The NSW Berejiklian government has signed a secretive two-year, multimillion-dollar contract for mystery shoppers to ride the Sydney Trains network, The New Daily can reveal.
Accounting firm Ernst and Young was contracted at a figure understood to be $4.7 million a year, between January 2017 and January 2019, to provide “real-time customer feedback loops”.
This means mystery shoppers ride the network and report rubbish, blocked toilets and other problems for Sydney Trains employees to fix, at a purported total cost of over $9 million.
The exposure of the deal may anger train workers who are currently locked in a bitter pay dispute with the state government.
Sydney Trains would not confirm how many ‘mystery shoppers’ were hired, whether Ernst and Young outsourced the work, and the exact yearly cost, citing commercial confidence.
“It is a real-time customer feedback loop that allows Sydney Trains to continually improve customer service,” a spokesperson told The New Daily.
“Under the program more than 100,000 independent assessments are carried out annually on our trains, stations and customer information channels. The feedback from these assessments is used by our staff to address customer service issues as they arise in real time.”
NSW Labor claimed the total contract amount was in fact $24.1 million over two years, not the lower figure claimed by the state government.
Labor relied on a document provided by Transport for NSW, and seen by The New Daily, which put the total contract amount at the higher figure.
Sydney Trains disputed the $24.1 million figure, which is understood to relate to an option to extend the two-year deal.
“This figure is way off the mark. Sydney Trains have advised it’s closer to $4 million a year. Labor need to stop scaremongering,” a spokesperson for Transport Minister Andrew Constance said.
A Sydney Trains spokesperson said the contract was commercial in confidence and would not confirm the exact cost.
An unrelated Transport for NSW survey of the entire public transport sector showed satisfaction on the train network was 89 per cent in May last year, up from 79 per cent in November 2012.
The secret tender worth millions of taxpayer dollars comes during a bitter pay dispute with Sydney and NSW Trains workers.
Mr Constance had refused to budge above the 2.5 per cent public sector raise cap, which almost culminated in a 24-hour statewide strike.
Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) members working for Sydney and NSW Trains are currently voting on a new enterprise agreement.
A result is expected next Saturday.
Some early morning, late evening and weekend train services were cut from Monday in response to a scathing review into repeated meltdowns on the trains network.
The review into the January 8 and 9 meltdowns found the Sydney Trains network was vulnerable to disruptions due to its “tangled” system.
It also blamed a shortage of train crew and rostering issues, which the RTBU attributed to the new and more intensive timetable.
The New Daily contacted Ernst and Young.