No room for amendments on rail law: ARA

Hard work still ahead on national rail regulations, ARA says, as legislation package heads to South Australia for vote

November 7, 2011

The rail lobby has warned the states and territories against inserting their own variations into legislation designed to create a single regulatory framework for the industry.

Following last week’s agreement by transport ministers to approve the Rail Safety National Law Bill, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has put the onus on South Australia and other jurisdictions to stick to their promise to enact national law.

South Australia will be responsible for passing a national law to replace the seven different state and territory regulators currently operating. Similar to the creation of national heavy vehicle regulations, other jurisdictions will need to pass legislation to ensure uniformity.

The regulator will be based in South Australia and a single safety investigator will also begin in 2013, replacing the three existing agencies. South Australia is expected to pass legislation by May next year, with the other states and territories completing the process by December.

"It is vital that South Australia and all other jurisdictions pass the laws without amendment. Introducing variations defeats the purpose of national regulation. We would only recreate the same old problems we have today," ARA CEO Bryan Nye says.

While labelling the Standing Committee on Transport and Infrastructure (SCOTI) meeting a significant milestone, Nye says there is still a considerable amount of work to do to secure a uniform regulatory and investigatory system.

He says industry representatives have been participating in a number of working groups to resolve key issues such as audits, accreditation, fatigue and drug and alcohol policies.

"It is critical that we ensure the regulator adopts a truly co-regulatory approach and is cost-effective in practice," he says.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese says national regulations for the road, rail and maritime sectors will cut red-tape and deliver significant productivity gains.

"Under the new rail safety law, rail operators will be able to get national accreditation instead of having to apply for accreditation in each state and territory. Only one set of rules will apply to their safety management systems," Albanese says.

The SCOTI meeting also voted to begin an international search for a CEO for the rail and truck regulators. A former NSW transport minister, Bruce Baird, has been appointed to chair the truck regulator.

"These reforms will see an end to 110 years of duplication and confusion and provide long term benefits for business, workers and the economy," Albanese says.

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