gives more timely information and more choice for customers.

The Open Data Hub and Developer Portal resulted in an accelerated delivery program of just four months to launch in April 2016. Since the launch there has been a consistent increase with current users exceeding 5100. New registered applications and application programming interface (API) hits show an escalating demand for transport data. There are 400 real time APIs and data sets accessed over 609 million times since the launch, demonstrating the high demand for this data, including targeted innovation for improved outcomes for customers with accessibility needs.

A breakthrough mindset

Cultural change is an essential ingredient when embracing customer stewardship. TfNSW has demonstrated a clear minded and persistent approach to transforming its culture that is anchored around the following five behaviours collectively described as engendering a ‘breakthrough mindset’. These are:

  1. Sharper focus on outcomes
  2. Accelerated decision-making
  3. Calculated risk taking
  4. Intervention to remove barriers to progress
  5. Active sponsorship of technology enabled initiatives.

Their cumulative effect is to ensure TfNSW is more adept and agile to current needs of customers while being strategic and forward-looking about future opportunities to secure long-term customer loyalty (Principle 5). This position is well evidenced in the Technology Roadmap where TfNSW developed a range of scenarios with respect to the future of technology enabled public transport.

Importantly, TfNSW concluded from this planning that it cannot predict the technology winner and that a flexible strategic framework is necessary in order to adapt depending on how technologies evolve and how customer behaviours change. TfNSW has developed multiple strategies to personalise transport by:

  • integrating the digital platforms customers use to plan, navigate, pay and engage; and by customising their interactions
  • automating the mass transit network backbone, to reduce journey time, enhance service delivery and cut costs
  • fostering shared and demand-responsive services, particularly for first-mile, last-mile and local connections that lie between car-based point-to-point services and regular bus services
  • enabling connected and automated vehicles (CAV). Trials are critical to help understand how people react and respond to this technology and identify the regulatory and network changes needed
  • creating a transport data science hotspot that enables intelligent network management and service delivery by using the Open Data platform, and engaging with digital entrepreneurs and industry partners to rapidly develop Proofs-of-Concept using big data, analytics and artificial intelligence.

TfNSW has amply demonstrated that customer stewardship done well demands a long-term vision and program of change that enhances the quality of interaction with customers and stakeholders. Breaking down traditional silos and ensuring an integrated transport network is well advanced, but these endeavours are generally always work in progress. Despite the uncertainties of the future, TfNSW can confidently rely on its customer stewardship achievements to continue pushing the boundaries of good practice that will be beneficial to NSW and the national economy.

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Image courtesy of Transport for NSW.