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Sydney Trains is suffering almost two serious IT incidents a day following a bungled $425 million technology overhaul by the state’s main transport agency, placing the rail network at greater risk, confidential documents reveal.
And the rail operator’s management has been so concerned about Transport for NSW’s ability to deliver IT services that it commissioned consultants at a cost of $396,000 to carry out an independent review to find gaps and recommend fixes.
In a sign of the strained relationship between the two agencies, one option is for Sydney Trains to “back out of the current arrangement” with Transport for NSW, which the independent review says will put the rail operator “in charge of their own destiny”.
The confidential reports and briefing notes, obtained by the Herald using freedom of information laws, reveal high-level concerns at Sydney Trains about the attempt to centralise IT services under the $425 million project dubbed “Making IT Work For You”.
“We continue to experience major incidents as a result of the infrastructure and IT services provided by Transport for NSW,” a briefing note in November to a senior Sydney Trains executive says.
“The operational stability of Sydney Trains’ IT business systems is an ongoing concern.”
Sydney Trains suffered an average of one-and-a-half serious technology-related incidents each day in the 16 months to December. Those incidents can cause problems to operations ranging from maintenance programs to communications and reservations.
Last Thursday, one of the computer systems that manages the train fleet suffered a partial outage across the state. A problem with the “fleet allocation and recording system” risked compromising maintenance, creating a potential safety issue.
While the impact of many IT incidents is not felt directly by passengers, the frequency of the outages is worrying as they indicate a technology system under stress.
And the independent review by PricewaterhouseCoopers for Sydney Trains, completed this month, reveals “high severity ... incidents are running high with ongoing critical daily challenges experienced” and warns of “moderate to significant risk” to the rail operator.
“The ongoing efficiency, reliability and scalability of [Sydney Trains’] applications will almost certainly be impaired,” the PwC reports says.
“Our analysis suggests moderate to significant risk to [Sydney Trains] relating to ICT services delivered. Service levels are incomplete [and] services do not appear reliable.”
The PwC report, obtained using freedom of information laws, raises significant concerns about the impact of the troubled IT upgrade on Sydney Trains.
The confidential PwC report estimates the cost of the fixes at about $125 million over three years “just to service [Sydney Trains’] current and future requirements”.
However, it warns that few of the fixes will be “quick wins” and are likely to be medium to high risk.
The report identified three options: a Sydney Trains “back-out of the current arrangement” with Transport for NSW; a “hybrid” solution; and a continuation of the present strategy.
The report’s proposed “next steps” are for Sydney Trains to consider taking “ownership and accountability themselves” for IT infrastructure services delivered to it, and treat Transport for NSW as a “contractual infrastructure provider”.
It also recommends a combined taskforce of Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW be set up and made accountable for “rapidly reducing the risk to [Sydney Trains] applications”.
The Herald recently revealed a confidential report that painted a worrying picture of the state of IT systems at Transport for NSW and the agencies which fall under its control including Sydney Trains, bus operator State Transit and Roads and Maritime Services.
The report by consultants Third Horizon, completed in February, found only one-third of the end-user goals of Transport for NSW’s across-agency IT upgrade had been completed despite it burning through four-fifths of its $425 million budget since it began five years ago.
And the report warned that the declining credibility of Transport for NSW’s IT service delivery will dent the willingness of transport agencies to support centralising IT. The “Making IT Work For You” program has had eight program directors over the past five years, and fell under the oversight of Tim Catley until early this year when he left his role as Transport for NSW’s chief information officer to become the information chief at Peter Dutton’s new Home Affairs super ministry.
Sydney Trains said in a statement that the IT incidents “primarily impact our back-office systems”, which were “largely segregated from our operational technology”.
“Our network is safe, and there are a number of safeguards in place to ensure IT outages do not impact our network,” it said.
Transport for NSW said it was working with Sydney Trains to decide which recommendations from the PwC report would be implemented.
“Our network is safe and we have business continuity plans in place if an IT incident happens,” it said in a statement. “Transport for NSW continues to provide infrastructure and enterprise application services to the transport cluster, including Sydney Trains.”
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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