Rail First Asset Management

VL Class (1)
Logo for Rail First Asset Management

Transaction Background

Anchorage acquired Rail First (formerly CF Asia Pacific) in January 2020. 

Prior to the acquisition by Anchorage, Rail First was a subsidiary of US-based Sasser Family Holdings Inc. The business was a non-core and materially underperforming orphan which had been under an extended period of stress from accelerated growth and a significant capital asset purchasing program, with limited consistency in contracting principles and poor return on capital performance. Anchorage recognised the quality of the underlying business and its assets, and identified a range of operational improvement and growth opportunities. Anchorage also identified a significant opportunity to refocus the business by leveraging its core capability in the intermodal market and reposition the businesses assets and operations to this growing and resilient market.

Business Overview

Rail First is Australia’s leading provider of full-service vertically integrated rolling stock leasing and maintenance solutions to the rail industry.

The company operates over 1,300 locomotives and wagons and has two strategically located workshops in Islington (SA) and Goulburn (NSW) which service a blue-chip customer base that is primarily focused on the intermodal market.

Turnaround Program

The value-add opportunities identified by Anchorage formed the foundation of a comprehensive operational improvement and growth program implemented under Anchorage's ownership. This program comprised ~150 individual initiatives. Key aspects of this program included:

  • Strengthening of the management team with the introduction of a new CEO, CFO and COO

  • Implementation of key contracting principles and a gate review process for all new contracts, rollovers and capital expenditure

  • Significant investment in cloud based integrated systems across operations, workshops, finance, contracts and safety

  • $100m+ investment in new asset growth capex and asset upgrade capex across Rail First’s fleet and maintenance sites

  • Recommenced domestic wagon manufacture at Rail First’s site in Islington as the only domestic producer of freight wagons as part of our “Australian Made” build-to-lease program

  • Focus on rationalising and improving the efficiency of underutilised labour

  • Exit of non-core assets and contracts

  • Implementation of a globally benchmarked ESG strategy and complete exit of coal exposure

  • Optimisation of working capital and cash collections

  • Development of a high-performance business development capability to grow sales and margins at acceptable return levels

Financial Performance

Collectively, the initiatives implemented under Anchorage's operational and growth program resulted in a near doubling of Rail First’s contracted EBITDA from Anchorage acquisition with further contracted growth expected to continue.


In light of the material and sustainable performance and quality of business improvements delivered through Anchorage's operational improvement and growth program, Anchorage commenced a sale process for Rail First in early 2022 following inbound interest. In October 2022, Anchorage completed on the sale of 100% of the shares in Rail First to a consortium comprising leading global infrastructure investors Amber Infrastructure and DIF Capital Partners.