Keolis Downer, a joint venture of Keolis, France, and Downer Rail, an Australian rail engineering firm, was selected from a shortlist of three applicants as part of a tendering process announced in 2019.

The partnership outbid Adelaide Next, a consortium of German Rail (DB) and John Holland, and TrainCo, a consortium of Transdev and CAF.

The contract covers the operation of services on six commuter routes, comprising four main lines and two branch lines, as well as the provision of asset management and rolling stock maintenance services.

Under the contract, Keolis Downer will also focus on improvements to passenger services, including safety and customer experience.

This will include the introduction of new electric trains on Gawler Line to increase capacity and frequency, following the completion of electrification work.

Keolis Downer will also offer more frequent services on the 650m Flinders Link, an extension of the Tonsley Line, which is due for completion later this year. This will primarily include more frequent weekend services.

In addition, Keolis Downer will participate in an extended trial of high security zones on platforms, which will include CCTV, improved lighting and the installation of ‘help phones,’ and plans to implement greater access to real-time travel information for customers.

“Customer service staff will receive new tools to better engage with customers, share real-time information, gather feedback and advise passengers of any disruptions and alternative options where necessary,” says Mr David Franks, CEO of Keolis Downer.

Under the contract, the South Australian government will retain ownership of rail assets such as rolling stock and infrastructure, will set requirements for levels of service and fares, and will retain revenue generated through the operation of services.

The contract is the first conventional rail contract for Keolis Downer following its operation of several Australian transport networks including Gold Coast light rail (G:Link) in Queensland and the Newcastle Transport network in New South Wales, which comprises light rail, bus and ferry services.