Sydney Metro Northwest – Operations, Trains and Systems PPP

NSW - Sydney Metro Northwest OTS PPP.jpg
NSW - Sydney Metro Northwest OTS PPP.jpg


  • Sydney Metro Northwest is Australia’s first fully automated driverless metro railway. A 36 km link servicing Sydney’s north-west, it includes eight new railway stations and an upgrade to five existing stations. The Operations, Trains and Systems (OTS) component of the project was delivered under a PPP contract.


  • Typically, infrastructure procurement decisions primarily focus on the construction phase at the expense of a whole-of-life approach. This frequently results in increased lifecycle cost and risks, poorer performance during the operations phase, less consideration of customer outcomes, and a lack of scope for bids to incorporate innovative solutions outside of those that reduce upfront cost.


  • The PPP procurement model adopted by the NSW Government for the OTS component of Sydney Metro Northwest focused on customer outcomes and used an output specification over the more traditional focus on the construction phase. This enabled bidders to incorporate innovative solutions into their proposals that had a whole-of-life focus.
  • In the case of Sydney Metro, the government reference design sought 8-car trains with five-minute headways. The successful consortium, Northwest Rapid Transit (NRT), proposed 6-car trains operating at four-minute headway during peak hours, while future proofing for 8-car trains. The proposal delivered the required output capacity (in terms of passengers per hour per direction) and an improved frequency for customers.


  • Transport for NSW
  • Sydney Metro
  • NRT, comprising:
    • Equity Investors - MTR Corporation, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Marubeni Corporation, Plenary Group, and Pacific Partnerships
    • Delivery consortium – MTR, John Holland, CPB Contractors, and UGL Rail Joint Venture.


  • December 2012 – Expressions of Interest for the OTS PPP invited
  • April 2013 – Two shortlisted consortia invited to submit a proposal
  • June 2014 – Preferred bidder announced
  • September 2014 – Financial Close of OTS PPP contract
  • May 2019 – Construction Completion
  • November 2019 – 11 million customer journeys across Metro Northwest since opening.

Results / impact

  • NRT’s proposal enabled fewer carriages to be acquired overall while still delivering the required level of service and having the same passenger throughput, as well as improved customer satisfaction and reduced upfront capital expenditure and ongoing maintenance costs.

Key lessons learnt

  • Considering the operations and maintenance of an asset in the design and procurement phase optimises the project’s whole-of-life costs and customer outcomes by encouraging a long-term view.
  • Using procurement models that focus on output specifications ensures a focus on whole-of-life and customer considerations by the contractor that are accounted for in tender evaluations, providing room for bidders to propose innovative solutions that meet the government’s requirements.
Last Updated: 28 November 2021