Transport for NSW – Standards Management Framework


The Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) – Standards Management Framework (SMF) has been a whole of cluster undertaking which set out to create an integrated, harmonised and holistic approach to the management of over 6,500 engineering and technical standards. 

The SMF forms part of the interdependencies mapped out in TfNSW’s journey of maturity to embed asset management across our operations which will deliver sustainable results and provide a stronger focus on customer and community outcomes.

The framework recognises that standards are assets themselves with a distinct lifecycle and sets out principles on how they create value and enable customer outcomes.


The organisational transformation across TfNSW brought together assets and services across heavy rail, light rail, metro, buses, roads, ferries and active transport to provide better integrated services across modes and drive a stronger focus on delivering customer and community outcomes. As a result, Transport now manages circa $161bn of assets across its network of services (Figure 1).

The TfNSW Asset Management Policy is our statement of leadership setting out the vision for strategic asset planning, adopting a total expenditure and whole of lifecycle approach to asset planning, acquisition, operation and maintenance and also achieving compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.

Figure 1: TfNSW Network of Assets

The policy is underpinned by the TfNSW Asset Management Framework (AMF) which brings together interrelated policies, objectives, and processes to provide assurance that asset management activities will deliver an integrated, modern transport system that puts the customer at heart. It is an approach enabling the achievement of defined organisational outcomes utilising risk-based sustainable asset and non-asset solutions.

In turn, the key interdependencies to the creation, delivery and successful implementation of the AMF were identified as:

  • Standards Management
  • Design/Change Authority
  • Configuration Management
  • Supplier Assurance
  • Technical Capability

The focus of this submission is on the SMF and its value creation towards asset management outcomes.

Standards is the collective term used by the Transport cluster to identify asset and related process requirement documents for managing the configuration of transport assets and services throughout the asset life cycle.

TfNSW’s corporate policy framework provides strategic direction on outcomes for the organisation and is the context of the Transport AMF and how Standards and the associated framework support and enable asset management outcomes.

Figure 2 illustrates how the SMF fits within the AMF and how the AMF then integrates into the Corporate Policy Framework, providing a consistent and aligned governance framework for the organisation.

Figure 2: Enterprise-wide representation of policies, frameworks, and interdependencies in achieving strategic outcomes

Standards are typically seen as beacons of technical requirements but in fact when they are aligned to business outcomes they can provide a benefit to the Transport cluster, our customers, the community, and economy by:

  • Guiding TfNSW through safe and effective operation, maintenance, and enhancement of the transport network.
  • Ensuring TfNSW requirements are clear, consistent, and transparent thereby enabling efficiency in the development, procurement, delivery, and maintenance of assets and services with industry partners.
  • Creating valuable intellectual property that supports safe, effective, sustainable, and repeatable outcomes.
  • Managing the opportunity of emerging technologies or innovation by assessing and communicating their appropriate application to the TfNSW network.
  • Providing an overarching framework for risk management and compliance.
  • Establishing a basis for asset management and considerations for whole of life management.
  • Ensuring as far as is reasonably practical, safety, integration, and interoperability both from a technical and customer experience viewpoint.

The principle of balancing cost, risk and performance across the lifecycle was utilised as the foundation block to develop the strategic vision for Standards and articulate the outcomes the business requires them to deliver across the plethora of assets, networks, and services.

Our vision thus became to “develop an easily understood SMF and supporting processes to ensure a level of quality and reliability of the network that is considered acceptable by the customer and community across the lifecycle of the asset”. To achieve this vision we developed a number of core principles which form the basis of the SMF (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Core Principles of the Standards Management Framework

The fundamental core principle is that Standards are an asset (intangible) as they typically describe the physical or functional characteristics of an asset or performance of an asset management function, and they contribute to the manner we deliver services to our customers and achieve our asset management and organisational objectives.  

In the same manner that sleepers are an asset but also a contributing component to the formation of railway tracks in the same manner Standards are a fundamental component for technical assurance, development, operation, maintenance, and disposal of our physical assets.

As Standards themselves are an asset, they equally have a life cycle. For this purpose, the DAMA DMBoK[1], an international data management standard, was adapted to develop a life cycle model setting out interconnected states in the management of information across the life cycle from planning through to enhancing and disposal and align to the Transport AMF life cycle. This is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Diagrammatic representation of the life cycle of TfNSW Standards

Further to the above, strong governance which delivers business outcomes, is fundamental to the successful implementation of any initiative, framework, or business process. In essence, governance is the formal process by which an accountable party makes decisions, checks that pre-defined activities have been done, and provides a forum to receive and accept assurances. 

The key governance activities covered within the SMF include:

  • Creating a new Standard or modifying an existing Standard
  • Applying for and approving a concession (departure from standards)

Importantly though, governance needs to be scalable in its approach, processes, and procedures and commensurate with the level of risk (e.g. technical, safety, environmental, legal etc.) and change impact. (e.g. single asset, multiple interconnected assets in a corridor, single or multiple modes of transport etc).

Application of a scalable approach resulted in our tiered governance model as illustrated in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Scalable governance model for Standards

Our framework has now been embedded across the entire Transport cluster whilst at the same time also communicated with our supply chain and delivery partners across the industry.

It has become an enabler of cultural change with a shift to outcomes-based thinking, looking at the interdependencies between assets which form corridors for the provision of transport services thus moving away from asset specific technical excellence, multi-modal outcomes, whole of lifecycle considerations – not just Capital Expenditure – and balancing cost, risk and performance.

Figure 6 provides an outline of our evolutionary journey of enabling frameworks and processes to achieve business outcomes.

Figure 6: Standards Management Framework – evolutionary journey

Opinion of specific contributions

In general practice, technical and engineering standards are routinely utilised as the limiting boundaries of asset solutions. Overly strong and prescriptive governance can further exaggerate such effects leading to situations that only repeatable and previously proven historical solutions are acceptable, thus stifling innovation and adoption of new technology. It also exaggerates a focus on the best technical outcome for an individual asset (e.g. bridge, pavement, culverts etc.) without balancing the needs, cost, risk and performance of transport corridors and networks with interconnected assets.

This was addressed via the introduction and acknowledgement of two organisational values:

  • Intelligent compliance with Standards, and;
  • Value creation.

Through our updated, and now enterprise and modal wide, concessions management process we enable a controlled and auditable manner to manage and communicate proposed deviations from standards requirements. This is done to deliver assurance that such deviations are managed appropriately to encourage innovation and value creation. This was the genesis of our concept of “intelligent compliance” to deliver best outcomes for our customers and communities across the life cycle of assets and services.

Our approach embraces challenging the status quo, thinking out of the box, and encouraging innovation and technology disruption whilst integrating transparency and assurance through a set of clearly articulated outcomes as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Outcomes summary for “intelligent compliance” with Standards

To further support all of the above we also needed to ensure that outcomes focused thinking is supplemented with a fit for purpose value creation context. Value creation is dynamic and constantly present across any type of business or organisation, it can increase, decrease, or even get transformed.

An organisation’s capitals – whatever these may be – can create, destroy, or transform value and the constant flow between all the capitals – e.g. data streams, feeds, analytics – makes up the value creation process.

For the Transport context, and in particular our SMF, we established an initial outline of the most likely facets of value creation. These can be coarsely outlined into financial and non-financial, with the latter encompassing a raft of different categories as depicted by Figure 8.

By embracing value creation, it enables us to foster a culture of recognition for our individual and team efforts which in turn contributes to the success of others.  A clear value creation process allows us to celebrate our technical achievements and innovation whilst at the same time bringing focus that these activities are for the direct benefit of our customers and the broader community.

Figure 8: Facets of value creation

General comments

Value creation measurement and articulation is a key component of our cultural change shift towards outcomes-based thinking. This has been formally endorsed by our executive which resulted in a cluster-wide program to achieve Future Sustainability – living within our means so we can afford to invest in the right things for our customers and communities with less reliance on taxpayer subsidies.

Figure 9: Redfern Station aperture screen

During the Redfern Station upgrade, our delivery teams utilised the approach of intelligent compliance to deliver the right balance between risk, cost and performance. The risk of electrocution from overhead wiring is typically managed by the provision of solid screens for separation purposes. For the new access footbridge this would have extended at least 1.35m above the floor which would limit transparency. If a transparent interlay like Perspex or polycarbonate were to be used as the solid screen, it would restrict natural ventilation and introduce combustible materials to the fully enclosed footbridge negatively impacting the fire and life safety design.

This was addressed by utilising a varying aperture screen which offered the same level of protection against electrocution, whilst offering improvements to natural ventilation. It reduced the fire and life safety risk, was aesthetically fitting with requirements from NSW Heritage and improved the customer experience. In also offered $1.3M in cost savings over its life cycle.

Another example is our work at Circular Quay. Our transit space standards specify the minimum safety distances between fixed infrastructure (e.g. platforms) and rolling stock – commonly known as the platform gap. This creates a safety risk for customers to trip and fall through that gap. Our culture shift to intelligent compliance enabled the holistic and interdependent evaluation of risks leading to the introduction of a flexible gap filler in platform gap (Figure 11).

The is a great example of how we balance cost, risk, and performance. While the introduction carried additional capital and operational cost it delivered end-to-end customer safety by eliminating trips and falls, allowing safe transit of rolling stock, and improved the overall customer experience. 

Figure 10: Circular Quay gap filler

Engagement and implementation

We understood the scale of change early in the project and to assist in the development and implementation of the framework we established a steering committee and four working groups resourced from across the organisation.  

The working groups covered governance, implementation, document structure, and information architecture and were chaired by subject matter experts with membership built from across the organisation.

This method provided us with a range of different perspectives during development and assisted in the change and implementation as most areas of the business had people who had been actively involved in designing the framework.

The rollout and implementation of the framework impacted a range of stakeholders from across the organisation, and our industry partners. The pandemic presented challenges in engaging with such a wide range of stakeholders, however leveraging digital collaboration tools helped address these challenges.  

We hosted and presented a number of information sessions to both employees and industry stakeholders, leveraging collaboration tools to gauge the perceptions and allow audience participation.

[1] Data Management Body of Knowledge 2nd Edition

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