As part of Syd­ney Metro’s upgrade, CDC New South Wales worked closely with Vol­gren and Volvo to de­liver over 60 buses in just 140 days. In­ten­sive plan­ning, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and process ef­fi­ciency all came to­gether to achieve an im­pres­sive re­sult.


It’s amaz­ing what the Aus­tralasian bus in­dus­try can achieve – es­pe­cially when up against it and with great part­ners. Vol­gren, Volvo and CDC NSW tackle the Syd­ney Sta­tion Link project … fast! Jonathan Rivett and Cameron Dono­van re­port.

THE SYD­NEY METRO may seem like a rail project – in fact, it’s been de­scribed as the largest in Aus­tralia – but when works be­gan in earnest at the end of Septem­ber, 2018, buses played an in­te­gral part.

The fi­nal ma­jor stage of the Syd­ney Metro North­west project in­volves up­grades to a section of rail in the city’s north-west. Cur­rently, the line be­tween Ep­ping and Chatswood has been closed and buses will re­place those trains for more than half a year. They are do­ing so now...

Trans­port for NSW re­quired more than 120 brand new buses to make cer­tain Syd­ney com­muters could get to where they needed to go, the gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion says. The con­tract was of­fered to a joint ven­ture formed be­tween two bus op­er­a­tors: Trans­dev and CDC. CDC New South Wales was ob­li­gated to pro­vide half of the re­quired fleet.

Group engi­neer­ing man­ager for CDC in New South Wales, Michael Sa­radetch, ad­mits it was a sig­nif­i­cant task, but never one that felt un­man­age­able.

“There cer­tainly were points dur­ing the project where all our re­sources were stretched across the board, but we planned for those crit­i­cal times when ev­ery­one had to be ‘all hands on deck’, There was a good com­bi­na­tion of very thor­ough plan­ning and highly com­pe­tent peo­ple through­out the en­tire sup­ply chain. As such, there were re­ally no ma­jor sur­prises that oc­curred dur­ing the build and de­liv­ery phases,” Sa­radetch said.

Those “com­pe­tent peo­ple” came from CDC, but also from the com­pany’s two ma­jor part­ners in the project: chas­sis man­u­fac­turer Volvo and body man­u­fac­turer Vol­gren.


“In a project such as this you have ef­fec­tively un­move­able dead­lines. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, you

have to re­move the un­knowns – as many as you can. An un­known would be try­ing out an en­tirely dif­fer­ent chas­sis or body, for ex­am­ple. I didn’t want to em­bark on a prod­uct where there were too many first- of-a-kinds,” he ex­plained.

This, Sa­radetch says, is why CDC chose the Volvo B7-Vol­gren Op­ti­mus com­bi­na­tion.

“The key fun­da­men­tal we looked for in the pur­chase was a track record for punc­tu­al­ity of de­liv­ery. And the other con­sid­er­a­tion that led to [the se­lec­tion] was our pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of prod­uct up­time, [which is] ef­fec­tively a mea­sure of re­li­a­bil­ity.”

Gen­eral man­ager at Volvo Buses Aus­tralia Lau­ren Downs says re­li­a­bil­ity comes in part from decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in the Aus­tralian mar­ket, but also from the com­pany’s op­er­a­tions to­day.

“We have the largest ded­i­cated ma­jor ac­counts team in the in­dus­try and this proved in­te­gral to the de­liv­ery of this project. Very early on [in this project] – long be­fore any of the chas­sis ar­rived here – we held a num­ber of con­tract plan­ning meet­ings to en­sure we were ready to han­dle the load,” Downs said.

I didn’t want too many firstof-a-kinds. This is why CDC chose the Volvo B7-Vol­gren Op­ti­mus com­bi­na­tion.


The crit­i­cal im­por­tance of col­lab­o­ra­tive prepa­ra­tion is a re­peated theme in this project. Sa­radetch talks about ‘thor­ough plan­ning’. Downs de­scribes the value of con­stant and of­ten daily com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­volv­ing

all three ma­jor part­ners – some­thing that wouldn’t have been nec­es­sary dur­ing a less-in­ten­sive fleet de­liv­ery con­tract. And Vol­gren CEO Peter Dale says the un­usu­ally large vol­ume re­quired in the un­usu­ally short time­frame meant de­tailed or­gan­i­sa­tion was es­sen­tial.

“We had to re­think tra­di­tional

for de­liv­ery. CDC, Volvo and Vol­gren worked to­gether to utilise all of their fa­cil­i­ties and re­sources across two states, en­sur­ing there was a pipe­line full of buses,” Dale said.

All of Vol­gren’s man­u­fac­tur­ing took place at its head­quar­ters in the Mel­bourne sub­urb of Dan­de­nong. Both CDC NSW and Volvo Buses Aus­tralia pro­vided ded­i­cated team mem­bers to col­lab­o­rate with the bus body builder in Vic­to­ria.

Downs says Volvo de­ployed a full-time qual­ity and de­liv­ery co­or­di­na­tor, based in Mel­bourne, who worked closely with Vol­gren, CDC, Volvo’s dealer (the CMV Group in Mel­bourne) and the Volvo Buses ma­jor ac­counts team in Syd­ney.

“He was ded­i­cated to the [fleet de­liv­ery] con­tract and, along with other key staff mem­bers and our part­ners at CMV, acted as the main com­mu­ni­ca­tor be­tween the dif­fer­ent par­ties and stake­hold­ers. He also worked closely with CDC’s en­gi­neer, who came down to Mel­bourne reg­u­larly, to carry out in­spec­tions,” Downs ex­plained.

CDC’s Sa­radetch says that in­spec­tion process, which took place al­most the mo­ment a bus came off the line, was as much about min­imis­ing con­ges­tion as it was about qual­ity as­sur­ance. It also gave CDC a chance to see

Sixty ve­hi­cles in 140 days – that’s def­i­nitely a phe­nom­e­nal ef­fort.

the Vol­gren team in ac­tion.

“We had the op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve Vol­gren’s com­mit­ment on two fronts. One was their ef­forts to­wards de­fect min­imi­sa­tion. The buses were pretty much com­ing out close to per­fect. We also got to see, first-hand, Vol­gren’s ap­pli­ca­tion of ‘ lean prin­ci­ples’ along the pro­duc­tion line,” he said.

The fleet con­tract in­volved de­liv­ery of an av­er­age of four buses per week and, at times, CDC NSW was ac­cept­ing a bus every day. Vol­gren, for its part, in­creased its out­put to 2.5 buses per day and needed to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease its re­sourc­ing at the Dan­de­nong fac­tory to meet the de­mand.


The care­ful plan­ning, the fre­quent, open and trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and the strict ad­her­ence to pro­ce­dure, it seems, paid off.

Well be­fore the Septem­ber 30 deadline the 62 Volvo-Vol­gren buses were de­liv­ered on time and on-- bud­get to com­prise 50 per cent of the re­quired fleet. They were de­liv­ered ahead of sched­ule to the cus­tom-built tem­po­rary de­pot in Camel­lia, NSW, for the project.

The buses, to­gether with the Trans­dev-Bustech fleet, will serve the Sta­tion Link project and run as re­place­ments for trains until the line be­tween Ep­ping and Chatswood has been con­verted to Metro-stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Sta­tion Link ser­vices are high-fre­quency, turn-up-and- go ser­vices that will keep the Mac­quarie Park precinct mov­ing for around seven months while three train sta­tions

be­tween Ep­ping and Chatswood are closed for Syd­ney Metro up­grades.

Gen­eral man­ager of the joint ven­ture Tony Ralph says the suc­cess­ful de­liv­ery of the fleet is cru­cial to the project.

“Peo­ple af­fected by the clo­sure will jump on board these buses for a high­qual­ity al­ter­na­tive trans­port op­tion,” said Ralph.

Trans­port for NSW co­or­di­na­tor- gen­eral Marg Pren­der­gast says they’ve been work­ing hard with lo­cal busi­nesses, res­i­dents and Mac­quarie Uni­ver­sity to help keep cus­tomers mov­ing in the area.

“Cus­tomers trav­el­ling in and around the Mac­quarie Park precinct have ac­cess to Sta­tion Link buses that con­nect them to sta­tions be­tween Ep­ping and Chatswood every six min­utes dur­ing the peak – that’s more than 110 ser­vices per hour in the busiest parts of the day!” she said.

Once rail is back up and run­ning again, the new buses will be re­de­ployed. They’ll re­main in New South Wales, although not many will stay in Syd­ney, Sa­radetch con­firms.

“Most of the buses will go to the Hunter Val­ley and the Blue Moun­tains and they’ll be re­place­ments for the old­est buses within those fleets. It will

…all our re­sources were stretched across the board.

give the com­mu­ni­ties that we serve in those re­gions sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved ac­cess to wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble and en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly buses,” he said.

Volvo Buses’ Downs says it wasn’t re­ally until af­ter the project con­cluded that she sat and re­flected on the sheer size of the project and what all par­ties have achieved to­gether in such a lim­ited time.

“Sixty ve­hi­cles in 140 days – that’s def­i­nitely a phe­nom­e­nal ef­fort by all in­volved!” she ex­claimed. “In­cred­i­ble things can hap­pen when ded­i­cated, pro­fes­sional and hard­work­ing teams – CDC, Volvo, Vol­gren and Trans­port for New South Wales – work closely to­gether with the one com­mon goal.”

Above: One of the Syd­ney Metro’s new tun­nels. Right: Group engi­neer­ing man­ager for CDC NSW Michael Sa­radetch; In­side and ‘at the helm’.

Be­low:TV le­gend Lee Lin Chin in a re­cent Trans­port for NSW ad cam­paign.

Be­low: Vol­gren CEO Peter Dale.

Above: Lau­ren Downs, gen­eral man­ager at Volvo Buses Aus­tralia. Op­po­site:An im­pres­sive sight – more then 60 new buses lined up and ready to go!

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