Transport mins give go-ahead for new rail standards

Nationally-agreed rail standards will replace the current regulatory framework and case-by-case assessment

By Brad Gardner

Nationally-agreed rail standards will replace the current regulatory framework, which has struggled to remain effective and gain support within the industry.

The National Transport Commission’s policy statement on recognising industry developed standards for rail safety has been approved by the Australian Transport Council.

It means operators will no longer be forced to prove safety standards on a case-by-case basis.

In its report, the NTC says the old system of 16 technical standards and four codes of practice covering the railway sector was not universally adopted by rail operators or recognised by rail safety regulators.

"Hence, they were not achieving their objective of providing a body of harmonised rail safety standards that are applied across the industry," the NTC states in its report.

During the consultation process with stakeholders, the NTC found regulators were reluctant to accept Australian Codes of Practices.

"Regulators have not been confident that particular codes represent industry good practice or sufficiently take into account the interests, experience and expertise of all relevant stakeholders," the report says.

According to the NTC, a harmonised approach is expected to have financial benefits, with the NTC claiming it will reduce freight costs between different rail operations.

As part of the process, a rail operator must demonstrate how it will manage risks in order to satisfy the regulators that the standard is "sufficiently and consistently rigorous".

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